Coming off of an impressive 7-1 season last fall, the Williams football team is ready to improve on last year’s success. The 1997 season was capped off by a thrilling 48-46 last second win versus previously undefeated arch-rival Amherst at Weston Field. With legendary Head Coach Dick Farley at the helm for his twelfth season, the team should again contend for a little three championship and a reign as the superior team in the NESCAC.
Since Coach Farley took over as head coach in 1987, the performance of the Ephmen has been nothing short of dominant. Over the last 11 seasons, the team has a record of 73-12-3, which includes a 10-0-1 record versus the Lord Jeffs. Even though Farley graduated ten starters, the team is talented enough to garner the #22 ranking in the Sports Illustrated pre-season Division III poll.
Success has made Williams a prime target for most of the league teams. According to Coach Farley, “We’re always somebody’s Homecoming or Parents’ Weekend game. We always seem to bring out the best in other teams.” This belief was evident in the fact that all of Williams wins last year were come-from-behind thrillers. Farley has noticed increased parity in the league and knows that “on any given day we could run into a better football team.”
Helping to ensure that the Ephs are always the better team are a host of experienced players. Among these are the team’s tri-captains: center Kenneth Becker ’99, split end Matt Sigrist ’99, and defensive back John Berry ’00.
As captains, these three are expected to give the team focus and lead by experience. “We set the tone for the team, and our hard work rubs off on the whole team,” says Sigrist.
Junior quarterback Sean Keenan will start this year, and running backs Fred Storz ’01, Mike McAdam ’99, David Kinsley ’01, Mike Rapport ’99, and Paul Bethe ’00 should all see action in the backfield. The receiving corps should feature Sigrist, Mike Paolercio ’00, Andy Jones ’00 and Colin Vataha ’01, who will also double as a place kicker along with Bob Kaufman ’01. Bethe and Jarod Kidd ’02 compete for the punting duties. The offensive line will return two starters: seniors Becker and Tom Steiner. Peter Jones ’99, Miles Baltrusaitis ’00 and Wyeth Lynch ’00 will fill the remaining three positions.
Jason Beam ’00, Rob Houle ’01, Phil Swisher ’01and Jeff O’Neill ’01 will see action in reserve. The tight end again will be senior David Nemeskal, backed up by senior Michael Cleary and junior Andy Criqui.
The defense returns five starters from last year’s squad. The defensive line will include Chris Sweatman ’00, Nick Weiss ’00, Matt Schreck ’99 and John Lewis ’99. The linebackers will be strong with seniors Jim Thomas, Steve Bradley, Larsen Fusco and junior Chris Hale. Will O’Brien ’00, who took last season off, will start at end. Farley will start two veteran cornerbacks, Berry and Casey Flavin ’00, and will feature Chad d’Entremont ’99, Dan DiCenzo ’01 and Collin Cain ’99 as the safeties.
Though these are the players who are projected to start, Farley expects many players to see game time. He thinks that the strength of the Williams program lies in its depth year in and year out. “Williams’ reputation attracts quality kids to this place each year,” notes Farley. Berry concurs, adding “there is always somebody ready to step up and play if needed.”
With the increased parity in the NESCAC, there will be no easy games. According to Coach Farley “the game you’re playing is the toughest.” He adds that “losses occur when a team starts to look past an opponent. The Williams philosophy is to take it one game at a time.” Sigrist feels that “if we don’t go 6-0 before the Wesleyan and Amherst games, that the season is less meaningful. We can’t just look forward to those games. We must prepare with the same intensity for them all.”
A scrimmage last Saturday against Colby College helped the team evaluate where they stand going into the NESCAC season. “It went well and helped the team pull the pieces together,” commented Berry.
Sigrist notes “that in practice you get a false sense of security, always playing against the same guys. Game experience helps answer a lot of questions.” Many of the team’s questions should be answered this Saturday afternoon, Sept. 26, when the Ephs open the season at home against Bowdoin. Kickoff is at 1:30 PM at Weston Field.