2017 football season preview

Marcus Gutierrez '18 (Josh McKee photo)
Marcus Gutierrez '18 (Josh McKee photo)

The 2017 Hamilton College football season gets underway on Saturday, Sept. 16 at Tufts. Game time is set for 1 p.m. at Ellis Oval/Zimman Field.

The Continentals finished last year with a record of 3-5 and have improved their win total every year since head coach Dave Murray took over prior to the 2014 season. The Jumbos ended up in second place in the 2016 NESCAC standings with a 7-1 record.

Without a doubt, the biggest story in NESCAC football going into this season is the addition of the ninth game, which allows every team to play a full round-robin conference schedule for the first time. Since 1992, Hamilton had alternated playing Tufts for two years and then Amherst for two years, along with the other seven NESCAC schools with football every year for a total of eight contests.

The Continentals are led by Tyler Hudson '19, who was voted to the 2016 NESCAC Football All-Conference first team as a defensive lineman. Hudson makes the move from the line to middle linebacker this year. He is one of four team captains along with Cole Burchill '18, Alec Waugh '18 and Marcus Gutierrez '18.

Hamilton's first win last year was a thrilling 26-25 victory at Steuben Field against Bowdoin. Quarterback Kenny Gray '20, who had entered the game midway through the first half, scored the game-winning touchdown on a 5-yard run with 33.6 seconds left. Gray finished the game 19 of 32 passing for 303 yards and a touchdown pass. He was named the NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week the following day.

Two weeks later the Continentals used special teams to post a 16-6 win against Williams at home. Robert Morris '17 tied a program record with three field goals in a game and Gutierrez led the offense with 115 yards rushing.

Gutierrez and the defense led Hamilton to a 24-7 triumph at Bates in the season finale. Gutierrez ran for a career-high 118 yards and scored his first two rushing touchdowns, and the Continentals limited the home team to just 176 yards of total offense.

Gray and Cole Freeman '18 are the only quarterbacks on the roster who attempted a pass last year. Gray threw for 903 yards and three touchdowns while Freeman finished with 646 yards passing and four touchdowns. Gray also ran for 71 yards and two scores.

Gutierrez is the leading returning rusher with 419 yards on 120 carries last year. He also caught 12 passes out of the backfield for 52 yards. Joe Schmidt '20 tops all returners with 28 catches for 301 yards and two touchdowns his rookie year. Waugh added 20 receptions for 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Waugh, the team's deep threat, added 470 yards in returns and was one of the conference's leaders with 774 all-purpose yards.

The Continentals will miss Charles Ensley '17 and lineman Rob McClure '17 on offense as both were on the all-conference second team last year. Ensley finished his career in fourth place on the team's all-time receiving yards list and his 557 yards last year is fifth-most in a season in Hamilton history.

Hudson and fellow linebacker Burchill are the leaders of a defense that lost most of its starters to graduation. Hudson made 47 tackles, forced a fumble and broke up three pass attempts. He was credited with 12 tackles for loss, including four sacks. Burchill is the leading returner with 55 tackles a year ago and he forced a fumble. Colby Jones '19 had 32 stops from his free safety spot and picked off two passes. Linebacker Sean Tolton '19 (26 tackles), lineman Will Rothschild '19 (19 tackles) and DB Preston DeLaurentis '18 (15 tackles) should see plenty of time on the field as well.

On special teams, Joe Suski '21 and Billy Wagner '20 should handle the majority of the kicking and punting duties, respectively. Wagner averaged more than 35 yards on 31 punts last year.

The Continentals play their first home game on Saturday, Sept. 23 at 1 p.m. against Amherst. The rest of the home slate features Wesleyan (Sept. 30), Colby (Oct. 21) and Bates (Nov. 11).

Four Tufts players who made last year's all-conference team on defense are back in 2017. Rookie of the year Greg Holt led the conference with 98 tackles from his linebacker spot. Fellow first team members Doug Harrison and Tim Preston finished with 24 tackles and five interceptions, respectively. Lineman Micah Adickes added 32 tackles, including five sacks. Ryan McDonald is the top returning quarterback as he was 44 of 83 passing for 487 yards and five touchdowns with just one interception. McDonald also ran for 647 yards and another five scores.