Jeff Devanney doesn’t expect the folks up at Williams to forget what happened in 1991, when Trinity scored the game-winning touchdown after the officials cleared the celebrating Ephs from the field and put a second back on the clock.

He just wants them to accept it.

“You’ve got to get over it by now,” said Devanney, who played for Trinity in that game and as the Bantams’ first-year coach is presiding over the NCAA’s longest winning streak. “I’m sure at this point the people participating in that game have gotten over the fact that they lost it.”

Not entirely.

The loss ended Williams’ 23-game winning streak, but it cemented a rivalry between two teams that have dominated the New England Small College Athletic Conference. Now it’s Trinity riding a 31-game winning streak, and Williams is lining up to end it at Weston Field in Williamstown today.

“Our program has a very strong history,” Williams coach Mike Whalen said. “One of the things we talk about all the time is, ‘You’re not just playing this game for yourself, you’re playing for all the people who wore the purple jersey before you.”‘

Chuck Priore ran up 30 consecutive victories at Trinity before leaving last winter to take over at Stony Brook. Devanney is only 1-0 as the Bantams coach, but it’s not like he needs an introduction to the Williams rivalry.

He was the one burned when Williams scored to take the lead in the final minute of the ’91 game – “I tried to help Williams win,” Devanney joked. Williams appeared to stop the Bantams at the 5 when time expired, but the official ruled that Trinity called timeout, leaving time for one more play.

“Anybody who wants to talk about that, that’s just sour grapes. Luckily, the official had the guts to make the right call at Williams’ field,” Devanney said in a telephone interview on Thursday.

“At the end of the day, you’d almost rather lose a game like that than win by 50. You feel privileged that you were a part of it.”

That’s easy for him to say. But inside the Williams locker room, players are eager to pay back the Bantams not just for the ’91 game but for ruining the Ephs’ perfect seasons in other years as well.

“It’s kind of the flip side,” Williams linebacker Jon Dolan said. “They’ve dominated the league for four or five years now, and we have the opportunity to get them back.

“The whole team talks about it and knows about the winning streak. We haven’t beaten them since we’ve been here. It’s pretty exciting.”

Colleges traditionally save their top games for the rivalry weeks in November, when Michigan plays Ohio State and Harvard plays Yale and the nation’s non-contenders make or break their seasons on a single game.

Trinity’s chief rival has long been Wesleyan; for Williams, the season traditionally ends against Amherst in “The Biggest Little Game in America.” But the regular rivalries have lost their luster as they’ve lost their competitiveness: Williams went 13 games without losing to the Lord Jeffs under Hall of Fame coach Dick Farley.

“This has definitely supplanted the Amherst game as the most important, mainly because they have become the dominant team in our league,” Ephs receiver Brendan Fulmer said. “Amherst is important. There’s a big rivalry in other sports. But they haven’t been on top in football so that’s not always the main thing for our team.”

Instead, the biggest game in the league for the past decade or so has come early on. Fifteen times in the past 18 years, the winner of the game between Trinity and Williams has gone on to post the league’s best record.

Trinity has won the last three conference titles and shared it with Williams in ’02.

, when the Ephs handed them their last loss.

“Everyone in our conference is gauging where they are compared to Trinity, because Trinity is the top dog,” Whalen said. “They’re one of the best football teams in Division III. We’re going to see how we measure up.”


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