11/25/11 — News-Argus Defensive Player of the Year -- Keith Jones

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News-Argus Defensive Player of the Year -- Keith Jones

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on November 25, 2011 1:48 PM

Keith Jones is neither the biggest, fastest nor strongest guy on Southern Wayne High School's football team.

But Jones is the toughest.

The senior tallied 110 tackles from his strong safety spot and emerged as the Saints' defensive leader in 2011. For his accomplishments, Jones has been selected the 2011 News-Argus All-Area Defensive Player of the Year.

Jones' mentality on the football field set him apart from the defensive lot in Dudley.

"Keith is one of those kids that desperately wants to make the right play every snap," Southern Wayne head coach David Lee said. "He takes good angles and he is a very sure tackler. When he gets his hands on a ball carrier they generally go to the ground."

Jones helped lead the Saints to a 4-0 record in their first four games. He led the team in tackles in the season opener against James Kenan and again against White Oak.

However, the numbers only tell some of the story.

A severe hitter in the secondary, Jones built a reputation for rough play.

"Everyone that plays defense should want to get an opportunity to make a big hit," Jones said. "If I can make a play and knock a ball loose, or stop a guy from getting a first down, it can change the whole complexion of the game."

Not bad for a kid that could have been the Saints' starting quarterback if not for a wrist injury coupled with the rise of fellow signal caller Sam Ferrell.

"We planned on rotating quarterbacks in the first game against James Kenan and giving them both a chance," Lee said. "Keith came to me the week before the game in practice and told me to leave Sam in as the quarterback because he had earned it, and Keith liked playing defense better anyway."

The move paid off for Jones and the team.

Jones' most memorable game came against archrival Charles B. Aycock. He and his defensive mates found themselves in position to make a 27-21 lead stand up in the fourth quarter. The Saints promptly forced and recovered a fumble deep in their own territory, which set up an offensive touchdown.

On the Golden Falcons' next drive, Jones made a big play when he recovered another fumble and raced 50 yards for a game-sealing touchdown.

"That win was special because it was the second year in a row we beat C.B. Aycock on one of the team's senior night," Jones said. "It also made it possible for us to go to the playoffs."

The Saints' run in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs lasted only one week, but the experience was not lost on anyone associated with the football program. Jones does not plan to play football in college next fall, so the moment was particularly bittersweet.

"I don't think I will be playing any more football when it comes to college, so it was tough to lose that last game," Jones said. "But when I look back on the season and my career, I think it was pretty successful."