Football prepares for conference title run with reinvigorated squad

At this time last year, football was coming off an undefeated 8-0 season and a NESCAC championship. However, the Ephs staggered to a 5-3 record during the 2011 season, including a devastating Homecoming loss against Amherst that contributed to the team’s third-place finish in the NESCAC.

These disappointments have served as powerful motivation for the team to come out even stronger this season. “We were all pretty disappointed with the way our season ended last year,” tri-captain and wide receiver Darren Hartwell ’13 said, “and I think we have been working very hard over the last two weeks to ensure that we improve this year.”

Offensive lineman Peter Christiani ’13 and linebacker Chris Cameron ’13 will join Hartwell as tri-captains this season. The Ephs are determined to perform this season, which is evident by their dedicated preparation this offseason. “We had great turnouts in the weight room and on the field for conditioning work, and it shows with how we look now,” Christiani said.

Head Coach Aaron Kelton is returning optimistic for his third year at Williams. “The team came back in great shape, and it was easy to see they worked hard all off-season,” Kelton said. “We are more athletic and faster as a program.”

Kelton spoke highly of the team’s dynamic offense, which last year was second in the conference in yards per game. “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,” Kelton said.  Leading the team as the starting quarterback is Adam Marske ’14, who Kelton expects to have a very strong year.

There are sure to be challenges, starting with the loss of 15 graduated seniors. “We know that we lost a lot of talented players, and everyone has worked as hard as they can in order to help replace them,” Christiani said.

Helping to fill the void left by these players is a strong class of seniors ready to lead the team to success. “[The seniors] have high expectations of themselves and of the team,” Kelton said. “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.”

The seniors will be helping a class of 22 rookies get accustomed to the intensity required to compete in the NESCAC conference. Yet with so many younger players, the captains of the team have noticed an increased passion in workouts. “The offense and defense are taking each play personally,” Christiani said. “Each side of the ball is getting excited for the big plays they make, as they should.”

The youth and energy of the team is especially noticeable on defense, which Kelton anticipates will be fast and talented this season. “The defensive unit will have to come together early to help us be successful,” Kelton said. “We will be solid at linebacker and defensive back as we develop our young defensive line.”

Heading into their first game against Colby, the men are hard at work ensuring that they will be ready in time for the opening kickoff. “The coaches have already been looking at the film and devising game plans, and we know they are going to put us in the best possible situation to succeed,” Christiani said.

The men will take on Colby this Saturday at 1 p.m. at Weston Field, eager to give the home crowd a victory to open the season. “I can definitely sense an increased intensity level among the team,” Hartwell said.