FREDERICK — Through the first three years of his prep football career, Frederick senior James Jones spent most fourth quarters of games trying to not look up at the scoreboard.
When Jones couldn't help himself, which was most of the time, staring back at him frequently was a brutal deficit of 40 or so points and a relentless running clock. The Warriors varsity team won a total of two games over his first three seasons at the school and every game was a struggle, and on Friday nights the scoreboard felt to Jones like a reminder of inevitability that only losses were in the Warriors' forecast.
A lot has changed from those days to now, including Jones undergoing a radical role switch from offensive lineman to running back. With Jones leading the way for a Frederick team that has been revamped by first-year head coach Travis Peeples, the Warriors (2-1) have already tied their win total from the previous three seasons through just three weeks of the 2017 season.
Change has been the key to the Warriors turning things around this fall and now Jones isn't as wary of the fourth-quarter scoreboard as he once was. Plus, he got a killer new job out of the deal.
"The conditioning was definitely a change," Jones said. "I wasn't used to running so much. That was probably the hardest part. Then there's the footwork and the coordination. I've had to learn to read the holes and the defense. It's a way different experience from being a lineman and just running out there to block a guy. But I really like it. We're doing things a lot differently and so far we feel good about what we've done."
Apparently a change, or more like a number of changes, was just what Jones and the Warriors needed. When Peeples arrived at Frederick, he said he took a clean-slate approach and didn't want to know what positions the returning guys had played in prior seasons. Thus upon his own evaluation, players like Jones and others were given new positions and new roles.
Never an imposing figure on the offensive line since he started playing the position as a freshman, Jones said he only had to lose around 10 pounds since last season. But the combination of strength and speed he now possesses at six foot, 185 pounds has allowed him to lead the Warriors with 332 rushing yards and five touchdowns. The Warriors also have three other players — Matt Olson (256 yards), Jacob Cole (174) and Brandon Hornby (116) - that have eclipsed the 100-yard mark.
That improved rushing attack and a defense that allowed just seven total points in the team's first two games got the Warriors off to their first 2-0 start since 2007. Their only loss so far came in Week 3 against Silver Creek, which currently ranks No. 3 in Class 3A in the CHSAANow.com poll.
"Honestly, it's been crazy," Jones said. "Especially after all these years losing games. We have a new coach and he's just really been pushing the playoffs. We've got more people coming out to the games and getting excited about it. After all the people who showed up at homecoming, people are even telling us, 'Man, I wish I had played.' I didn't hear that at all before this year."
Peeples has delivered the Warriors a new mantra this season, and that is "F12." The "F" is for Frederick. The "12" is for the month of December. Getting the Warriors program back to playing football games in December, which would mark the team's first postseason appearance since 2013, is the goal.
It's a simple goal that all teams share, though it remains an unreachable one for many teams. From the looks of things so far, that goal could finally be a realistic one for the Warriors again in 2017.
"These guys are hungry and it shows when they play," Peeples said. "James Jones is a perfect example of that. You just don't see guys go from lineman to running back, but he's done a great job of taking a new challenge head-on. All our guys are like that and we feel like we're ready to do something special this year."