Tribal revival? W&M Tribe tries to find playmakers as spring football concludes

William & Mary head football coach Jimmye Laycock

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - The William & Mary football team concluded its spring practice season with the annual Green & Gold Game at Zable Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Tribe’s defense posted an impressive performance, as it limited the offense to just two field goals and scored on a 45-yard pick-six by Grafton High School product Jaden Barnes during the first quarter.

"I knew from the jump I had to earn my spot and show them what I got," Barnes, a redshirt freshman defensive back told News 3 after the game. "I still have a lot of work to do. It's always a good start - that's how you get noticed. There's a lot of little things I have to work on still. Last time I had a pick-six was definitely in high school."

In addition to the touchdown, the defense totaled 3.0 sacks, 7.0 TFL, two interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles.

All four of W&M’s quarterbacks saw significant action, as Dean Rotger finished as the leading passer by completing 7 of 12 passes for 89 yards.

Shon Mitchell

Oscar Smith High School alumnus Shon Mitchell, who last year became the first William & Mary true freshman quarterback to start a game since 1975, is in a two-way battle with fellow sophomore Ted Hefter to earn the Tribe's starting job.

"I'm grateful for last year," Mitchell said about his three starts - during which he completed 22 of 58 passes for 140 yards with three interceptions. "Having that experience under my belt last year, I think it gave me a little bit of an advantage in the competition. Just having those game reps - it took me a long way. Just being able to learn from the experience I had in those games, it's definitely allowing me to progress a lot faster."

Tribe head coach Jimmye Laycock says there's one area in which he hopes Mitchell can improve from last season.

"Decision making," Laycock explained. "He's got the arm and the intelligence, but the biggest thing that separates an okay quarterback from a really good one is the decisions - and that's what we have to have."

In a highly-decorated career at Oscar Smith, Mitchell set the Virginia High School League (VHSL) records for passing yards (11,380), touchdown passes (123) and completions (747).

Jalen Christian

Wide receivers Anthony Mague (6-53), Heritage High School product Amonyae Watson (3-43), Jalen Christian (3-30) and Jordan Lowery (4-29) all came up big in the passing game as well and led a group of 11 players who all recorded at least one catch.

Last season, William & Mary struggled to a 2-and-9 record - losing every conference game in which they played.

"I think we've got more continuity and more explosiveness at the skill positions - especially at running back," Laycock said.

Owen Wright was the game’s leading rusher with 40 yards on 10 carries, while Albert Funderburke (4-26) and Jaret Anderson (4-24) played well. Anderson also recorded two catches for 22 yards.

At the completion of the game, the team announced captains for the 2018 season (as derived from a team vote) with three players garnering the honor – senior wide receiver Jack Armstrong, senior cornerback Raeshawn Smith and junior linebacker Nate Atkins.

Zable Stadium, William & Mary

Another major team award was announced on Saturday, as Armstrong was selected as the recipient of the John A. Stewart Winter Warrior Award, which is given annually to the player, or players, who best exemplify the qualities of dedication, effort and achievement that defined Stewart's career at W&M. Awardees are judged on their improvements both on the field and in the off-season training program.

The Tribe will open the 2018 season when it plays at Bucknell on Sept. 1.