WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — The 17 seniors on the 2012 Williams College football team have been working toward this season since last November, wanting to leave the program with one more conference title before they go.
With all the off-season lift sessions over, the preseason having concluded with a scrimmage against Amherst last Saturday, the Ephs are readying to raise the curtain on what could be a banner season.
Aaron Kelton (13-3, .813 win pct.) returns for his third season as the helm of the program, hoping to guide that senior group to its goals.
"We have a great close bunch of seniors," Kelton said. "They have high expectations of themselves and of the team. All they have spoken about is winning the NESCAC Championship. They are leading our young team the way we expect them to here at Williams."
Captains Darren Hartwell, Chris Cameron and Pete Christiani will be leading the way. While it's not always the case, this season's captains are also some of the Ephs' top returning players. Hartwell was selected First Team All-NESCAC at three positions (wide receiver, punt and kick returner), while Cameron was a First Team All-NESCAC selection at linebacker and Christiani a Second Team all-conference selection at guard.
Kelton said his squad had a great preseason.
|Chris Cameron '13|
"The team came back in great shape and it was easy to see they worked hard all off-season," he noted. "We are more athletic and faster as a program. Chris Cameron and Darren Hartwell are primed and ready for the season. Alex Scyocurka looks great; the offensive line is lean, strong and faster. On defense Nate Saffold, Tom Foote and Mike Flynn have all made great strides and stood out all preseason."
Offensively, the Ephs have a chance to be dynamic as eight of the 11 starters return. Hartwell concluded 2011 with a conference-leading 1,370 all-purpose yards, 673 receiving yards on 50 catches, and 354 kick return yards. He is second in the conference in reception yards per game at 84.1 and fourth in receptions per game at 6.25. The Ephs lost two of their big-play receivers with the graduation of Thomas Kearney and J.C. Stickney, but with senior Jeff Riemann emerging to earn a starting role and junior Greg Payton (10 receptions) are returning, the Ephs have plenty of targets. Juniors Richie Beaton and Jeff Brewington beef up the depth there.
Throwing to those targets will be junior signal caller Adam Marske, who started six games last year and played in seven. Marske completed 59.8 percent (104 of 174) of his passes with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
"I am expecting Adam Marske to have a very strong year at the QB position," Kelton said.
In the backfield with Marske will be a bevy of very fine runners, beginning with senior Tom Wohlwender, junior Marco Hernandez and the aforementioned Alex Scyocurka, who missed nearly all of last season with an injury but ran for 340 yards on 67 carries (5.1 yards per carry average) as a first-year in 2010. Wohlwender and Hernandez combined for 928 yards on 207 carries last year, with Wohlwender scoring a team-leading 11 touchdowns.
Blocking for those guys will be an offensive line bolstered by the return of Christiani and fellow seniors Cong Tian and Ryan Loughran. Senior Tim Morris and junior Hill Hamrick will handle the fullback duties, while senior Sam Krieg is back at tight end.
Sophomores Alan Felix and A.J. Walsh will round out the starting line-up on the offensive line, while senior David Baker, sophomore Dan Loughran, will provide depth and first-years Charlie Grossnickle, Patrick McLoughlin and Matthew Jewett.
|Pete Christiani '13|
"I think our offense will be the strength of our team. We return some of the league's most dynamic and explosive players," Kelton said. "Our offensive line will be physical and our backs and receiver positions are as deep and talented as we have ever had here at Williams."
The Williams defense will be a work in progress early, as only three starters (Cameron, Emmanuel Whyte and Ladd Hamrick) return from 2011. Still, there are plenty of players with experience who have a chance to take advantage a starting opportunity and make a big impact.
Cameron made 50 tackles last year from his linebacker spot, 33 of those solo and 8 ½ for a loss. He also had three sacks. Whyte was active as well, with 36 tackles, 21 solo, in six games. Hamrick finished with 41 tackles, 22 solo, one interception and three pass break-ups. Sophomore Antonio Blanco will fill out the starting line-up at linebacker.
Up front, the defensive line will be led by seniors Tom Foote and Ebeneezer Gyasi. Junior Ernest Higginbotham and sophomore Mike Flynn will handle the defensive end positions, with Markus Gonzalez and James Howe also seeing time there. Junior Mike Lomio and sophomore Adam Datema will also see time at the inside positions.
In the secondary, juniors Andre Lafontant and Nate Saffold will handle the corners, with Ladd Hamrick and Chris Kim at the safeties. Lafontant played in eight games last season and finished second on the team with four pass break-ups.
"On defense we will be young but we are fast and talented," Kelton said. "The defensive unit will have to come together early to help us be successful. We will be solid at LB and DB as we develop our young defensive line."
Joe Mallock will continue to handle the kicking duties, while Payton should be back punting for the Ephs. Mallock made 6 of 10 field goal attempts last season, while Payton averaged 36.9 yards per punt.
The Ephs' first test is this Saturday in a 1 p.m. contest home against Colby. The game will be televised by Time Warner Cable throughout Berkshire County, and in the states of Maine