Ephs look to rebound from disappointing 2013 campaign

Alex Scyocurka ’15 led the Ephs in rushing yards with 506 in 2013-2014 while also collecting four touchdowns.
Alex Scyocurka ’15 led the Ephs in rushing yards with 506 in 2013-2014 while also collecting four touchdowns.

Despite three straight years of having not been up to Williams’ high standards, all arrows are pointing up for the Ephs. Graduating Ernest Higginbotham ’14, Nate Saffold ’14 and Richie Beaton ’14 will of course hurt, but this year’s captains Tom Cabarle ’15, Alex Scyocurka ’15 and Alan Felix ’15 are confident they can prove that they can lead this team back to a NESCAC title.

Everyone knows the old saying that a good defense wins championships. Look for the Ephs’ defense to carry the team this year, especially early in the season as the Ephs implement a new offensive scheme.

“Coaches have done a great job in correcting our mistakes and putting us in the best position to be successful going forward. Everybody on the team is committed to protecting the integrity of our home field and doing whatever it takes to uphold the tradition that is Williams Football. Our defense is committed to protecting every inch of the field,” tri-captain Cabarle said.

The Eph’s defensive line is led by veterans Adam Datema ’15, Mike Flynn ’15, Etienne Aduya ’15 and James Howe ’16. Howe has been an absolute nightmare for opposing teams since coming to Williams. Watch for him to be atop the NESCAC in sacks, after having led the NESCAC in the category last season. Cabarle had high praise for the defensive line, calling them “the cornerstone of our tough defense over the past few years.” He also pointed out that Griffin Hewitt ’15, who has been nagged by injuries, has worked really hard in the off-season and will look to make a big impact as a pass rusher this year.

Leading the Ephs at linebacker are Tony Blanco ’15, James O’Grady ’16 and Johnny Bond ’16. Mixed in with this group will be Jack Ryan ’16, who Cabarle simply labeled a “specimen.” Look for Ryan to make plays all over the field this year. The chemistry of the front seven should make the Ephs quite formidable against the run.

In the secondary, joining Cabarle will be Josh Helmkamp ’15, Justin Harris ’17, Taysean Scott ’17 and Mike Davis ’17. Cabarle seems particularly excited about the three sophomores, saying, “it is a testament to the talent of these young guys that they will be on the field and considered leaders of the defense even as underclassmen.” Eph fans should start paying as much attention to Scott as opposing quarterbacks already are, as he appears to be one of the best cover corners in the league. This past summer, Scott was a member of the gold medal team at the Football World Championships in Kuwait.

The defense is fortunate to have a lot of depth, allowing the Ephs to mix and match personnel based on opponents, tendencies and game plan. There are young guys ready to step in and make a difference on the defense right away. First-years Chris Hattar ’18, Brian Pederson ’18 and Mike Berry ’18 will get in the mix early and often for the defense. If you are a fan of tough defense, come out and watch this year’s Eph team.

The offense for the Ephs has struggled the past few years. Luckily, a couple of things have changed this year that might right the ship for the Ephs’ offense. One, a new offensive scheme will be implemented that is hopefully a better fit for the talent the team has. Two, transfer quarterback Austin Lommen ’15, has emerged as a leader of the team. “He commands respect inside the huddle and off the field and I look forward to seeing him lead our offense,” Cabarle said.

Lommen transferred to Williams from Boston College. The Ephs have not been able to find consistency at the quarterback position, but look for Lommen to take this offense to the next level as he builds chemistry with the weapons he has around him.

“This is the fifth team I have been a part of at Williams and in respect to the offense, it’s definitely the most versatile group I have seen. With a strong defense supporting them, this high ceiling offense seems poised to explode,” tri-captain Scyocurka said.

The receiving core is stocked with talent yet again. “They have a great combination of speed and size, which is rare in this league,” Scyocurka said when asked about this group. He pointed to Steven Kiesel ’15 and Darrias Sime ’16 as guys who could potentially break out in this new and improved offensive scheme. Sime has always been a matchup problem for opposing defenses due to his impressive size-speed combo. With Lommen at the helm this could be Sime’s year to lead the NESCAC in receiving touchdowns. Lewis Hayes ’17 is an underclassman to keep an eye out for in this group as well.

“They [the wide receivers] have a great combination of speed and size, which is rare in this league,” Scyocurka said.

The receiving core will also be getting a lot of help from tight end duo Alex Way ’16 and Ryan Prokesch ’15.

“Their [the tight ends’] size and athleticism will allow them to block pass rushers and create matchup problems for linebackers in coverage,” Scyocurka said.

“The new high-tempo, fast-paced offense requires a group of backs who are able to rotate frequently and catch the ball out of the backfield.” Scyocurka said. It seems as if this year’s team has a stable of backs that can fulfill that roll quite nicely. Scyocurka will be the lead back this year. When healthy, he is arguably the best running back in the NESCAC, but he has struggled to stay on the field consistently. Watch for Scyocurka to lead the NESCAC in rushing in his final season as an Eph. The other backs that will be rotating in for Scyocurka are a group of game changers including Jean Luc Etienne ’15, Greg Plumb ’18 and Connor Harris ’18. Etienne is a practice all star who has patiently waited his turn for increased game carries. Expect big things from him as a change of pace running back.

The offensive line has six guys to be excited about, including: AJ Walsh ’15, Matt Jewett ’16, Eric Davis ’17, Gardner Fish ’17, Charlie Grossnickle ’16 and Pat McLaughlin ’16. Of course there are only five starting spots but according to tri-captain Felix, “all six should get playing time over the course of the season, as the starting line-up is never set in stone.” Felix raved about the unit’s play thus far in preseason, especially its ability to run block and pick up blitzes.

This past weekend the Ephs scrimmaged the archrival Jeffs at Farley-Lamb Field and according to all three captains it went quite well.

“It is always great to play against our rival because the tradition and history of the rivalry makes for great football. Both sides of the ball looked crisp and there is definitely cohesiveness and fervor throughout the team this year,” Cabarle said. “That being said, there is always room for improvement and we have watched the film to identify where we need to get better. The chemistry and timing of our offense is the best I’ve seen since I’ve been at Williams. Overall, if we take care of the little things – stay disciplined, be students of the game and be coachable – we will have a very good shot to accomplish our goals as a team this year.”

All signs are pointing to a turnaround year for the Ephs. Their first game is Saturday at home against Bowdoin at 2 p.m.