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Mike Imoh starred as Hokies' runner. His nephew, Malachi Imoh, ran W&M by Elon.

Mike Imoh starred as Hokies' runner. His nephew, Malachi Imoh, ran W&M by Elon.

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WILLIAMSBURG — Another Imoh is running away from tacklers in Virginia.

Mike Imoh did so from 2002-05 at Virginia Tech, gaining 1,263 yards and leading the Hokies in rushing in 2004. His nephew sparked William & Mary on Saturday in a 31-10 win over Elon.

Malachi Imoh, a 5-foot-8 freshman from Winchester’s John Handley High, scored on first-half runs of 65 and 38 yards. The 175-pounder gained 128 yards before the break, when the Tribe led 14-3 on his scores, and finished with 137 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries.

Coach Mike London elected to use other rushing options after intermission.

Imoh emerged as W&M’s featured runner against the Phoenix in part because of the absence of the Tribe’s top two tailbacks, junior Owen Wright and sophomore Donavyn Lester. London said those two were unavailable “because of certain issues going on.” He did not elaborate.

Imoh as a true freshman showed “that he can be special,” London said. “He made some of those jump cuts ... when he gets out in the open field, not too many people can catch him.”

Imoh’s opening opportunity Saturday did not portend the impact he would eventually have. On the Tribe’s first possession, he dropped a pass on third-and-7 from Elon’s 42. Had the open Imoh held that Hollis Mathis well-thrown ball on the slant, Imoh might have scored four TDs. He was also a sprint star on the John Handley track team.

W&M senior Cole Blackman, an Atlee High graduate who previously played at Virginia and Illinois State, made three receptions for 66 yards, including a 36-yard TD catch. Mathis flummoxed the Phoenix as a runner (14 carries, 69 yards) and passer (13-23, 175 yards).

“You can see the maturation of a quarterback,” London said of Mathis, a 6-2 sophomore.

William & Mary’s home-opener, and second game, of the spring-semester season was a choppy affair early for both teams, which called to mind the last time these programs met. On Nov. 2, 2019 (neither played in 2020 because of the pandemic), W&M won 31-29 at Elon in five overtimes. It was the longest game in William & Mary football history.

William & Mary (1-1, 1-1 CAA) that day missed six field goal attempts and a PAT try. It used three kickers.

The Tribe opened this spring-semester season with a 21-14 loss at Richmond on March 6. W&M’s scheduled game at JMU last weekend was postponed because of Dukes’ COVID-19 problems. Elon (1-4, 0-3 CAA) started its third quarterback, redshirt freshman Justin Allen, because of injuries. Allen was replaced in the second half by freshman JR Martin, fourth on the depth chart.

W&M led 24-3 with 6:44 left in the third quarter. They ran for 242 yards after gaining 72 on the ground at UR two weeks ago.

“It was great to see a lot of freshmen, true freshmen, get their first touch, tackle, catch ... true freshmen really shined,” London said.

Next: William & Mary is scheduled to host top-ranked James Madison (3-0, 1-0 CAA) on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Dukes’ last two games have been postponed because of COVID-19 issues in the JMU program. On Saturday at 4 p.m., Elon is scheduled to play at No. 23 Richmond (2-0, 2-0 CAA) at 4 p.m. The Spiders won 38-14 at Elon on March 13.

joconnor@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6233

@RTDjohnoconnor

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