Last month, many Tribe fans turned off the television and went to bed with tears in their eyes after Montana State defeated the Tribe 55-7 in the FCS quarterfinals. It was an abrupt end to one of the best seasons in school history, and something seemed off about seeing the Tribe lose. After all, we hadn’t seen that happen since September 24th. As I scrolled through Twitter the next day, fans were not dejected or humiliated by the loss, no they were proud of the effort and season that this incredibly talented group of individuals put forth week in and week out. So where do we go from here? First, let’s see how far we have come.
In September of 2018, I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed freshman on campus, attending my first football game as a William and Mary student. I knew that Tribe football did not exactly have the reputation as some of the other schools around the state, but I figured they would be successful enough that the games would at least be fun. Not knowing any better, I sat in the grandstand and looked across the field at the handful of students in the student section. Where is everybody? Aren’t we supposed to pack the stands and go crazy while our team storms on the field to Metallica’s Enter Sandman?? I guess things are different here.
And different they are. Fast forward to opening night this year. I was sitting in almost the same exact spot, but this time as I looked across the field I saw a packed student section, full of screaming fans hoping to see a dominant season from their Tribe. And boy oh boy did they. Mike London’s crew went 11-1 in the regular season en route to a Capital Cup victory, CAA championship, and auto-bid into the FCS playoffs. For the first time in recent memory, William and Mary was a football school.
Which is why the quarterfinal loss felt so abrupt. It was not outside the realm of possibility to say that this year’s Tribe squad had a legitimate shot at the national title. When we actually stop and think about it, we got to see the #5 team in the country play week in and week out. Not only that but fans at Zable might have noticed a new face in the crowd this season. Yes, we are talking about former NFL MVP Cam Newton, a regular in the student section on Saturday afternoons in Williamsburg. A few years ago if you would have told me that Cam Newton was going to be leading cheers in the student section at Zable during a playoff game, my jaw would have dropped to the floor. But yes Tribe fans, this is reality. What a time to be alive!
But the landscape of the program was vastly different just five years ago. In the fall of 2017, the Tribe went 2-9, dropping their final eight games. It was a dismal year for so many of us including current sixth-year senior and captain Carl Fowler, a freshman on that team. The following year, William and Mary finished 4-6 in long-time legend Jimmye Laycock’s final season at the helm. But on November 19, 2018, everything changed. That is when Mike London took over as head coach of the program, and since then, he has completely flipped the script on Tribe football.
Coach London has been nothing short of brilliant during his time in Williamsburg, and there is no one we would rather see at the helm of this program. London’s 23-16 record over the last four seasons includes a school-record 10 wins in the 2022 regular season, as well as the Tribe’s first trip to the NCAA Quarterfinals since 2009. I would be willing to bet this will not be the last playoff berth of Coach London’s time in Williamsburg.
Sure this year was great, but what about next year? What should Tribe fans expect going into 2023? Let me give you two players to watch.
John Pius is quickly turning into one of the best defensive players in William and Mary school history. Read that again. Te sophomore appeared in all 13 games of the 2022 campaign and finished with 72 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, and 11.5 sacks, just a half sack shy of the single-season school record. Pius finished the year with a plethora of awards including the CAA defensive Player of the Year. He was also named an AP All-American alongside OL Colby Sorsdal.
We are predicting downright scary numbers for John Pius in 2023. The Arlington, Virginia native could very well lead the NATION in sacks next year, and will prove to be a terror for opposing quarterbacks. We cannot wait until September to see the leader of the Green Swarm go to work.
Going into his sophomore season, we knew that Darius Wilson was a special talent. After all, he did finish the 2021 season as teh CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year with nearly 1,600 total yards. Over the course of the 2022 season, however, Wilson blossomed into one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. The former New York Gatorade Player of the Year runner-up finished with 2,252 yards through the air, 534 rushing yards, and 20 total touchdowns. Wilson threw just seven interceptions while completing 63% of his passes in the Tribe’s run-heavy offense. If Wilson makes this big of jump AGAIN in 2023, the CAA better watch out. Wilson is downright electric in the open field and can make any defender miss with his elusiveness and speed. Add that to his ability to pass the ball both in and out of the pocket and you have one of the more dangerous offensive weapons in the CAA. Be ready for 2023, Tribe fans, because #11 is taking the league by storm next year.
Fans dreaming of a national championship may still be disappointed from the Tribe’s tough loss in Montana. But have no fear, the coaching staff is already out on the recruiting trail building for the future and finding the next great William and Mary football players. It may only be the first few days of 2023, but I cannot wait until September. LET’S GO TRIBE!
One thought on “The State of the William and Mary Football Program”
Our Grandson,Colby Sorsdal, enjoyed every minute of his time with The Tribe. He would tell you that because of the atmosphere that coach London & his coaches have instituted that The Tribe program is back & well on it’s way to bigger goals. Will see you this fall for at least two games.