WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — If you know Aaron Kelton, than you know he's not about to shy away from the high expectations that surround his Williams College football program.
And with 16 starters returning from a team, which finished 8-0 in his first year at Williams, those expectations have grown, if that's possible.
"The bar is set high and there's nothing wrong with that," Kelton said. "That's part of the reason our guys came to Williams. There's something to be said for being the lead dog. It's a little different position for us, but we'll use it as motivation. "
Last year the Ephs competed without a blemish, the seventh such perfect season in the long history of Williams football. But with players like NESCAC Offensive Player of the Year Pat Moffitt (quarterback) having graduated, the 2011 Ephs will need to find their own path to success.
"The other piece is to get them to understand that last year is over and we need to leave it behind," Kelton said. "I'm not as worried about the older guys as our young players. For them, it's going to be about putting that to bed and going out and doing something special."
Williams has six First Team All-conference selections back from last season, four on defense and two on offense. Nonetheless, the spotlight will shine prominently on the quarterback position, where senior Chris Cleary has emerged from a preseason battle with the starter's job.
Cleary threw all of eight passes in 2010, completing five for 44 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. Sophomore Adam Marske may also see time.
"We expected Chris to come in, compete, and win the job," Kelton said. "The plan all along is to create series and some things during the game to get those young guys some snaps."
"Our makeup will be different, no doubt," Kelton added. "We're just as talented, don't get me wrong, but things will be different. This team has to develop its own chemistry and determine what its makeup will be. That hasn't happened yet."
| Darren Hartwell '13
The Ephs offense averaged over 477 yards per game last year, 175 on the ground and the remainder through the air. Leading rusher Ryan Lupo graduated, but talented backs Alex Scyocurka, Kristian Lapointe, Tom Wohlwender and Marco Hernandez should all get plenty of carries in 2011.
Scyocurka averaged 5.1 yards per carry in his freshman campaign. Holes will be opened for the backs by a veteran offensive line that includes senior center Vince Nistico, senior left tackle Steve Denza, junior right tackle Cong Tian, sophomore right guard Ryan Loughran and junior right guard Pete Christiani.
"We'll use a running back by committee approach this year," Kelton said. "We have four talented guys back who all do different things. Guys are going to have to fight like hell to get some carries and I like that. We're going to have to lean on our running backs and offensive line, but that will help our passing game develop as the season progresses."
At wide receiver, the Ephs have two First Team All-NESCAC types back in junior Darren Hartwell and senior J. C. Stickney. Hartwell set a Williams single-season record for touchdown receptions on 2010 with 10, catching 35 balls for 695 yards, an average of 19.9 yards per catch. Stickney was second on the squad with 31 receptions for 510 yards, an average of 16.5 yards per catch, and he scored three touchdowns. Senior Thomas Kearney also returns after hauling in 16 catchers for 280 yards and four TDs last seaso
Schultz, who starts at middle linebacker for Williams, had 71 tackles in eight games last year, including a team-leading 8 ½ tackles for loss and three sacks. O'Mara was third in tackles with 43, 27 solo, while intercepting two passes and breaking up five. Canina, a mainstay of the defensive line along with Curzi, had 23 tackles, 12 solos, with two sacks and three quarterback hurries. Curzi had 15 tackles, eight solos.
"I expect our defense to carry the team early on this season," Kelton said. " I think we'll be solid against the run with the guys we have returning. One of the key things I'm emphasizing with our coaches is we have to put more pressure on the opposing quarterback. We've got to cover longer to help our guys get the QB."
Also starting on the defensive line with be tackle Ben Halbower, a senior who had 17 tackles a year ago, five for loss. Joining Schultz at linebacker will be senior Noah Goldberg and junior Chris Cameron, a starter since his first game at Williams.
With Cleary starting at quarterback, the Ephs will rely on Greg Payton to do the bulk of the punting and Luke Faust to handle the placekicking chores. Last fall Cleary hit on 3 of 5 field goals and made 31 of 36 PATs for 40 points and he punted 27 times for an average of 29.5 yards per punt. Payton punted three times last season for a net average of 35.3 yards. Faust missed his only field goal attempt.
The Ephs will open the season against old friend David Caputi and his Bowdoin Polar Bears in Brunswick, Maine this Saturday. Kick-off is set for 1 p.m.
"We're building on a legacy that we started last year, so there's no pressure on our guys because they've already done it (gone undefeated)," Kelton said. "For us, it's more a matter of maintaining and sustaining our consistency. Our expectations are not going to change. We play them to win them."