WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — In some ways former St. Lawrence University football coach Mark Raymond’s job at Williams College has been similar to his experience in Canton from 2010-15.
Three years into his time in Canton, Raymond coached a winless team, as SLU finished with an 0-10 record.
He rebounded from that to post a 7-3 record the next year, and in his final year in Canton, the Saints won a Liberty League championship, finishing 8-3, losing to national power Mount Union in the NCAA Division III Tournament.
When Raymond moved to Williams prior to the 2016 season he inherited a program that was a mess. He was hired too late to do any recruiting and the Ephs went 0-8.
But like his time at SLU, Raymond bounced right back, leading Williams to a 6-3 season the next year.
“Obviously we weren’t a good football team when we got started (at Williams),” Raymond said. “We brought in new kids and a new staff and got things in the right directions. I was a little surprised, but we were able to get a really solid first recruiting class in that made a really big difference.
“Philosophically, we implemented some of the same type of things (as SLU) there, to bring in a tough, team-oriented program together. We wanted to be good at taking care of the football and create turnovers.”
Raymond’s current staff with the Ephs has a few familiar faces to SLU fans.
The Ephs offensive coordinator is former SLU assistant coach Tom Blumenauer and former SLU running back Ramon Mignott is the linebacker coach.
“We are a little bit different (than his SLU teams) as far as defensively,” Raymond said. “We are more of a 3-4 (defense) than a 4-3 team. We were a little bit of both when I was (at SLU).”
Since his 0-8 start, Raymond has gone 19-9 with the Ephs. Williams did not play last year due to COVID-19, but was 7-2 in its last full season.
Unlike SLU, Williams only plays conference game in the NESCAC and does not play in any postseason games.
Williams opened the season last weekend with a 41-13 win over Middlebury and travels to Tufts for a game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
“There is a lot of familiarity,” Raymond said. “The good thing is every game really means a lot. You are into your conference schedule on day one, you have no time to get your bearings. I think the only bad thing is you’d like to get out of the conference and compare how you’d be with a different conference. At St. Lawrence (postseason) was the big thing. You knew if you were able to win the league you have a chance to win the NCAA Tournament.”
Raymond has not been forgotten in Canton. Several former Saints players have made the trip to see the Ephs play and Raymond said he watches as many SLU games online as he can.
Current Saints head coach Dan Puckhaber was the offensive coordinator on Raymond’s SLU staff.
“I love St. Lawrence,” Raymond said. “We had a special thing with really special guys that I’ll be friends with forever.”
Williamstown is also a lot like Canton with a population of 7,754 in the 2010 census.
“I think that’s why I like it here, it’s a lot like St. Lawrence, a lot like Canton,” Raymond said. “It’s a similar school, a small liberal arts school with a lot of really good people you get to know here. It reminds me a lot of being up north, which was a great experience. It made it easier to settle in here.”