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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Jones is new coach at W&L
Malcolm Lewis was considering a return to the sideline at Washington & Lee High School—until a candidate emerged who made him gladly reconsider.
When Todd Jones applied for the Eagles’ football coaching vacancy, Lewis recalled W&L’s annual spirited Northern Neck District battles with Jones’ teams at Essex. And the decision was practically made for him.
“The bottom line is, I coached against the guy for 13 years,” said Lewis, who stepped down as football coach in 2012 to concentrate on his duties as athletic director. “And I know how hard it is to beat a Todd Jones-coached football team. We’re very excited to have him.”
Jones’ appointment was approved by the Westmoreland County School Board Monday night. He succeeds Antron Yates, who left after two seasons to take the head coaching job at Caroline.
“The Northern Neck is a good place to be,” Jones said. “Coming over to W&L, I’ve got a lot of respect for the tradition coach Lewis and his staff have established.”
Jones, 41, spent the past four seasons at his alma mater, Pulaski County, after a stellar 13-year run at Essex that saw the Trojans go 135–34, win the 2009 Division 2 state title and reach the 2003 final. He won 10 Northern Neck titles and four Region A crowns.
Fresh off that 2009 title, Jones made what he called a difficult decision to return home to Pulaski. His father had just died, and he wanted to be closer to his mother and other family members.
He inherited a program that was on probation and coming off a 2–8 season. He compiled a modest 16–28 record at Pulaski, but said, “We definitely got things moving in the right direction. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.”
The W&L program he takes over is in far better shape. The Eagles went 7–5 in 2013 and reached the third round of the 1A East playoffs. Lewis expects nine starters back on each side of the ball (many of them two-way players), as well as an influx of talent from a junior varsity team that went 8–1–1 last fall.
That depth may allow Jones to avoid having many players start on both offense and defense.
“I know they’ve got some young kids who got on the field at the varsity level and got playoff experience, which is huge,” Jones said.
Jones expects to install a version of the spread offense that has become popular at all levels of football. W&L quarterback Treshaun Brown passed for 1,904 yards and 21 touchdowns as a junior last fall. Running back D.J. Weldon (961 yards, seven touchdowns) and receiver Jarret Sumiel (45 catches, 639 yards) are rising juniors.
None of W&L’s current players were at the varsity level when Jones coached at Essex, so Lewis said they’re largely unaware of their new coach’s track record of success.
“They’re slowly getting the picture,” Lewis said. “I keep asking them, ‘Do you kids have any clue of the caliber of coach you just got?’”
Lewis said the most intriguing part of the hire was the “package deal” that included Jones’ wife, Meredith. She will teach math and tutor students at W&L, although Todd Jones said she doesn’t plan to coach.
Meredith Jones coached softball at Essex, leading the Trojans to a spot the 2006 state championship game. The Joneses have two daughters, Payton, 9, and Kylie, 8.
Todd Jones said he has gotten some good-natured ribbing from old friends in Tappahannock once they learned of his interest in the W&L job, and that it likely will feel “a little strange” to be on the opposing sideline when the teams meet this fall.
“Thank goodness we’re playing Essex at home this year,” Jones said. “That will make it a little less tough.”
Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443