For just a few seconds, Seneca Valley senior James Jones-Williams stayed down in the end zone, crouched on his knees with his head and palms resting on the turf. The running back had landed hard on his touchdown run late in Friday’s game at Churchill, and this time, it took an extra beat to recover.
In the fourth quarter of the No. 17 Screaming Eagles’ 28-22 win over the Bulldogs, Jones-Williams was the one landing most of the body blows. Despite playing both ways for much of the night, the 5-foot-8, 195-pounder got stronger as the Montgomery nonleague contest went on. He finished with 176 rushing yards on a season-high 21 carries, including the 12-yard score that sealed the win with less than two minutes left.
“I just fought it through,” said Jones-Williams, who had 11 carries for 77 yards in the final quarter. “If I leave a game early, we’re not going to have a good game. But if I stay in the game and keep punishing — run it down their throats — we should be good.”
Seneca Valley relied heavily on Jones-Williams last fall, and he responded by averaging more than 100 yards per game on the ground. In the early going this year, Jones-Williams has at times taken on a supporting role for junior Kevin Joppy, who had six total touchdowns in the first three games.
On Friday, Jones-Williams carried the ball six times for 79 yards in the first half, including a 53-yard touchdown run that put the Eagles (4-0) up 14-6 in the second quarter. That effort had him on pace for the 10-to-15 touches he’d been getting through the season’s first three weeks, though he also logged more time than usual on defense throughout with one of the team’s starting linebackers suspended.
“You have to play your best players as much as possible in critical moments,” Coach Fred Kim said. “We played him on defense because we had to, and he grinded it out out there.”
Churchill (3-1) took the lead at 15-14 on senior Jonathan Lee’s second rushing touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, while Seneca Valley’s offense sputtered, punting on its first two possessions.
But senior Kito Pace switched the momentum back to the visitors with an interception in Churchill territory, and Jones-Williams took over from there. He ran the ball on four of the next six plays, setting up junior quarterback Calvin Reighard’s two-yard touchdown plunge.
After a Churchill punt, the Eagles kept pounding it with their senior back. The big play on the final scoring drive was a 38-yard scamper to get into Churchill territory, and five plays later, he took a pitch going right and found the endzone to put his team up by two touchdowns.
“When he wants the ball, he becomes a monster,” said Reighard, who completed 11 of his 18 passes for 121 yards and rushed for two scores. “When we need a first down, he wants it in his hands. He wants it in every situation.”