Heading into the second week of the season, the Tufts football team has already secured what was arguably the program’s biggest win in the last decade, grinding out a 14–8 victory over the Trinity Bantams on a stormy opening day in Medford.
The Bantams are familiar with starting the season with a target on their backs, having won three consecutive NESCAC titles. With their win over the defending champions, the Jumbos put themselves in prime position to claim the first NESCAC title of coach Jay Civetti’s career.
But, the list of heavyweights doesn’t end with Trinity, as Tufts gears up to play a very competitive Williams team this Saturday in Williamstown, Mass.
The Williams Ephs look to get their season back on track after dropping the opener 17–13 to Middlebury. Led by the electric junior quarterback Bobby Maimaron, the Ephs feature a dynamic offense that keeps opposing defenses guessing. In 2018, the Ephs gave the Jumbos an extremely tight contest, with the home-team Jumbos edging out a 28–21 victory.
While Maimaron has consistently been a prolific passer, his ability as a dual-threat quarterback allows the Ephs to utilize run-pass options, bootlegs and designed quarterback runs. Senior defensive lineman Kevin Quisumbing spoke about how the Jumbos would combat Maimaron on the field.
“He’s a pretty elusive quarterback,” Quisumbing said. “The biggest thing for containing a running quarterback is mostly mental: Just do your job and don’t try to make a highlight play.”
In last year’s matchup, Maimaron ran 24 times for 135 yards and a score, while also racking up 107 yards on 18 of 29 passing. The Jumbos can expect a similar stat line from Maimaron this year, Civetti explained.
“They rely heavily on Maimaron, and they do quite a bit with him,” Civetti said. “He’s arguably the best quarterback in the league, and we need to contain him.”
Maimaron’s running ability allows the Ephs to feature a run-heavy offensive attack, but junior wide receiver Frank Stola remains a threat on the outside. Civetti spoke about Stola further.
“He’s another top playmaker in our conference,” Civetti said about Stola. “Their [junior] tight end [Justin] Burke is another player who we think could hurt us, and we’re lucky to have a group of guys to rely on to slow them down.”
On the defensive line, Jumbo sophomore defensive lineman Jovan Nenadovic will look to apply pressure to Maimaron up front. Coming off a three-sack performance in the opener, Nenadovic will have his hands full containing the shifty playstyle of Maimaron, a Duxbury, Mass., native. Also on the defensive side, the Jumbos have one of the most impactful players in the league in senior linebacker and co-captain Greg Holt, who has already earned three first-team all-NESCAC nods in his collegiate career.
While the Tufts defense only allowed six points as a unit in the Trinity game, Quisumbing said there was lots of room for improvement.
“We were really sloppy,” Quinsumbing said. “We get graded on production after every game, and everyone was at a C or a C+ maximum.”
With sunny skies expected for Saturday, an improvement over the downpour during the Bantams game, expect Holt and the rest of the Jumbos defense to be playing fast and physical against this well-rounded Ephs team.
The Ephs also feature a strong linebacker crew themselves, who are a major point of attention for Civetti and his team.
“Their linebacker core is probably the best in the league, they run sideline to sideline really, really well,” Civetti said.
In last year’s matchup versus Williams, Civetti tried to keep the Ephs defense on their toes by incorporating gadget plays; the Jumbos scored their winning touchdown on a decisive flea flicker pass following a forced fumble by Holt.
“When we get an extra possession and can really capture the momentum, that’s when you’ll see those sorts of plays come up,” Civetti said.
The Williams defense also faces a tall task containing some of Tufts’ standouts such as junior running back and co-captain Mike Pedrini and senior tight end Jack Donohue. Following the graduation of quarterback Ryan McDonald, the Jumbos have turned to senior quarterback Jacob Carroll, who threw two touchdown passes in the opener. Consistent with the modern trend in the NFL, Civetti serves as both the coach and offensive coordinator. His play-calling and ability to spark impact players early in the game will be crucial versus a tough Williams defensive unit.
So while the season is young, the excitement around campus following the gutsy win over Trinity is palpable. Following three 0–8 seasons to start his career, Civetti has guided the Jumbos within striking distance of the NESCAC crown.
“I would hope that our program is at a point where people’s expectations of us are to win games like that and to be competing for a championship,” Civetti said.
For Quisumbing and his teammates, they’re simply trying to improve to 2–0 this week.
“The biggest thing for us is forgetting about Trinity,” Quinsumbing said. “We’re trying to block that out, and get onto the next one.”
Kickoff is set for Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Williamstown.