Mark Raymond coaches

Williams football coach Mark Raymond and the Ephs return home Saturday for a NESCAC clash of the undefeateds. Williams, 6-0, will play 6-0 Trinity.

WILLIAMSTOWN — There's a legitimate nip in the air, which makes it really feel like Fall. Fall, in turn, makes football games feel more important.

"Absolutely. There's nothing like it," said Williams coach Mark Raymond, in response to a question about brisk fall weather being good for football. "There's nothing like getting into October."

The Ephs bring a 6-0 record into Saturday's 1:30 p.m. kickoff against Trinity, the second of three 6-0 teams in the NESCAC standings. The game will be played at Farley-Lamb Field.

Both teams are trying to become the second NESCAC team to finish an undefeated season with a 9-0 record. Middlebury accomplished the feat in 2019, but there was not football in 2020. The NESCAC schools have played nine games since 2017.

Williams hasn't had a perfect season since going 8-0 back in 2010. Trinity, meanwhile, is looking to go undefeated for the first time since its 8-0 year in 2016. That year, the Bantams came to Williamstown and left with a 38-13 win, in Raymond's first season in Williamstown.

Six games in, Williams has had only one close game, the 32-29 overtime win at Tufts back in the second week.

"Obviously, I'm happy with the way we've performed every Saturday. We've been tested every week, which is to be expected in this league," Raymond said. "Certainly being on the road four weeks out of the first six weeks of the season was a hell of a challenge, and our guys answered the bell."

Williams will play its next two games at home, hosting Little Three rival Wesleyan on Nov. 6, before closing out the season at Amherst. Raymond said he and his players are thrilled to be back on the Farley-Lamb turf.

"It'll be great," he said. "It'll be exciting to be back on Farley-Lamb, and the guys are looking forward to it."

Trinity is currently second behind Salve Regina in the Noontime Sports Top 20 rankings. Williams is ranked fifth. Salve, by the way, is coached by former Williams player Kevin Gilmartin.

When Williams and Trinity hit the turf on Saturday, the Ephs will be looking for their second straight win over their rivals from Hartford, Conn. The fact that both teams are among the cream of the NESCAC crop has added a lot to this old football pairing.

"It kind of reminds me of the early '90s, when Trinity and Williams were really, really good," said Trinity coach Jeff Devanney, who played for the Bantams in 1991, when they ended Williams' 23-game winning streak. "Every year it was a heck of a battle, and I think it's gotten to that point again."

That 1991 game was decided on the game's final play, with Trinity winning 30-27. But while Devanney played on that team, that game is ancient history for the current Trinity players.

Also history was the 2020 season, when all of NESCAC shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That shutdown makes the Trinity coach somewhat surprised that his team is 6-0.

"I would say that. After having not played for a year, and we didn't have as many seniors like Williams did that stuck around for an extra year," Devanney said. "We're playing a lot of first-time starters, so I wasn't sure what we were going to be.

"But we turned out to be pretty good."

Sophomore quarterback Spencer Fetter has been Trinity's starter since day one. The reigning NESCAC offensive player of the week completed 27-of-33 passes for 320 yards and four second-half touchdowns to lead Trinity back from a 12-0 deficit late in the third quarter and post a 35-12 victory over Colby. 

"He's a really good player," the Trinity coach said with a touch of understatement. "His freshman year, he was just kind of a freshman behind a couple of veteran players. He really didn't get near the field. Then we had COVID and nobody played for a year. We could see last spring, when we were allowed to practice because of COVID, we could see how good of a player he was."

Fetter is 138 for 182 this season for 1,838 yards and 20 touchdowns, but only one interception. His top targets are receivers DeVante Reid (44 catches, 652 yards) and Jonathan Girard (43-629). Girard caught 10 of those 20 TD passes.

This could end up being a strength-on-strength battle. The Williams secondary, even without safety Josh Wax who is out for the year, has been outstanding. The Bantams are tops in passing offense at 316.5 yards per game, while Williams is No. 1 in pass defense, giving up a paltry 156 yards per game. Many of those yards were compiled against the Eph reserves. Last week at Bates, for example, the Bobcats had 231 passing yards in the game, but 100 came on two fourth-down touchdown drives against the backups.

"[Fetter] is certainly a different type of quarterback than we've seen this year," Raymond said. "He's the best passer. There's no question he's athletic enough to move the sticks when things go off schedule. He presents a really good challenge for our secondary and we're going to have to be at our best."

It has helped that the Williams front seven has been really solid too. The Ephs have three players in the top 13 of sack leaders, with linebacker T.J. Rothmann atop the NESCAC list with four sacks. Defensive lineman Ian Devine is seventh with 3 1/2 sacks and linebacker Coleston Young is 13th with 2 1/2 sacks.

Chaz Cotton has two interceptions to lead the Eph secondary, which Raymond said he has been very happy with.

"They've been good," the coach said of his secondary. "The best part of it is they've gotten better each week. I thought we leaked oil a little bit against Tufts. They exposed us a little bit. Since then, we've learned a lot and gotten better."

There will be the potential for a little Berkshire-on-Berkshire action Saturday. Williams first-year linebacker Ethan Scott, who played at Wahconah, has appeared in five games for the Ephs and has recorded nine tackles, one tackle for loss and one sack. Look for No. 22 for Trinity, who is former Mount Greylock football and baseball standout Cal Messina. Messina, a sophomore running back, has carried the ball 18 times for 70 yards in four games this year.

Howard Herman can be reached at  hherman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6253. 

Sportswriter-Columnist

Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.