Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

SPORTS>>Lonoke’s Jones off to Springdale

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

Citing family and a desire to reunite with old friends and former coaches, Jeff Jones announced he is leaving Lonoke to take the defensive coordinator’s job at Springdale.

In three years as Jackrabbit head coach, Jones compiled a 22-12 record, including an 8-4 record in 2007 and a 10-2 record last fall. Lonoke won the 2-4A Conference last year and reached the state quarterfinals before falling to eventual state champion Shiloh Christian.

“They’ve been talking to me about coming back ever since I left (Springdale),” said Jones, who was a special teams and cornerbacks coach at Springdale in 2003-2004. “It’s just a good time. Lonoke’s in great shape now, better than when I found it. The cupboard is not empty.”

Jones will rejoin Kevin Johnson, now the head coach at Springdale and a former assistant under Gus Malzahn.

“Coaches always talk about relationships,” Jones said. “It’s not only with the players but with the coaches we work with. Kevin was a good friend even before (we coached together) at Springdale.”

The main reason Jones listed for the move was the opportunity to be near his only son, Zach, who just completed his first year as an assistant coach at Alma.

Jones wouldn’t speculate on his replacement, saying only that his staff consisted of quality coaches.

“Lonoke is a job that should invite a lot of applicants,” he said. “I’d recommend it for everyone. It’s a great community and a great sports town.”

Since Springdale won the 2005 state championship in dominating fashion under Malzahn, quarterback Mitch Mustain, wide receiver Damien Williams and an unprecedented host of talented players, it has fallen on rough times. Johnson compiled a 6-4 record in his first season and followed that up with 4-6 and 5-6 campaigns.

Jones will take over the defensive coaching duties from Johnson, who doubled as both head coach and defensive coordinator last season. The Bulldogs allowed 34 points a game in 2008.

Jones, who led an immensely talented offense at Lonoke last season, said he is really a defensive coach at heart.

“I’m a football player and all I care about is football,” he said. “I’m a team guy. I don’t have a big ego. I do what I’m assigned. But I love defense. My first job was as a defensive coordinator at Dierks, so I’ve always been on the defensive side of the ball.”

Jones said he will honor the rest of his contract at Lonoke and finish out the spring semester, though he will spend some time up at Springdale to prepare for spring football and to begin installing defensive packages.