When given the option, Will Jones could have stayed for his senior year at Lugoff-Elgin High School and played out his final season of football for the Demons after his father, Scott Jones, retired as the school’s head football coach and athletic director last July.
Instead, the younger Jones decided to follow his dad and enrolled at the Ben Lippen School, where Scott Jones had accepted an assistant football coach and teaching position at the private, Christian-based school in Columbia.
The move meant that the father and son tandem from Lugoff would be together for Will Jones’ final high school game. After the Falcons finished an about-face 9-4 season --- after a 2-8 mark in 2013 --- the Jones’ have one game left in them as Will has been selected to play in Saturday’s SCISA North-South Football All-Star Game at Orangeburg Prep.
The 11 a.m. game will have Will Jones as a member of the South team playing for a coaching staff which will include his father, along with the other Ben Lippen coaches, and headed by retired college coaching legend Dick Sheridan.
Scott Jones’ abrupt retirement from his posts at L-E caught many by surprise but the man who guided the Demons’ football and athletic department fortunes for 12 years enjoyed one of the most pleasurable fall campaigns of his life in working as the team’s offensive coordinator under first-year Falcon head coach Derek White.
The chance to be on the same sidelines as his 6-foot-5, 285-pound son one last time in Saturday’s all-star contest is the icing on the cake for Jones, the winningest football coach in L-E history.
"That’s what is special about this," said Scott Jones of having another chance to coach his son who will play center for the South squad. "I was really nervous about bringing Will over here (to Ben Lippen.)
"Will had a really good season. We went 9-4 and broke all kind of offensive records here. It was just a lot of fun to be able to enjoy that with him in his last year of high school football. I’m just glad that the coaches in SCISAA decided to pick him to be a part of this all-star game."
White, a former assistant at class A power Christ Church in Greenville, hired Jones during the summer and promptly made the longtime coaching veteran his offensive coordinator. Jones was given the task of injecting life into a Ben Lippen offense which averaged 17 points a game in 2013. With Jones calling the shots, the Falcons averaged better than 36 points and nearly 400 yards in offense per game in a season which ended with a loss to eventual SCISAA 3A state champion Hammond.
While some coaches who ran the show for as long as Jones did might not take well to being the person taking orders, he said this past fall campaign was as enjoyable a season as he could remember.
"It’s been fun," said Jones, who was an assistant coach on the 2010 South Carolina Shrine Bowl team. "Not having to worry about all the details and just being able to go out and coach in the afternoons has been a lot of fun. I’ve been very blessed to be at Ben Lippen."
Aside from being on the sidelines with his son on Saturday, Scott Jones said he is equally excited to be working under Sheridan.
A North August native, Sheridan retired as the head football coach at North Carolina State University following the 1992 season. In seven seasons at the helm of the Wolfpack, Sheridan’s team won 59 games and appeared in six bowl games. In his first season in Raleigh, he led NCSU to an 8-3-1 record and was selected as the 1986 ACC Coach of the Year and the Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year.
Sheridan was hired at the Atlantic Coast Conference program after eight seasons as the head coach at Furman University. Under Sheridan, the Paladins rose to national prominence and played for the 1985 NCAA Division I-AA (now FCS) national championship. Furman went 69-23-2 in Sheridan’s seven-year tenure.
While none of the players in Saturday’s all-star game in Orangeburg were born the last time Sheridan coached a college game, Jones said he has told his son all about the man he will be playing for in this contest. For the rest of the all-star players from Ben Lippen, though, Jones said he has tried to give them a crash course on Dick Sheridan 101.
"Will knows a little about who (Sheridan) is," Jones said. "But I’m sure none of these kids know who he is. In fact, I’ve talked to our quarterback about him and he was like, ‘Dick who? Who’s that?’
"Coach Sheridan has kind of been out of the limelight for a while now but anybody from South Carolina knows about his great contributions to South Carolina high school football as well as to the collegiate level. He’s a legend and one of the most respected people in the business. It’s going to be a lot of fun to get to hang around him for a couple days."
Sheridan’s opposite number across the field will be another Palmetto State legend, as former South Carolina State University head coach Willie Jeffries will be patrolling the North sidelines on Saturday.
While some may think the retired coaches will be playing a purely ceremonial role, Jones who got to know Sheridan some 15 years ago, said he believes both men will play to win while also making sure to keep things fun for the players.
"From what I understand, Coach Sheridan is pretty competitive," Jones said. "I’m sure that he’s going to want to win, which we all do. It’s just going to be fun to be around these kids, especially these Ben Lippen kids, one more time."