Stagnant Tribe football looks to rewrite script in 2024

RYAN GOODMAN / THE FLAT HAT After a historic 2022 season, William and Mary's middle of the pack finish this year shows that there's still work to do in Williamsburg.

As the lights on Zable Stadium turn off for the final time in 2023, another season of William and Mary football comes to an end. 

The team’s up and down performances resulted in quite the ride for Tribe fans this season. Despite being plagued by injuries early in the year, the Green and Gold once again embodied its never-say-die mentality until its final game in late November.

The Tribe finished the 2023 season with a 6-5 record, going 4-4 in Coastal Athletic Association play. Following its CAA Championship in 2022, the Tribe entered this season ranked No. 4 in the Football Championship Subdivision, the highest pre-season rating in team history. 

Through the team’s first four games, the Tribe looked more than capable of repeating its dominance from the season before. However, its undefeated record quickly disappeared towards the middle of the Tribe’s 11 game season, starting with the team’s 14-6 loss to Elon on Sept. 30. In the five week span from late September to early November, the Tribe dropped four of its five games.

Despite the skid, William and Mary still had some memorable performances in 2023. Sept. 23, the Tribe blew out CAA opponent Maine 28-3, the team’s largest margin of victory this season. It also delivered Tribe fans an ending to remember during its 31-28 win against Monmouth on Oct. 28, after a clutch blocked field goal by freshman defensive lineman Gent Veizi secured a much-needed Tribe win at home. 

The Tribe also recorded historic attendance during its homecoming matchup against Towson, selling out Zable with a whopping 13,713 fans cheering from the stands.

Despite the highs, mid-season losses to CAA opponents proved to be the Tribe’s kryptonite in 2023. Losses to Elon, Towson and Albany caused the Tribe’s rankings to slowly and continuously drop, leading to an unranked finish to the season after a nail-biting loss to Richmond on Nov. 18.

Regardless of the team’s record, numerous players on the Tribe team had seasons fans should never forget. 

Junior running back Malachi Imoh put a substantial piece of the Tribe’s offense on his back after senior running back Bronson Yoder suffered a season-ending injury early in the year. Imoh, who’s previous high in carries was 85 in 2022, ran the ball 126 times for 855 yards in 2023. On top of that, Imoh also finished the season with 19 receptions out of the backfield, going for 183 yards in those catches. 

Sophomore running back Martin Lucas also helped the Tribe’s ground game continue to be the backbone of its offense. In 69 carries, which doubled his 2022 total, Lucas ran for 261 yards and four touchdowns, blowing through defenders when the Tribe needed him the most. Like Imoh, the sophomore back was a pass option and finished 2023 with nine receptions and one receiving touchdown.

On special teams, senior kicker Caden Bonoffski had one of the most successful seasons in recent Tribe history. After transferring from Davidson last season, Bonoffski quickly filled the hole left by previous Tribe kicker Ethan Chang, who transferred from William and Mary following the team’s championship season in 2022. In 18 attempts, Bonoffski made 16 field goals, going 16-17 on kicks less than 50 yards. From the 40 to 49 yard range, Bonoffski was perfect, going 8-8 while knocking down a season-long 48-yarder during the team’s matchup against Virginia on Oct. 7. 

Senior defensive back Malcolm Spencer wreaked havoc on opposing offenses in 2023, making 39 tackles in addition to three interceptions for the Tribe.

On top of that, surprising no one, junior John Pius had another impressive showing this season. After being named to the All-American First Team in 2022, Pius continued his dominance in 2023, finishing with 53 tackles while forcing and recovering one fumble along the way. He recently announced on his personal Instagram that he will be transferring out of William and Mary for his final year of NCAA eligibility. 

However, as this season comes to an end, the Tribe most likely will be without a large part of its on and off-season leadership in 2024. This season’s senior class, which includes players like Spencer, corner Ryan Poole, safety Marcus Barnes, Yoder, linebacker Kevin Jarrell, offensive tackles Rian Haigler and Marcus Crowell and defensive lineman Nate Lynn, leaves behind a huge hole in the Tribe’s core as a team.

To fill that void, returning players must step up and lead the team on their own in 2024. Amongst returners, junior quarterback Darius Wilson, Imoh and junior receiver JT Mayo are most likely to lead the charge, but just like every year, only time will tell.

Although 2023 was a disappointing season compared to the Tribe’s historic run in 2022, this year’s team proved that William and Mary still has the potential to be a powerhouse in the CAA. Despite new leadership and new personnel that will take shape next year, the Tribe will return to Zable in 2024 with the same goal it has each year: bring another CAA title back to Williamsburg. 

Tribe fans — get excited. A new era of Tribe football may be coming soon.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here