Tribe's Dedmon returns to fold in impressive fashion

kholtzman@vagazette.com

WILLIAMSBURG – William and Mary sophomore wide receiver DeVonte Dedmon returned to the William and Mary lineup in last Saturday's 35-29 defeat at Virginia after missing the season-opening win at Lafayette Sept. 5 with an illness.

The Warhill High product, listed at 5-10, 185 pounds, made an immediate impact, scoring the game's first touchdown on a 41-yard reception from quarterback Steve Cluley despite a Virginia defender being flagged in the end zone on the deep ball for interference.

It wasn't Dedmon's first action on a big stage. He logged a catch for 13 yards in William and Mary's previous contest vs. an FBS opponent, a season-opening loss at Virginia Tech in 2014. But it was Dedmon's debut as a featured receiver after complementing Sean Ballard and stalwart Tre McBride a season ago.

Before last year's game in Blacksburg, Tribe offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers told Dedmon to play that game like he would any other.

"This year, I just took that mindset, 'It's just another team,'" Dedmon said. "They strap their shoulder pads up, they put on their cleats just like I do. They're just at UVa. So I just decided from then, I'm just going to play the game.

"I go out there and I'm like, "Hey, I gotta do what my coaches want me to do.' I don't worry about FBS – I don't do that. I just go out there and play."

The Tribe (1-1), rated 25th in the most recent Football Championship Subdivision Coaches Poll, and Stony Brook (2-0, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association) meet Saturday in William and Mary's home and CAA opener at Zable Stadium.

Dedmon recalls trying to keep pace on the sideline with Ballard last season at Stony Brook as Ballard hauled in a game-tying 52-yard touchdown reception from Clulely with 25 seconds left on the clock.

"I remember being on the sideline like running down with him," Dedmon said, "like, 'This is unbelievable. I can't believe this is happening.'"

Tailback Mikal Abdul-Saboor went on to score the winner in overtime for the Tribe, which had rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit, on a 13-yard run up the gut and William and Mary left Long Island, N.Y. with a walk-off 27-21 victory.

If it comes down to a Cluley pass in crunch time again, don't expect Dedmon to be running a fly route on the sideline this time.

Without Dedmon, five Tribe wideouts combined for 15 catches and 250 receiving yards in the 34-7 win at Lafayette in Week 1.

With Dedmon, William and Mary boasts an entirely different, explosive option.

"He gives us a little bit of speed and quickness," William and Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said. "He's got some suddenness to him that I think sometimes can catch people by surprise and gives you an opportunity for some big plays. He's a very gifted athlete and the way he maintained focus on that first touchdown pass was really impressive. And of course, he made a nice move on the next touchdown."

That next score was a 4-yard grab with 5:18 left in the fourth quarter to pull the Tribe within a touchdown.

Dedmon finished with 163 all-purpose yards, which included a game-high seven receptions for 80 yards and the two TDs. He had two rush attempts for 14 yards to go along with a 28-yard punt return and kick returns of 24 and 17 yards.

Dedmon didn't figure prominently in the most crucial plays of last year's game at Stony Brook despite snagging four catches for 67 yards. The memories of victory probably linger for Dedmon because it was arguably the most positively dramatic moment of the season for William and Mary, which had secured its fourth straight win to rise to No. 10 in the national rankings before dropping the next two to New Hampshire and Villanova, respectively.

"I saw the hole break open and I was like, 'Man, he's about to score," Dedmon said of Abdul-Saboor's winning run. "And he scores. I don't even remember getting across the field. I just remember being in the end zone with all my teammates, right in front of their student section, the fans just out of it. It was great."

NOTES: William and Mary starting linebackers Ian Haislip and Zach Fetters are out against Stony Brook with injuries; Saturday's game marks only the second meeting between the schools; Stony Brook leads the nation in total defense (186.5 yards) and is second in scoring defense at 7.5 points per gam; Victor Ochi, a senior defensive lineman for Stony Brook, was named the CAA Football Defensive Player of the Week on Monday; Stony Brook junior running back Stacey Bedell is the top rusher in the CAA with an average of 193 yards per game; Stony Brook's season-opener against Toledo was canceled after halftime due to inclement weather with the Seawolves trailing 16-7.

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