WATERVILLE — The Colby College football team isn’t easing into the 2022 season. In fact, the Mules are starting the season off with one of their biggest tests.

Colby kicks off at 1 p.m. on Saturday against Williams College — the defending champion of the New England Small College Athletic Conference — at Harold Alfond Stadium.

Colby comes into the new year with plenty of momentum. The Mules went 3-2 in their final five games last season, after going 1-3 in their first four games. Colby beat both Bates (10-2) and Bowdoin (21-10) to win the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) championship for the third consecutive time.

“We’ve got a hard working crew,” Colby head coach Jack Cosgrove said. “This team has put a lot into their growth and development since the end of last year, in the weight room, during spring practice and now the preseason. It’s gotten better and better and improved. Now, we’ve got an opportunity to find out how much we’ve improved and where we are in terms of our growth and development. It’s a real challenge to go up against the undefeated NESCAC champions in Williams, but that’s kind of setting a high bar and high standard and that’s got our attention.”

The Colby College football team runs through a play during practice on Wednesday at Harold Alfond Stadium in Waterville. Dave Dyer/Kennebec Journal

The Mules are heavy on experience. On offense, it all starts with quarterback Matt Hersch, a senior who enters his fourth season as the starter.

“We have a great team this year, we have a great coaching staff,” Hersch said. “We’ve got some new coaches that came in, a lot of young players upcoming who we had last year who didn’t get as much (playing) time because there was a senior ahead of them. We have a lot of returning experience, a lot of depth. We’re very optimistic about the season.”


Colby graduated top rusher Devin Marrocco, but returns sophomore running back Keon Smart, who showed promise as a freshman (69 carries, 248 yards, three touchdowns) last season. Smart has also shown an ability to be a factor in the passing game (20 receptions, 146 yards). Hersch will have both of his top weapons in the passing game, as leading receivers Jack Sawyer (28 receptions, 462 yards, two touchdowns) and Matt Panker (30 receptions, 431 yards, two touchdowns) both return.

On defense, the Mules bring back their leading tacklers in junior defensive back Nick Donatio (69 tackles last year) and senior defensive back Will Nipon (54 tackles). Junior defensive lineman Rome Banaitis (three sacks) is the team’s top returning pass rusher.

Colby must replace a major contributor on special teams with the graduation of kicker/punter Moises Celaya, who averaged more than 36 yards per punt last year and was 3 of 7 on field goals. Senior Lowell Carr and freshman Gian Martinez are the immediate contenders for the job.

Williams beat Colby 42-0 last year in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Hersch said the Ephs should expect a better battle than last year’s matchup.

Colby kicker Lowell Carr attempts an onside kick during practice on Wednesday at Harold Alfond Stadium in Waterville. Dave Dyer/Kennebec Journal

“They’re coming off an unbelievable season,” Hersch said. “One in which we hope to have here. They’re also returning a ton of starters, so they have that experience. We’re expecting them to come up here and have a dog fight. They think they’re going to come in here and roll us. Historically, that may be a fine thought. But this is a new team, a new program and we’re on the up and coming. I just think they should come up here expecting a dog fight.”

“Season openers are always exciting,” Cosgrove said. “There’s always a level of mystery to them. But the fact of the matter is, it’s a really great program that we have to entertain here and we’re looking to play our butts off and give them everything they can handle.”

Williams has beaten Colby in each of the last four meetings. Colby’s last victory over the Ephs came in 2016 by a 9-7 score.

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