Elijah Jones had grown accustomed to seeing his half-brother Brenton every year, even though Brenton Jones lived in South Carolina and would only visit Washington in the summer.
When Brenton Jones arrived here about six months ago – with the intent to finish his senior year at Wash High, the same school he went to as a sophomore – Elijah Jones hardly recognized Brenton, who had grown three inches and put on about 40 pounds.
“I thought he was a different person,” Elijah Jones said.
This season, Brenton’s size and the physicality displayed by the Jones boys have given the left side of the Wash High football team’s offensive line a serious boost.
Starting at left tackle and left guard, respectively, Brenton and Elijah Jones (6-0, 220) have helped pave the way for a Prexies rushing attack that averages 354 yards per game and blew up for 454 yards during a 26-14 win over South Fayette in the WPIAL Class AA semifinals Friday night.
Now, they’ll hope to continue their people-moving ways when Wash High plays Aliquippa (12-0) Friday at Heinz Field for the WPIAL title.
“Brenton and Elijah work well together on that left side,” Wash High coach Mike Bosnic said. “They’ve really solidified that left side of our offensive line for us.”
Brenton Jones attended Rock Hill High School in South Carolina as a junior and spent a significant amount of time in the weight room. He even had a football team-based weightlifting class on his schedule.
Brenton went from 6-3 to 6-6 and 250 pounds to 290 before he knew it, in part because of the lifting program, in part because of a natural growth spurt and in part because of his mom’s cooking.
“My mom kept feeding me,” Brenton Jones said. “I wasn’t going to turn it down.”
Brenton Jones moved back to Washington at the beginning of the summer and quickly developed a chemistry playing alongside Elijah.
The two had no problem reading each other on combo blocks and picking up defensive line stunts, a level of comfort that sometimes takes years to produce.
“I understand how he blocks, and he understands how I block,” Elijah Jones said.
Against South Fayette, Bosnic noticed the Lions were stacking the opposite side because of right tackle Rikwon Moore, the Prexies’ leader up front and the only returning starter, but he changed things up by running behind Brenton and Elijah Jones.
“We’ve run the ball a lot to our right, and I think it’s one of those things where they were starting to overload us to the right, and we ran some plays to our left side,” Bosnic said. “Those guys did a great job.”
Not your average backup
DaRon Whitaker’s carries aren’t as frequent these days with the emergence of Shai McKenzie, but that doesn’t mean he’s been relegated to a mop-up role in the Prexies’ offense.
Whitaker, who was Wash High’s starter before McKenzie burst onto the scene as a sophomore, has 55 carries for 464 yards and eight touchdowns in a reserve role, the lead dog in a four-player group that spells McKenzie.
While some players might complain about the sudden lack of playing time, Whitaker, who mans the hybrid/rush spot on Wash High’s defense, has taken it in stride – literally.
“Every time I get a carry, I think, ‘Do something amazing. Get in the end zone,’” Whitaker said.
Whitaker and McKenzie are good friends and have known each other since competing in youth football together. Whitaker is far from a jealous person, but he does have a sense of humor when talking about McKenzie usurping his role.
“He started at my spot on defense,” Whitaker said. “I took his spot on defense, he took my spot on offense. We switched. I was like, ‘Hey, I’m fine with that.’”
Whitaker leads Wash High with seven sacks. He has also forced two fumbles and recovered one.
Loving the spotlight
If you see a light blue hoodie around Washington, beep. It might be Jaylin Kelly. The Prexies linebacker has been taken aback by all the attention his team is getting, though he’s certainly not complaining.
“I like it a lot because there are a lot of people supporting us, and a lot of people are on board with us now,” Kelly said. “Even when I’m walking around town, people are always telling me, ‘Good game. Can’t wait to watch you play.’”
Is the constant attention frustrating?
“Sometimes,” continued Kelly, who had eight carries for 57 yards against South Fayette. “But I like wearing my Wash High hoodie. It’s blue. So when people see it, they beep or wave or something.”