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Washington & Lee football begins with new optimism

The Washington Redskins are not the only Virginia football team beginning training with a new coach and a new optimism.  Washington and Lee’s Eagles, who will have their first practice Thursday, are hitting the weight room with spirit and determination under the leadership of new coach Todd Jones.

 “The weight room is rocking,” said W&L Athletic Director Malcolm Lewis.  “The kids have bought in, they are pumped and working hard.”  

Hopes for the season were boosted when W&L hired legendary Northern Neck District Coach Todd Jones to head its varsity football program. Jones built the Essex Trojans into a powerhouse during his 14 years of coaching there including a 2009 state championship and 10 Northern Neck District championships.

 Jones’ state championship team went 14 and 0 and defeated Radford 30 to 0 to win the state title.  He was voted Virginia High School Coach of the Year in 20009 and he has coached in the state East-West all star game twice.

Coach Jones will inherit a football with solid prospects.  Almost two dozen lettermen return from a team that went 7-5 last year and went into the third round of the 1A-East state playoffs. This year’s W&L team will add even more talent from a 2013 W&L junior varsity team that only lost one game.

Jones said he will run his quick hitting, fast-paced, high octane offense.  “We want to play fast and fearless,” he said.  He will be helped in that effort by returning quarterback Treshaun  Brown who passed for 1,903 yards and 21 touchdowns as a junior, running back D.J. Weldon who rushed for 961 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore and receiver Jarret Sumiel who caught 45 passes and gained 639 yards his sophomore season.

On defense, the Eagles return 205-pound Gabe Loesel and 230-pound Markeyse Thompson, both senior defensive linemen who made the all conference team as juniors last year.”  “They have some pretty good talent at all positions,” said Lewis.  “If they catch fire, who knows how far they can go.”

Hoping to help spark that fire will be a number of quality players from last year’s one loss JV team including Cullen Bell, a junior quarterback, Mekhi Lee, a sophomore guard, Nicky Fones, a sophomore center, Joseph Fulcher, a junior wide receiver and Kewan Dameron, a junior running back and defensive back.

JV Coach Ricky Fones, who will also be an assistant coach with the varsity, said the 2013 W&L JV team was one of his best in nine years at W&L.  “They are excited about playing for Coach Jones.  He’s brought a lot of energy and they have been working hard to get better.”

Jones, 41, said, “I just like the attitude of these kids.  They are dealing with a new system and a new coach, but they are working hard.”  The hard work will be a necessity if the 1A Eagles are going to get their season off to a winning start:  W&L opens Aug. 28th at King George against the always tough 4A Foxes.

 Coach Jones was hired in June to succeed Antron Yates at W&L.  Jones will retain several of Yates assistants including defensive coordinator Edgar Carey.  And, he has added his former longtime receivers/defensive line coach from his victorious days at Essex, Gayle Belfield.

“I ask these kids, ‘Do you have any clue of the caliber of coach you are getting?’” Lewis said.  “He is here every day and they are seeing how hard he works.  They are getting the picture and they are buying in.”  Lewis is a good person to judge Jones work and his capabilities.  As W&L’s head football coach for 13 years, he and Jones faced each other often when Lewis was leading W&L and Jones was leading Essex.

 “I have a tremendous respect for him,” Jones said.  “We had some great battles over the years.”  “We were lucky to get Coach Jones here,” said Lewis.  “He understands the Northern Neck mentality and he understands the Northern Neck student athlete.  We have some tough kids here and they are going to have a good team.”

Richard Leggitt

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