Football: Spring game showcases quarterback hopefuls

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JAMIE HOLT / THE FLAT HAT

In head coach Jimmye Laycock’s last season, William and Mary improved on its 0-8 record in the Colonial Athletic Association from 2017. The Tribe managed to win three games in conference in 2018, spurring the College to a 4-6 record. Shortly after the conclusion of the season, the Tribe announced that it was hiring former Virginia head football coach Mike London for the same position at the College. London was previously a defensive line coach at the College under Laycock in the early 1990s. He won a national championship as the head coach of Richmond in 2008, before accepting the head coaching job at Virginia. For the last two years, London was the head coach at Howard. At the College, he is tasked with reinvigorating a struggling Tribe program that mustered only 11 wins in Laycock’s last three seasons. The Tribe has not been to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs since 2015. 

This year for the spring game, the team split into first and secondstring offenses and defenses. The firststring offense, the green team, was led by junior quarterback Shon Mitchell and senior quarterback Brandon Battle. The secondstring offense, the gold team, was led by junior quarterbacks Ted Hefter and Dean Rotger, along with redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Jarrell. On the first drive of the game, Hefter led the gold team on a steady drive downfield before the offense stalled out in the red zone. Senior kicker Kris Hooper put the first points on the board in the game with a 39-yard field goal to make the score 3-0. Battle led the green team onto the field for the first time and promptly threw an interception with just over half of the first quarter left to play. On the green team’s next possession, Mitchell got the nod, but the drive ended with another interception. 

Hefter ended up getting a chance with the first-string offense and led the green team right down the field. Senior running back Albert Funderburke and sophomore running back Owen Wright were featured prominently on the drive and Wright ultimately cashed in with a nine-yard touchdown run.  

“Our running game has improved a lot, particularly with the guys up front,” London said. “Your running game goes as your offensive line goes.”  

Wright took the pitch from Hefter and got to the edge before lunging towards the pylon for the first touchdown of the game. That gave the green team a 7-3 edge with just over three minutes to play before halftime. Neither team was able to score for the rest of the second quarter.  

In the second half, there was a running clock and the third quarter flew by, but the green team was able to stretch its lead to two possessions on the last play of the quarter. Wright scored his second touchdown of the game on a two-yard scamper to push the green team’s advantage to 14-3. The game was cut short with 5:48 left on the clock due to an injury sustained by junior offensive lineman Dan Evers. According to London, it was a high-ankle injury.  

The Tribe has faced an uncertain quarterback situation over the past two seasons, with at least three players getting significant playing time in each of those seasons. It is still unclear who will be under center for the Tribe’s season opener, but steady play at that position will be key to the Tribe’s success in 2019. 

“We’re going to put the best player out there,” London said. “We’re going to be definitive about it. There were some good things that happened out there tonight, but there are some obvious things that we have to take care of.”  

The College will open its season at home against Lafayette Aug. 31. The Tribe faces a tough non-conference slate, including two Football Bowl Subdivision opponents: Virginia and East Carolina. The College’s four home games in CAA play will be against Villanova, James Madison, Rhode Island and Towson. The in-state rivalry matchup against the Dukes Oct. 19 will also be homecoming for the Tribe. Two years ago, the Tribe took on the Dukes for homecoming and lost 46-14. This season, the College will look to finish with a winning record overall and in the CAA for the first time since 2015. 

“Everything has been new for us,” London said. “I believe there’s a new energy that these guys have, and that’s what’s exciting. They’ve embraced it, and they’ve embraced the new culture we’re trying to create.”