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Area Male Athlete: Verndale QB leading from backfield

Mike Mahlen's words are few. The long-time head football coach for the Verndale Pirates has watched and coached numerous players. So when he says this about his starting quarterback it carries a lot of weight. "He's just a good, hard-nosed, footb...

Mack Jones
Mack Jones

 

Mike Mahlen's words are few.

The long-time head football coach for the Verndale Pirates has watched and coached numerous players. So when he says this about his starting quarterback it carries a lot of weight.

"He's just a good, hard-nosed, football player."

He is senior Mack Jones, who in his third season as the starting quarterback has Verndale sitting 3-0 and ranked ninth in the Nine-Man poll.

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Jones opened the season throwing for 117 yards and two touchdowns against Brandon/Evansville. He also rushed 25 times for 165 yards and two scores.

In a rare Monday game Sept. 11, Jones hit on 6 of 8 passes for 134 yards and three touchdowns to defeat Laporte.

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Mack Jones

  • Year: Senior
  • School: Verndale
  • Sport: Football
  • Position: Quarterback, defensive back
  • Highlights: Threw for 284 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 110 yards and three TDs in two wins last week

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Four days later, Jones was back at it with 150 yards and a touchdown on 12-of-20 passing. He rushed for 110 yards and three TDs.

"I think defenses have to play us more honest," Mahlen said. "We aren't into the season very far, but the first game against Brandon/Evansville, I thought they had to respect our passing game and not concentrate solely on stopping him in the run, which they could do if we didn't have a passing game."

Jones loves keeping defenses honest and with athletic targets to throw to he's having fun sitting in the pocket.

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"We have a 6-foot-6 target in Sam Moore and he's a big help, especially versus teams that are going to play man coverage," Jones said. "I can just throw the ball up and he's going to come down and get it. Then we have Jaden Ehrmantraut. It's his first year starting there and he's done a nice job, too.

"My other tight ends, Jackson Weniger and Craig Orlando, are doing nice jobs, too, of catching the ball. They can run routes and block so that's a good threat."

Jones' big-play threat is senior Luke Weniger, but Jones isn't afraid to make his own splash plays in the running game.

But he's patient and understands what needs to happen.

"Starting for three years I really think I know what defenses are going to be thrown at us," said Jones. "I feel like I know what they're going to do before the snap. I'm able to decide what to do early. And the game feels a little bit slower."

Mahlen has deferred some play calling duties to Jones. Verndale has a package called check-with-me. Jones steps up behind center, examines the defense and determines what play to run.

"He's improved a lot in that part of the passing game," said Mahlen. "We've really worked hard at that. He's worked hard at that over the summer. It helps that his dad is one of my assistant coaches and played quarterback himself in high school and in college. His dad has worked a lot with him over the offseason to help him improve those things."

Last season, Jones completed 52.7 percent of his passes for 1,493 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was second on the team with 682 yards rushing on 122 carries. He added six rushing touchdowns.

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He also finished with 54 tackles, two sacks, one interception and one forced fumble from his linebacker position.

This year he's playing defensive back to lesson the wear and tear, but at 5-11, 185 pounds, Jones is usually the one dishing out the beating.

When asked if he prefers to run or pass, Jones chose the simplistic approach.

"It depends on how the defense lines up, I guess," he said. "If they're going to load the box, I would much rather throw the ball. And if they're going to respect the pass game, I would love to run the ball and run over some little defensive backs."

 

Other notable performances:

Cross country: Emmet Anderson, Staples-Motley, won the Long Prairie-Grey Eagle Invite in 16:47.2.

Football: Brayden Vertina, Verndale, rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown against Laporte.

Luke Weniger, Verndale, caught three passes for 80 yards and two TDs against Laporte.

Dylan Loftis, Pillager, rushed for 112 yards and returned a punt 80 yards for a score against Ottertail Central.

Soccer: Jorge Gallarza, Little Falls, scored two goals against Becker.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
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