Washington-Marion quarterback and linebacker Melvin Jones. (American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, September 06, 2012 5:52 PM
Melvin Jones and Desean Smith have been playing together and against each other since elementary school.
Friday night, Jones, a linebacker/quarterback at Washington-Marion, and Smith, a tight end at Barbe, will lock horns one more time before moving on to reunite as teammates at LSU next year.
Jones announced his presence in a big way last year, leading W-M to a district title and its first playoff win in more than a decade in his first year of varsity play. Smith finished the regular season with 32 catches for 616 yards and seven touchdowns, and helped the Bucs reach the quarterfinals in the playoffs.
The two are longtime friends.
“We played football and basketball together in middle school,” said Jones. “Desean can run, he can catch, he can do it all. Off the field, he is cool, fun, a big kid, one of the most soft-hearted people.”
Smith said Jones is the complete package.
“Melvin is big, strong, fast, physical and not scared to hit you,” Smith said. “He is a great player and fun to play with because you know he is always going to make the big play all the time.”
Jones said he is looking forward to producing a better showing than in last year’s matchup, when he had one carry for 2 yards in Barbe’s 37-20 win.
“Last year I took a little tweak to my ankle and was not 100 percent,” he said. “Desean caught a nice touchdown pass and had a good game. I was watching him thinking ‘I’m going to get you next year.’”
Smith joked that he isn’t worried.
“I think I can beat him on running routes, get past him. Coming over the middle, if I have to block, I have been playing with him since we were 4. I know where to hit him.”
Jones helped change W-M’s season when he became the starting quarterback midway through the season, rushing for 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns in the regular season, then leading the Charging Indians to a playoff win at Plaquemine. The team went 5-1 with Jones as the starting quarterback.
Jones earned all-state honors as a linebacker after recording six sacks and more than 100 tackles in his first season of varsity action.
“It felt pretty good. I think I did pretty good stepping up, being a leader for the team last year and helping us win some games,” Jones said.
Despite the big numbers on offense, including 253 yards rushing on 11 carries last week, Jones said his heart is on defense.
“I would prefer to play linebacker any day,” he said. “I like getting to the ball and making contact with somebody. I get to the ball pretty good for my size. It was OK playing offense last year; I was taking a big role for the team.”
Smith said he is happy to be one of several stars on the Barbe offense.
“One of the biggest things to the team is our entire offense is great, it is not just a single player, it is everybody as one,” he said.
“Trey Quinn is unbelievable. Having him on the team helps me get open, and having me on the team helps him get open. Kade Demarie and Gunner Leger do a lot of work and should also be seen as great players.”
Both players said they enjoy being team leaders. Smith said he had a good mentor last year in Justin Woods, now a freshman defensive lineman at Southern University.
“He is one of the reasons I work so hard,” Smith said. “He would always call me to do some work in the morning, something extra. He showed me size doesn’t matter, it is how hard you work. I enjoy being a leader, it is unbelievable. I am glad I have the opportunity to be with this team. I am blessed to play with the players we have and are looking forward to the season. ”
Jones said he is trying to talk to teammates more this season.
“This year I am working on being more of a vocal leader,” he said. “I want to get everybody on the same page so we can get to where we are trying to go, to the state championship.”