|David James, right, has thrown 18 touchdown passes this season for Western Connecticut, while Anthony Via has run for five scores.
Western Connecticut athletics photo
By Brian Lester
Joe Loth remembers being asked several times in the summer months about the outlook of his Western Connecticut football team.
He had a good feeling about the Colonials and what they could accomplish in 2019.
“Everyone asked me how we are going to be, and I said I think we have a chance to be pretty good,” Loth said. “But every coach follows that with the same phrase: as long as we stay healthy.”
Health hasn’t been an issue for Western Connecticut and success hasn’t been tough to find. The Colonials are unbeaten through six games, including a 4-0 mark in the Massachusetts Collegiate Athletic Conference, good enough to keep them tied for first with Framingham State, the opponent this week.
Winning every game is never a bad thing. Wide receiver Will Daniels will tell you as much. He’s coming off a performance in a 62-28 win over Westfield State where he caught eight passes for 131 yards and a touchdown.
“It’s exciting right now,” Daniels said. “You get to six or seven wins without a loss and the games start to mean a little more.”
Loth, who took over as the head coach of the program in 2012 and guided the Colonials to an 8-2 season a year ago, said he’s significant progress from his team week to week.
“We’ve done a good job of getting better as the year goes on,” Loth said. “A football team is always a work in progress, and we came out of camp a little slow, but we’ve been working on the areas that we needed to develop.”
One of the biggest developments has been in the run game. After getting held to under 100 yards rushing in three of the first four weeks, the Colonials have cranked out 191 yards and 234 yards, respectively, over the last two games.
“We really didn’t run the ball as well as we wanted to in the first three or four weeks, but we had an open week in the middle of the season and focused on running the ball,” Loth said. “We did a better job of coaching it to the O-line and to the quarterback and wide receivers, and it’s paid off.”
It’s made the Colonials far more dangerous. They are cranking out 442.7 yards of offense per game behind a cast of talented players.
Quarterback Dave James has completed just over 61 percent (61.3) of his passes for 1,630 yards and 18 touchdowns. Roy Penn-Conscentino (388 yards) and Anthony Via (205) have led the running attack, with Via scoring five touchdowns.
The passing attack is loaded with weapons, including Daniels, who has caught 38 passes for 724 yards and eight scores.
Nick Kimball, Devon Smith and Jahzaari Mullings all have at least 10 catches and two touchdowns. Those options have made Western Connecticut tough to deal with.
“It’s just the whole fact that we are a team and that we have great players at every position,” Daniels said.
The wealth of talent has made practice competitive as well, which in turn translates to great play on the field.
“Iron sharpens iron,” Daniels said. “It makes the top guys on the team that much better because everyone is fighting to get playing time. The competition is a good thing.”
But complacency isn’t and Daniels said the Colonials refuse to fall victim to that, especially from an offensive standpoint.
“We’re definitely happy with how we’ve progressed but we’re not where we want to be,” Daniels said. “We know as a team, especially on offense, the sky is the limit. We can do so much more.”
The sky appears to be the limit for the defense, too. The Colonials have been particularly tough against the run, allowing less than 100 yards (94.5) per outing. Defensive lineman Jordan Fletcher leads the way up front with 34 tackles eight sacks.
“We have a big dominant player in Jordan, and that helps, and we have a lot of older guys up front who have done a great job,” Loth said. “The guys are sound in what they are trying to do as far as leverage and everything.”
Great leadership hasn’t hurt either. That’s something Loth said the team has had from day one.
“I thought we had good upperclassmen coming back with good character and with ability, and that’s been big for us,” Loth said. “Leadership is something that you sometimes have to see how it evolves and our older guys have done a tremendous job of being leaders.”
That’s translated to tremendous teamwork.
“We don’t have guys talking about their own stats or worried about themselves,” Daniels said. “We are all working together and that shows on the field. We’re not just a one facet team. We have great players at every position.”
Western Connecticut was 8-2 last season, so success isn’t anything new to this current group of players.
The fact that they have stayed focused on the task at hand has been instrumental in the unbeaten start.
“We have embraced the one-game season, to go out and do our best in the game we are playing and then put it behind us and get ready for the next one,” Loth said. “We’re not worried about who we just beat or played. We’re focused on who we have this week.”
Daniels has bought into that mindset and is hopeful the best is yet to come for the Colonials. They enter the remainder of the schedule knowing they still have a lot to prove regardless of what their record says.
“It’s awesome to be 6-0, but we haven’t won our conference and we haven’t won any huge games yet,” Daniels said. “The coaches are proud of us and we are proud of each other, but we remind our teammates that while 6-0 is awesome, at the end of the year, if you only win six games, it’s not that great of a year.”