Williams building on tradition
Aaron Kelton couldn’t have written a better script for his first season as football coach at Williams.
The Ephs went 8-0 in the NESCAC, the first time a coach has been perfect in his debut season in program history.
Kelton, a Boston native, has high hopes once again and he’s not the only one.
“After having the type of year we had, there’s a tremendous level of excitement around the program,’’ Kelton said. “Our guys are really chomping at the bit to get after it and continue the success we had last year.’’
The team’s makeup is different this year. Quarterback Pat Moffitt, who threw for 2,386 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, graduated.
Kelton said he expects senior quarterback and Winchester native Chris Cleary to take over the starting role. The Ephs’ strong receiving corps should make Cleary’s job a bit easier. J.C. Stickney and Darren Hartwell, named first-team all-conference, return as targets after combining for 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
The Ephs open with games at Bowdoin and Trinity.
“We’ll know whether or not we’re any good in the first couple of weeks of the season,’’ Kelton said. “It really is a different team. [This year’s players need] to show what they’re able to do and not rest on the laurels of last year.’’
Trinity and Amherst, the teams that finished behind Williams last season, hope to shake things up, too. Trinity returns 15 starters and the league’s top rushing attack, including NESCAC Rookie of the Year Evan Bunker.
Tufts will begin the season under the leadership of interim coach Jay Civetti, a Wellesley native, after coach Bill Samko stepped down after 17 seasons. The Jumbos finished 1-7 last year.
New England Football Conference Endicott’s chance to repeat as NEFC champion could come down to battles in the trenches. And if that’s the case, the Gulls should feel confident with senior Kevin Eagan on the defensive line and Nick Molinari on the offensive line.
Last season, Eagan was named the NEFC Boyd Division Defensive Player of the Year after leading Endicott with 45 solo tackles, eight sacks, and two forced fumbles. Molinari made the NEFC Boyd Division first team last year.
Other teams that could stop the Gulls include Maine Maritime - which played in the NEFC championship game - as well as Curry and Framingham State, which went 9-2 last year, its best season in program history.
Eastern Collegiate Football Conference Norwich’s offense relies on the feet and arm of junior quarterback Kris Sabourin, last season’s ECFC co-Offensive Player of the Year. He averaged 96.2 yards per game rushing and 102.5 yards passing and the Cadets will expect more of the same.
SUNY Maritime will aim to repeat as champions after a 10-0 season. The Privateers also welcome back coach Clayton Kendrick-Holmes, who spent eight months with the US Naval Reserves during the offseason.
Empire 8 Football Conference Springfield is set to play its final season in the Empire 8 under 28-year coach Mike DeLong. The Pride will move to the Liberty League next year in football as an associate member.
Northeast-10 New Haven is entering its third season since the Chargers revived their football program, and all signs point toward continued success. The NE-10 preseason coaches’ poll picked the Chargers to repeat as league champions.
The Chargers are returning 21 of 22 starters, most notably quarterback Ryan Osiecki, who passed for 1,861 yards and 16 touchdowns, and running back Victor Jones, who became the third player in program history to rush for 1,000 yards in one season.
“We have a veteran team,’’ Chargers coach Peter Rossomando said. “We feel really comfortable about [the players] understanding our system and knowing what we expect from them.’’
The Chargers will be challenged by Southern Connecticut, Merrimack, and Bentley. Of the three, Bentley could be most dangerous - the Falcons have the reigning NE-10 MVP in senior quarterback Bryant Johnson.