By TED RADICK
MCCOMB — McComb football coach Kris Alge calls senior defensive end Michael Jones a technician.
Jones, frankly, has little choice in the matter.
Jones had better be good at technique, because at 5-foot-9 and a generously listed 150 pounds, he’s not going to overwhelm too many offensive tackles.
He’ll face another challenge against a bigger offensive tackle Friday as the Panthers face Marion Local in the Division VI semifinals at 7:30 p.m. at Wapakoneta.
Alge admits it’s unusual to see such a slightly built player dominating along the line of scrimmage. But, Alge said, Jones has something that can’t be listed on a football roster.
“He’s a football player, he just has that sense,” Alge said. “Some people, you can try to teach and teach and teach, and they just don’t have that sense. With Michael, he has a sense about where a play is going and we give him that freedom.
“Sometime’s he’ll dip under when he’s supposed to be in contain, but he’s quick enough to get away with it.”
Jones said he starts planning his attack as soon as the offense lines up for a snap.
“I do a lot of reading at the line, reading the body language of the lineman that’s across from me,” he said.
“If it’s pass block, they’ll lean back a little bit. If they’re pulling, they’ll kind of lead to the pull. If they’re looking at you and giving you eye contact, you know they’re going to try and kick you out.”
It’s often said an offensive lineman gives his assignment away by the way his hand sits on the ground in his three-point stance. Jones, laughing, said he uses that old trick as well.
“That’s true, that really is true,” he said. “If the lineman is leaning forward and his knuckles are all white, you know they’re going to drive off the line to go for a linebacker, and you’re going to squeeze hard.”
It’s the little tricks Jones uses to make up for his lack of bulk. It must be working, because he was named the Blanchard Valley Conference Lineman of the Year by the BVC coaches. It’s an honor Jones doesn’t take lightly.
“I was shocked for the most part,” he said. “I figured I’d be up for defensive player of the year, but in my mind lineman of the year is a little bit better because I’m playing with the big linemen on the offense and big linemen on the defense.
“I figured there would be somebody better than me. I just do my job, I guess. I do what I’m supposed to do on every play. I guess that’s what got it for me.”
That kind of effort starts on the practice field, and Alge said he’s had to break up the occasional spat between McComb teammates.
“He likes football,” Alge said. “He comes to practice and works hard. Sometimes our tackles get upset with him because he goes hard every play, and they have a hard time blocking him. They’re not used to working against someone that quick.
“I tell them, ‘It’s going to make you better.’ Sometimes it gets a little heated, but when it’s all said and done, it’s making the offense better and it’s making him better on the defensive end.”
Win or lose this Friday or next, McComb’s season will soon end. Jones will use his status as a senior, like the players before him, to encourage the younger Panthers to get in the weight room and work.
“When I was a freshman, I had Cody DeLaCerda pushing me,” Jones said. “When I was a sophomore, it was Andrew Dee who told me I could be something, so I should get in there.
“My junior year I got to start, and that’s when it all paid off. Seniors pushing the underclassmen to get in the weight room is what makes a football program stay good, every season.
“You have a heart-to-heart talk with them. At McComb, we have a tradition to be the best you can be at football. McComb has great other sports, but McComb is football. You get out there, you bust your butt and by senior year you’ll be just as good as the seniors who were in front of you. It’s all about keeping it going, keeping the tradition going.”
By TED RADICK