West Brunswick (N.C.) tailback Markel Jones has shown flashes of brilliance this season, but he waited until the regular-season finale to show off his entire repertoire.
Jones accounted for 125 first-half yards and scored two touchdowns to lead West Brunswick to a 28-6 win over South Columbus (N.C.) Friday at Civitan Stadium. The rookie, who has played a bigger role for the Trojans since Maverick Pate was injured several weeks ago, had 80 rushing yards before halftime, besting his season total by four.
"The coaches said it was a big game, so I figured I might as well step up as a freshman," Jones said. "I was in the groove. I just told my coaches to get me the ball. I felt like I could make plays for my team."
Jones' playmaking abilities - he caught and rushed for 40-plus-yard touchdowns in the first half - helped the Trojans build an insurmountable 21-0 halftime lead.
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West Brunswick finished the regular season 7-3, finished as the top Class 3-A team in the split Waccamaw 2-A/3-A Conference and will likely host a first-round playoff game as an overall No. 4 seed next Friday.
"That's a great win," West Brunswick coach Jimmy Fletcher said. "We've won seven games. Two years ago we were pretty bad. These seniors, who were sophomores [then], I'm really proud of them."
The Stallions (4-7) didn't give first-year coach Jake Fonvielle much to be proud of. A team that played for the state championship in 2007 is likely to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1993, the school's first year of existence.
Turnovers, which have been the big detriment to the Stallions this season, were the difference. South Columbus fumbled away the opening kickoff and finished with four fumbles, three interceptions and two turnovers on downs.
"You can't have five turnovers in a game and win," Fonvielle said. "You definitely can't win if you have five in [the first half].
"Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers. It's been pretty frustrating. It is what it is. We've got to move on now."
All three of West Brunswick's first-half touchdowns came after a takeaway - or a giveaway by South Columbus.
The Stallions had driven to West Brunswick's 19 when a fumbled snap on fourth down ended the game's second drive. Jones went to work six plays later, turning a 15-yard completion on third-and-23 into a 45-yard touchdown, juking two defenders just as he picked up the first down. His 22-yard run on the Trojans' next drive set up Maverick Pate's five-yard score on the first play of the second quarter.
Jones worked more magic in the dying minutes of the first half, breaking multiple tackles and tiptoeing the sideline before sprinting for a 46-yard touchdown run that broke South Columbus' back. Had Trojan receiver Thomas Reaves not dropped Jones' halfback pass midway through the second quarter, the freshman would have added a 52-yard scoring throw to his already-impressive resume.
Fletcher said Pate's injury has allowed Jones to play an increase role in the offense, and the freshman has responded well.
"The last two weeks he played pretty well," Fletcher said. "We've kind of change some things and put Markel and Bradley [Bell] more in the slot. We haven't had Maverick, so we had to change some things. ... We ended up going more double slot the last two weeks, and it's helped us get more athletes on the field."