Prep Football

Jones' arm makes Central's Wing-T more dangerous

Central quarterback Eric Jones on Friday, Sep. 14, 2018. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
Jake Shane1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Nov. 21, 2018 12:01 am Updated: Nov. 21, 2018 1:24 am

CAMP POINT, Ill. -- The typical duties of a quarterback in a Wing-T offense are pretty simple.

He hands off to one back and fakes to the others.

However, that's not an accurate description of Eric Jones.

The senior quarterback for the Central football team has broken the mold of those Wing-T signalcallers, giving the Panthers another weapon on offense and another player for opposing defenses to respect.

"If he was in a spread system, he'd probably throw for 2,000 yards," Central coach Brad Dixon said. "But that's not what we do."

Jones has been plenty effective this season.

Entering Friday's Class 1A state championship game against Forreston, Jones has thrown for 1,058 yards and 15 touchdowns while completing 58.4 percent of his passes. He's averaging 20.3 yards per completion.

"They've just looked for me to throw the ball a little more," Jones said. "Maybe a few more deep passes than the previous year. My accuracy is a little better, and the coaches have more confidence in me."

The Central coaching staff knew Jones had ability. They just needed patience.

Dixon watched Jones pitch for the junior high school baseball team and liked what he saw. Jones, however, didn't play junior high football, but baseball coach Jordan Tenhouse urged him to go out for football.

Jones played quarterback as a freshman but didn't see varsity snaps. As a sophomore, he was moved to tight end to fill vacant spots left by graduation. In his junior season, he was moved under center.

"We saw him as a quarterback when he came in," Dixon said. "He's big at 205 pounds and can take hits. Coach Tenhouse did a really good job of getting the junior high baseball guys to play football. You got to see Eric throw, and we couldn't wait to use that arm."

The Panthers haven't shied away from that.

Central isn't afraid to go to the air on any down, and sometimes it will throw several times in a series.

With three running backs who have rushed for more than 700 yards this season, defenses will prepare to stop the run. Jones, however, prevents teams from stacking the box.

"You got to break it up with something, and that's a pass," Jones said. "We like to get it to our guys because they're fast."

It's opened up the run game for two-time all-state selection Cole Williams, Chayse Houston and Noah Strohkirch.

"(Jones) allows us to whatever we want," Houston said. "We can pass or run the ball whenever we want. If they put all those people in the box, we'll pass it, and if they try to stop the pass, we just run it."

Jones also benefits from being a one-way player this season. He no longer plays inside linebacker or plays on special teams. That allows him to solely focus on honing his quarterback skills.

"I'm definitely a lot less nervous," Jones said. "Before every game last year I was really nervous and really tense. This year, I'm confident and nice and calm. I can think about what I need to do rather than just play."

That's made defenses choose which they want to defend, and hope the other doesn't burn them.

"It's created a nightmare for defenses to defend us," Dixon said. "It's hard."