Football hosts Tufts in season opener on Saturday at Steuben Field

The Continentals host Tufts on Saturday, Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. for the 2018 football season opener (Josh McKee photo).
The Continentals host Tufts on Saturday, Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. for the 2018 football season opener (Josh McKee photo).

The Hamilton College football team aims to get the 2018 season off to a good start on Saturday, Sept. 15 when the Continentals host Tufts on Steuben Field at 1 p.m.

Hamilton defeated all three NESCAC teams from Maine last year and finished in seventh place in the conference standings with a 3-6 record. The Jumbos ended up one spot ahead of the Continentals in sixth place with a record of 5-4. Tufts edged Hamilton 35-28 in overtime in Somerville, Massachusetts, last September.

Several starters, including four players who made the 2017 all-NESCAC team, return this fall. Tyler Hudson '19, who made the first team at linebacker, is injured and won't play this year. The captains are quarterback Kenny Gray '20, center Micah Balogh '19 and linebacker Cole Burchill '19.

The Continentals' passing game is in great shape as both Joe Schmidt '20 (1st team all-NESCAC) and Christian Donahoe '20 are back at wide receiver. Schmidt set program single-season records with 811 receiving yards and 10 touchdown catches and tied another with 55 receptions. His season got off to a great start as he was named the NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week after the loss at Tufts where he tied another program mark with four TD receptions in a game. Donahoe added 612 receiving yards on 36 catches for an average of 17 yards per catch along with three touchdowns. Sam Robinson '20 (18 rec., 110 yards) and Connor Cates '21 (10 rec., 129 yards) also return, as does starting tight end Trevor Pinkham '19 (9 rec., 56 yards).

Kenny Gray gets to throw the ball to all those weapons. Gray completed 158 of 302 passes for 1,871 yards with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions last year. Sam Foley '21 (25-49, 318 yards, 1 TD) appeared in five games in his rookie year. Gus Mahler '22 gives Hamilton three quarterbacks on this year's roster.

Mitch Bierman '21 enters 2018 as the No. 1 option in the rushing attack after he split time at tailback with Marcus Gutierrez '18 last year. Bierman gained 405 yards on 99 rushing attempts and scored six touchdowns on the ground in his first year. Zach Weinstein '20 received a handful of carries as well. Micah Balogh, Mike Spicer '21, Mike Cantarella '20, A.J. Cantarella '19 and A.J. Rattee '21 will be blocking for those backs.

Special teams is a strength for the Continentals thanks to punter Billy Wagner '20 and returner Sam Robinson, both of whom were placed on the all-NESCAC first team. Wagner averaged 41.2 yards on 53 punts. He placed 15 of those kicks inside the opponents' 20-yard line and boasted a long of 76 yards. Robinson was one of the leaders in the conference in all-purpose yards as he averaged 21.8 per kick return and 13.6 per punt return. He brought back one kick 87 yards for a touchdown in a season-ending win against Bates. The placekickers are Joe Suski '21, Quinn Voboril '22 and Sam Thoreen '22.

With Hudson unavailable, it will be up to Cole Burchill and free safety Colby Jones '19 to lead the defense. Burchill is the leading returner with 78 tackles including two sacks.

Jones was second team all-conference after he finished the season with 63 tackles and two interceptions. He was named a co-Defensive Player of the Week by the NESCAC after the season finale against Bates when he registered a career-high 12 stops, returned an interception 24 yards, recovered a fumble and blocked a field goal attempt.

Tim Russell '21 (51 tackles) and Sean Tolton '19 (47 tackles, 3 forced fumbles) will help out Burchill with the linebacking corps. Tolton led the team with 7.5 tackles for loss last year. Ends Alex Ganter '19 (45 tackles, 4.5 sacks) and Mike Friedman '19 (30 tackles, 4 sacks) lead the returners on the defensive line. Tackles Jeff Martinez '21 and William Rothschild '19 finished with 26 stops apiece. In the secondary Justin Leigh '20 and Sam Bowen '20 picked off two passes apiece and both Bryce Phillips '20 and Mufudzi Chogugudza '21 grabbed one each.