PEMBROKE — In Josh Jones’ last two football games, he has led his team on double-digit point comebacks before they ultimately fell in defeats.
Through both games, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke true freshman quarterback and Wilmington native has caught the attention of local football fans at the high school and college level.
“I don’t know if there is anything special about it, but I’m just a competitor and I like to win,” Jones said of his last two showings on the gridiron. “I want to do everything to get my team in that position to get a win. That’s all I’m trying to do.”
The first comeback came in the NCHSAA 4A East Regional final at Scotland in December. Jones and Hoggard fell behind 32-7 with 11:20 left to the Scots and went on to force overtime, before suffering the 47-46 defeat. Jones tossed six touchdowns and also caught the attention of the UNCP coaching staff that was on hand to see the comeback.
“He’s been in big high school games before and that’s helped him,” UNCP coach Shane Richardson said. “He’s a competitor, so whenever he gets his opportunities, I would think that he would try to take advantage of it.”
On Sunday, Jones went from splitting snaps in the first half with redshirt freshman Josh Dale to taking over late in the second half as the Braves scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to take a 20-1 lead with less than two minutes remaining. Jones completed 21 passes for 248 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 23-20 loss.
What is required in those high-pressure situations is a calm demeanor, and Richardson said that is one of Jones’ most profound traits.
“I really liked what I saw out of him and I don’t know that there was a whole lot of nervousness, and if there was you couldn’t tell by the way he executed in those last 12 minutes,” Richardson said. “He showed a lot of poise and confidence. He’s a very even-keeled personality, and that bodes well to play that position.”
While the two first-year quarterbacks split time on Sunday in the opener, Dale got the start and lead the offense on the first three drives. This week against Elizabeth City State in UNCP’s home opener, Richardson said the offense will go with a similar gameplan, but with Jones taking the early time under center and the Braves will go from there.
“He’s showed a lot in the game on Sunday, and we are going to go with him to start the game,” Richardson said. “He’s got only one game of college experience under his belt so anything can happen out there. We have a lot of confidence in that position.”
Whether he is taking the first snaps of the game or taking over in the second half, Jones is ready for whatever opportunities come his way.
“I bought into the process of trusting the coaches and what they are doing. They are doing the right things and I’m just buying into them,” Jones said. “I’m trying to make the most of it and get better every day. That’s our team goal to come out here and get better, and I’m trying to do the best I can.”
The biggest challenge that Jones said has come his way in the first month he has been a collegiate football player is prepping for the speed of the college level, but the upperclassmen leaders on offense have helped that process along.
“At Hoggard, we ran a pretty balanced offense and it is the same here,” Jones said. “I wouldn’t say there is a major difference, but the speed is up a little bit and I’ve got used to it.”
“The first couple days of camp, it took some time getting used to it, but I’m used to it now.”
Jones and the Braves take on the 1-0 Vikings, looking to defend home field and make a statement on Saturday.
“We’ve got something to prove as a team,” Jones said. “We want to get last Sunday out of our minds and go ahead and become 1-1.”