Football: New talent showcased in 2016 Green and Gold game

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April 18, 2016

10:14 PM

With the backdrop of the new renovations at Zable Stadium, William and Mary held its annual spring football game Saturday afternoon, marking the conclusion of the spring 2016 practices.

With senior quarterback Steve Cluley, senior tailback Kendell Anderson, junior wideout DeVonte Dedmon and several other returning starters not participating due to injury recovery or other reasons, this year’s game gave the crowd a chance to see the future of the Tribe, including some performances that could translate to roles in the season this fall.

“I thought effort was good; I thought execution on both sides of the ball was good,” head coach Jimmye Laycock ’70 said.

Junior Jhalil Mosley, sophomore Tommy McKee and redshirt freshman Brandon Battle rotated at quarterback. Although Cluley is the definitive starter, these three are competing for the No. 2 spot. Some may remember McKee as the player who came onto the field during the second round of the 2016 Football Championship Subdivision playoffs against Richmond when Cluley was injured.

“I thought effort was good; I thought execution on both sides of the ball was good,” head coach Jimmye Laycock said.

All three backups had solid production during the controlled scrimmage. Mosley led with 80 yards on seven for 11 passing with one touchdown, a 20-yard pass to sophomore receiver Jack Armstrong. McKee followed with 70 yards on eight for 13 passing, while Battle had 62 yards on four for 11 passing with a touchdown. Battle’s touchdown was a 20-yard bomb to redshirt freshman receiver Grant Waxter, who was almost wrapped up by the defense, but still caught the ball.

“[McKee] worked hard, he’s a smart kid, he knows the playbook, [and] he continued to grow and make improvements this spring,” Cluley said. “Jhalil finally got … out and healthy and playing. It’s exciting to finally see him get some snaps … Brandon’s a raw player, young, and even he made big jumps. I think all those guys have potential and it makes us better as an offensive group that we have four quarterbacks who can win us a football game.”

Several performances besides the quarterbacks’ stood out on the offensive end. Armstrong played in all 13 games last season, recording 28 receptions for 292 yards. His role will likely grow now with the departure of Christian Reeves ’16. Armstrong finished Saturday with 63 yards on six receptions, catching the touchdown from Mosley. Sophomore wideout Isaiah Kinder followed Armstrong with 46 yards on three receptions.

“[McKee] worked hard, he’s a smart kid, he knows the playbook, [and] he continued to grow and make improvements this spring,” Cluley said. “Jhalil finally got … out and healthy and playing. It’s exciting to finally see him get some snaps … Brandon’s a raw player, young, and even he made big jumps. I think all those guys have potential and it makes us better as an offensive group that we have four quarterbacks who can win us a football game.”

Waxter, the wideout who caught the touchdown pass from Battle, is a new addition to the offense, switching from his position as safety just a few weeks ago. He and other less-experienced receivers will continue to compete for reps during the summer practices in August. The College did have solid receivers last year, but the rushing game often stole the show with its dual threat of Mikal Abdul-Saboor ’16 and Anderson. With Abdul-Saboor graduating, it remains unclear whether the ground game will remain a two-pronged attack or switch to primarily using Anderson.

If it remains a two-man show, there are a few candidates for No. 2 rusher. Leading the stat sheet Saturday was redshirt freshman running back Albert Funderburke, who had 12 carries for 85 yards. Redshirt freshman tailback Brehon Britt also had a solid outing, rushing for 48 yards on 10 carries. These two younger guys could certainly be seen on the field this season, although another running back actually has some collegiate experience: junior tailback Jonathan Dunn. Dunn appeared in 11 games last season and amassed 91 yards on 26 carries, mostly appearing as a backup. Dunn carried 10 times for a total of 35 yards during the spring game.

“We’ve got something to prove,” Reed said. “It gives us something to work hard on when you’re in the weight room, when you’re out here running, out doing drills … We’ve got to work hard. We’ve got nothing but confidence.”

Defensively, the spring game was interesting to watch due to the large number of graduating players, most notably the three first-string linebackers — Luke Rhodes, Ian Haislip and Zach Fetters — as well as former defensive lineman Tyler Claytor and 2015 consensus All-American safety DeAndre Houston-Carson. With the gaps, this fall will be one to watch on the defensive side of play to see who steps up. The defense had six sacks and one turnover Saturday, three of the sacks coming via junior defensive end Xavier Roscoe. The turnover was a forced fumble by senior cornerback Trey Reed, which was recovered by sophomore linebacker Josh Delaney. Reed is one of four returning corners, a position that should be strong throughout the season due to the experience there.

“We’ve got something to prove,” Reed said. “It gives us something to work hard on when you’re in the weight room, when you’re out here running, out doing drills … We’ve got to work hard. We’ve got nothing but confidence.”

Special teams did not have much playing time Saturday, although the group made a considerable impact in 2015 with junior kicker Nick Dorka’s almost immaculate field goal completion percentage as well as several blocked PATs. Dorka appeared for a 28-yard field goal while redshirt freshman kicker Kris Hooper came on for the staged ‘game-winner,’ a 35-yard kick to put the offense ahead of the defense in a simulated two-minute drill final drive.

“People are going to graduate, people are going to leave … [There was] great leadership last year, and people have to step up and take those roles over,” Cluley said. “I think us four who got selected, it’s a great honor. I’m excited to lead with those boys.”

“Albert Funderburke at running back, he showed a little bit today … I think he’s going to get some playing time this fall,” Laycock said. “Kevin Jennings, who’s taking over for Andrew Jones at center … he’s done very well this spring and I’m very pleased with that move.”

At the conclusion of the game, the player-voted captains were announced, as well as the recipient of the John A. Stewart Winter Warrior Award. Cluley, Anderson, Reed and senior defensive end Peyton Gryder will serve as this year’s captains, while the Winter Warrior Award went to senior tight end Eric Hensley.

“People are going to graduate, people are going to leave … [There was] great leadership last year, and people have to step up and take those roles over,” Cluley said. “I think us four who got selected, it’s a great honor. I’m excited to lead with those boys.”

The Tribe kicks off its 2016 campaign to defend the Colonial Athletic Association title Sept. 1 at North Carolina State. The inaugural game at the newly renovated Zable Stadium will be the third game, Sept. 17 against Norfolk State.

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About Author

Nick Cipolla

Sports Editor Nick Cipolla '17 is a neuroscience major from Virginia Beach, Va. He was previously Associate Sports Editor.

  • Brandon Beejay

    Damnnnnnn Tribe, back at it again with the high expectations! And yet, I fear the tree of next season shall bare no fruit. For the tree has been planted in rotten soil; the soil of a humid and terrible swamp. Despite the noble words and reflections of Signore Sippollina, I doubt the fooseball team will be able to compete next year; and I for one and tired of all the disappointment. Granted, I do not go to the games, but I can see the scoreboard from my window, and I would rather enjoy glances of pleasant surprise than mild disappointment on fall evenings. Perhaps our organization is embodying the spirit of the classic and much beloved 1989 film “Field of Dreams”, with the hope that “If you build it, they will come.” While initially this may seem like an excellent plan, upon secondary analysis (much like the film “Field of Dreams”) this strategy falls flat on its dumbass face. Sure, the new stadium looks incredibly impressive right now, but once the season starts and those magnificent bleachers remain unfilled, our program will become even more of a joke than it already is. And short of basketball coach Tony Shaver engaging in gladiatorial death matches armed with only his strange flesh-colored mustache bellowing “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED” as he hoists the decapitated heads of his slaughtered enemies up to the cheering crowds, I can’t think of a single way we can manage to fill those seats. So, therefore, I have to say sorry NiKo, for me, this article only gets three out of ten handles of unflavored burnett’s. Don’t give up. Keep on writing. Keep on keeping on. Groovy. Why did they used to say that? Why are things with grooves considered cool? Keys have grooves. Tires have grooves. Camels have grooves. So do records. OH SHIT! So “groovy” probably refers to the grooves on a record, and records play music, and music is cool, therefore groovy is cool! I understand. Thank you, Nick.

    You have such hunger for my secrets??? Come! YOU SHALL BE FED!!!!!!!

  • Jacob Jaccuzi

    Nick has finally Sold Out. He just wants to be a Trendy reported like the rest of the big sports reporters so he can Join The Club, but he just falls flat. The quality of this journalism seems to reflect events in Nick’s personal life, telling that She Has a Girlfriend Now, which would weigh heavily on any man. The level of commentary is on par with that of Snoop Dog, Baby when he is doing voice overs for planet earth. It seems as though he drank a Beer, or maybe more, when he wrote this. Out of this whole piece, only 241 words were acceptable, notably “Everything Sucks” and S.R.” Nick may be a Skatanic worshiper in hopes of producing a good article, but even Satan won’t help him. All I Want is More quality journalism from Nick Cipolla, but he keeps giving me Nothin’. I want to Say Ten out of 10 but its really a 5 out of 7. Nick, just say to yourself “I’ll Never Be a good reporter,” it’ll make your life easier. Try doing something Alternative Baby.