Mesquite is coming off one of its best seasons in recent memory and much of that has been due to the efforts of third-year head coach Jim Jones. Jones recently took a few minutes to talk about the team’s turnaround as well as the upcoming season.
Q: In 2012, your team went 2-8. Last year, you go 11-2. How did you manage to turn things around?
A: Good players make coaches look good. Bottom line, we had some good players. The thing that made us successful more than anything was the speed we had. We had some outstanding speed and that along with the experience, that most of those kids were players from the previous year, a lot of them were returning starters, so that experience and speed that we had I think was a big part of the reason we were successful.
Q: Speaking of young players, you lost a lot of seniors from last year’s team, how do you go about rebuilding?
A: It’s a matter of patience and a lot of repetition, trying to confront them with a lot of game situations right now. This has been one of our more demanding preseasons this season. We put them through some pretty serious work along with as much game situations as possible, so we’re hoping that will work out for us.
Q: With such a young team, do you have to coach them differently?
A: I think you have to. The group we had last year had been there, done that. This group, for the most part, were lower-level kids, a lot of JV kids, and they were successful at the JV level, but we’re just doing everything we can to get them to understand that the varsity level is a little different and that’s what we’ve been spending most of our time concentrating on. The practices, I would say, they’ve been pretty challenging and probably a little more repetition in everything we do than we did last year.
Q: The quarterback position is so important and you lost a good one from last year in Payton Haslam. How is the QB battle going?
A: It’s going well, but again, it goes back to Payton. That was his second year as a varsity athlete. Our quarterback this year, right now the one that’s holding down the starting spot, we still have a little battle going on with Austin Brice and Jake Suddreth. I would say that Austin has the upper hand right now only because he was in our program last year as a JV player. Jake is new to the system, good quarterback, and I think he’s battling for that spot. But, the question is, neither one of them have varsity experience, so the big question is how they’re going to adapt and have the leadership they’re going to bring to the offense.
Q: You’re in a similar boat with your defense and replacing a lot on that side of the ball. How is that shaping up?
A: I think about seven or eight of our starter could be juniors that come up off our JV team last year. They only lost one game, but most of our starters are going to be juniors. We’ll have a sprinkling of seniors in there. I think we’re going to be real physical and we’ll have the quickness we look for, but again, and I hate to sound repetitive, but it boils down to being young and inexperienced. We’ll see how they adapt.
Q: With all of that said, what are your expectations for the season?
A: We don’t look at wins and losses; I preach that to the kids almost every day. Wins and losses to me are not important. Our objective, our goal, is to get in the state playoffs. If we have to win four games, if we have to win eight games, we do that. Our goal is to get to the state tournament and then once we get in the state tournament, that’s another season and we start playing for a state championship. So, step one is do what we have to do to get in, and then step two is, once we get in, to make a run for it.
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