Courtesy of Williams College
Coming off the first losing season in 28 years, 2-6, the 2014 Williams College football team is looking to rebound in a big way as they open their newly constructed Farley-Lamb Field with three home games in the first four weeks of the season.
Named for long time Eph head football coach and College Football Hall of Famer Dick Farley and the longest serving head men’s lacrosse coach at Williams, Renzie Lamb (also a football assistant), the field will offer a lighted Field Turf Revolution playing surface. Farley-Lamb Field will not only offer the Ephs a new layout for games, but will also centralize the football program for the first time in school history.
Previous to this season every football game the Ephs played in – home and away – began with a bus ride. Home contests found the Ephs dressing at Cole Field House on the north end of campus, where they used to practice, and arriving at Weston Field via bus.
Beginning this fall the Williams football team practices and plays at the same location for the first time in more than 129 years.
Eph head coach Aaron Kelton, now in his fifth season, will open the 2014 season fresh off an experience that found him and Eph sophomores Taysean Scott and John Fives helping lead the USA Under 19 Football Team to the International Association of American Football World Championship title in a tournament played in Kuwait City in July.
For the third time in the history of the event the USA met Canada in the final and the USA is now 2-1 in the series, as the red, white, and blue posted a 40-17 win in the heat in Kuwait City.
Kelton coached the USA defensive line, while Scott and Fives played on the defensive side of the ball for the USA.
Kelton will welcome back 17 starters this fall. Lost to graduation were three offensive players: wide receivers BJ Griffin and Greg Payton, and quarterback Adam Marske. Defensive lineman Ernest Higginbotham (now an assistant coach) and safety Nate Saffold graduated from the defensive side of the ball.
Headlining the list of returnees is junior defensive end James Howe who led NESCAC with 10 sacks, earning First Team All-NESCAC honors. Senior captains Tom Cabarle, a safety, and center Alan Felix were both Second Team All-NESCAC selections.
Howe had a breakout season that also saw him lead the Ephs in tackles with 55 (40 solos). He also registered 17 tackles for a loss, forced a fumble, and recovered two fumbles.
“James is one of the most talented defensive players in the entire league,” states Kelton. “He brings toughness to our defense along with great play, effort, and instincts. James will be the focus of a lot of teams when they game plan for us because he disrupts what offenses want to do. He is a great player and person and I expect him to have another great season.”
Cabarle was the team’s third leading tackler in 2013 notching 48, including 34 unassisted. He broke up four passes, intercepted one, recorded one tackle for a loss, and forced one fumble.
Felix will be a three-year starter on the offensive line, but he has been a key figure up front for the Ephs all four years. His leadership and experience will be counted on heavily this season to lead an offensive front that earned its stripes last fall and is now ready to capitalize on the minutes it logged last year when there were no seniors in the group.
There is no substitute for experience, especially in the sport of football where each unit has to work as one to register success.
Placekicking specialist and punter Joe Mallock returns for his final season, needing three field goals to surpass Scott Sobolewski ’10 on the Ephs’ all-time list in NCAA Division III play. Sobolewski connected on 23 field goals and an Eph record 98 PATs in his career. Sobolewski currently sits fourth on the Eph all-time NCAA DIII scoring list with 167 career points.
Mallock already owns Eph records for longest field goal (45 yards), most field goals in one season (11), and most consecutive field goals made (12). He has 105 career points having tallied 21 field goals and converted 42 PATs.
In 2013 Mallock punted the ball 52 times for an average of 36.5 yards. Twenty of his punts were fair catches and 15 were downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
“Joe is one of the hardest workers on the entire team,” notes Kelton. “He is a weapon I’m sure every coach would want on their team. His ability to kick and punt has made it nice for us. He is also very involved in all of the game planning. Joe possesses a great level of confidence that rubs off on the entire team.”
Last fall the Ephs opened the season green on the offensive line, without a senior in either the first or second team. This fall will be different as the projected starting lineup features two seniors, two juniors, and a sophomore and all have now started for at least one season.
The line will be built around Alan Felix at center. The right guard will be sophomore Gardner Fish and the left guard will be junior Matt Jewett. Two-year starters AJ Walsh, a senior, and junior Charlie Grossnickle will man the tackle positions. Grossnickle, like Felix, saw time almost immediately having been called to action in his initial campaign in the Purple Valley.
“We have seven guys with experience coming back,” noted offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Kyle Smesko. “Guys that started all eight games last year were AJ Walsh, Charlie Grossnickle, and Matt Jewett. Alan Felix played in seven. Junior Patrick McLaughlin, Gardner Fish, and Ben Wertz accrued significant playing time as well.
“We are expecting big things from junior tackles Tyler Fitzgerald, and Vincent Molinari,” added Smesko. “We will have the most depth since I have been here. I think the depth is a result of the fact that we had no seniors last year and had some injuries. I hope the experience gained while playing in close games last year will be very beneficial for the guys.”
The top candidates to replace departed wide receivers BJ Griffin and Greg Payton include senior captain Steven Kiesel and junior Darrias Sime. Sophomore Lewis Hayes is slotted behind Sime, while junior Colin Brown will back up Kiesel.
Kiesel is an experienced receiver who can find seams and is also a fine kick returner. He caught 25 passes in 2013, collecting 248 yards. “Steve is the type of player that football coaches love,” says wide receivers coach Scott Farley. “He is tough, reliable, and while he is not our fastest or quickest player, he makes plays. He started to come into his own at the end of last season and we look for him to lead our wide receiver unit this fall.”
“Darrias Sime is a very talented athlete who is a big physical guy that plays with an edge,” Farley said. “He holds a presence on the field; one where opponents need to be aware of where he is at all times. If Darrias can realize just how good he can be and begin to reach his full potential then he will be even more exciting to watch this fall.”
“The one thing about both of these guys that is special is that they are two-sport athletes (Kiesel/lacrosse and Sime/basketball) and their athleticism translates well in whatever they do,” adds Farley.
The tight end position is well stocked with senior Ryan Prokesch returning from having had to miss last season due to injury, but starting as a junior. Prokesch’s replacement last season Alex Way, now a junior, turned in a strong effort last fall and posted a breakout season.
Prokesch is a solid blocker and he has caught four passes, one for a TD in his career.
Last fall Way caught 15 passes for 231 yards and two TDs. In addition senior Ryan Barry and sophomore Nate Michalski are also expected to contribute.
At quarterback Kelton will have returning senior Tom Murphy and junior Mark Pomella. Murphy, the ace of the Eph baseball pitching staff, appeared in three games last fall and connected on 47 of 97 passes for 532 yards, while Pomella hit on 32 of 55 tosses for 292 yards and one TD in four games.
Pomella is more of a threat to run the football than Murphy.
Joining the program as a quarterback candidate is Boston College transfer Austin Lommen. Lommen, a junior was a red-shirt walk-on at BC last fall. He is 6-2 and weights 205 pounds. Lommen hails from Eden Prairie, Minn., where he played high school football with wide receiver Steven Kiesel.
Senior running back Alex Scyocurka will again be expected to handle the bulk of the Eph running game. Scyocurka is quick and deceptive and has a knack for making tacklers miss. Scyocurka when healthy is a threat to go all the way on every play. Last season he ran for 506 yards on 155 attempts, good for 3.3 yards per carry average, scoring four TDs. He also caught 16 passes for 88 yards and one TD.
Veteran Qadir Forbes returns at fullback to again lead the way for Scyocurka and the rest of the Eph running backs through the defensive line and protect the Eph QB in passing situations.
“Our offense has made some big strides this pre-season,” says Kelton. “We have a number of experienced players back who we know are ready to make a major impact in the NESCAC. We have been able to move the ball consistently and we will need to do that all season long. It will be important for us to use all of our weapons and mount a balanced attack each week. Our reserve players will need to impact games and add needed depth.”
James Howe at defensive end and Tom Cabarle at free safety, both All-NESCAC players last season give Kelton a presence on the defensive line and in the secondary.
Expected to join Howe up front are returning starters Adam Datema at tackle and Mike Flynn at end. Datema and Flynn are both seniors. Datema registered 37 tackles a year ago (16 solos) and he had 5.5 tackles for a loss and 2 sacks, while Flynn added 30 tackles (11 solos) and 4.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks
Alongside Datema at tackle will be senior Etienne Aduya who appeared in three games last season.
All three starting linebackers from 2013 return in senior Anthony Blanco and juniors James O’Grady and Johnny Bond. O’Grady finished second on the team in 2013 in tackles with 50, 19 of which were solos and he also intercepted one pass and broke up three passes. Of Bond’s 27 tackles last fall 12 were solos and 4 were tackles for a loss. He also broke up three passes and recovered one fumble. Seven of Blanco’s 17 tackles were solos and he broke up two passes.
Sophomore Taysean Scott returns to start at one cornerback slot along with senior Josh Helmkamp who will start for the second year. Helmkamp notched 35 tackles last season and seven were solos. He also contributed 5 pass break ups.
Free safety Cabarle was third on the team in tackles last fall with 48. He recorded 14 solos, 1 tackle for a loss, broke up 4 passes, picked off 1, and forced a fumble.
Expected to start at strong safety is sophomore Justin Harris who made two solo tackles last fall in limited playing time.
“Defensively we are equally talented at many positions,” comments Kelton. “We have to bring a level of maturity and physical play each week. We have to be able to create turnovers and slow offenses down. We will be fast, but we need to play with more discipline. We have a chance to be a pretty good defense but we must remain healthy and do the little things every time we take the field.”
To get back into their winning form this fall, the Ephs will need to cut down on mistakes and show that they can drive the ball when the situation demands.
Consistency on both sides of the ball is the goal. A year ago the Ephs turned the ball over 23 times, while securing just 8 takeaways of their own.
“I think things are shaping up for us to have a great season,” offers Kelton. “Last year we went through a tough experience and the guys worked really hard this past off season. They came back in great shape and with a great attitude. Pre-season went well and was very physical. Emotions are high. This group is out to prove they can and will be a good team. We have to get healthy and have all of our weapons and build some depth. It is going to be a lot of fun to see what we do this year together!!!
The Ephs’ 2014 season will begin at home on Saturday, September 20 at 2:00 PM when they host Bowdoin College in the first game to be played on Farley-Lamb Field.