Jones' moves brought Southern its first state title
’Tis the season when leaders of football teams that are lukewarm or worse get replaced by hot coaches.
Southern High School coach Adrian Jones just delivered the first state championship in football to his alma mater, a 38-31 win over the Crest Chargers in the 3-AA title game at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem on Saturday.
Jones is hot, and his ability to assemble a quality staff capable of making in-game adjustments was on display against Crest after Southern defensive coordinator Darius Robinson shuffled some pieces at halftime that made all of the difference in the third and fourth quarters.
The Chargers didn’t throw a single pass in the first half. They didn’t need to. Crest ran the ball 29 times for 248 yards. To stop that, Southern had its defensive ends get a little wider on the line of scrimmage, and the Spartans’ safeties crowded the box.
Crest ran the ball 27 times in the second half. The Chargers gained 65 yards in the final 24 minutes.
“They had, like, 250 yards in the first half, and we had to shut that down and get our offense rolling,” Jones said.
“Our team, once we start moving the ball and getting field advantage, we start to get the momentum of the game,” Southern wide receiver Maurice Trowell said.
In other words, Southern got hot.
The Spartans went into the locker room at halftime down 21-7.
In the third quarter, Southern quarterback Kendall Hinton got together with Trowell for a 42-yard touchdown.
Crest blinked, again, when the Chargers’ long snapper deposited the ball into the end zone. Southern pounced on it for a safety, and the Spartans kept finding ways to give the scoreboard operator something to do.
This 14-2 championship Southern team was the byproduct of sweat equity invested by former Spartans like Jeremy Thompson and Micah Martin and Akeem Judd, Jones said. Those individuals, including the Dorian Belchers and Darren Bullocks, laid the foundation for Southern to do what it just did, Jones said.
Judd is headed to Ole Miss after becoming the country’s top junior-college running back while at Georgia Military College, and both Bullock and Belcher play for N.C. A&T.
Martin and Thompson play for N.C. Central, Jones’ college alma mater, which happens to be looking for a coach.
NCCU’s Board of Trustees is expected to consider a coaching candidate during a special meeting on Thursday.
Jones said nobody from NCCU has contacted him about joining the football program in some capacity. He used to coach NCCU’s defensive backs when the school won Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles in 2005 and 2006.
While Jones, 39, has said that he’d like to return to college coaching at some point, he would add that he has a good thing going at Southern.
Robinson, who doubles as Southern’s director of athletics, said he understands that potentially losing Jones comes with the space the Spartans are occupying right now.
“You always have that fear when you have success,” Robinson said.
So it's just about making Jones feel appreciated at Southern, making it little tougher to leave should some other school come calling.
Southern principal Kenneth Barnes said he’s not worried about Jones getting picked off by another high school. But a college gig could give Jones something to think about, Barnes said.
“I think people are just beginning to notice that this is a program that Coach Jones and Coach Robinson have put together. It's not just one year,” Barnes said about Southern’s run to the championship. “We expect this to happen next year and the following year, so that's the kind of culture that we have around Southern Durham football.”
Durham Public Schools athletics director Larry McDonald said there are a number of successful coaches in the school system, and it’s his job to retain that talent.
Opportunities do arise, though.
“I want the best for Coach Jones. I want him to be successful,” McDonald said. “But I also want him to spend many, many, many years at Southern High School, because that's what made him who he is — Southern High School.”