Like many running backs, Lake-Lehman’s Dustin Jones often credited his linemen for a job well done.
Unlike every other running back in the Wyoming Valley Conference, Jones knew exactly what those unsung big guys up front were going through every game.
You see, for as outstanding Jones was this year running the ball he also excelled at another aspect of football. He was also a star at defensive tackle. His ability to dominate on both sides of the ball earned him Times Leader Player of the Year honors.
“There are a lot of skilled running backs everywhere,” Jones said, “but not a lot of them have the aspect of playing as a lineman. They truly don’t understand the job they have to do to block. It’s not easy, and a lot of people don’t give respect to the linemen for doing what they do.”
Jones has great esteem for his Lehman offensive linemen — tackles Pete Borum and Luke Hummell, guards Phil Hettes and Cory Hoyt, center Connor McGovern and tight end Zach Brucher. Those guys helped Jones turn in a terrific season where he finished with 2,119 rushing yards and 31 rushing touchdowns as the Black Knights won the District 2 Class 2A championship for the first time.
But when Lehman was on defense, the 6-foot-1, 250-pound Jones was down in the three-point stance with many of those same linemen. His defensive numbers were incredibly impressive — 109 tackles, seven sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
That from a guy who had been key on the last series for Lehman by moving the offense down the field.
“Defense is definitely very fun,” Jones said. “You get the chance to be in the trenches and looking to stop players. The only downfall to high school football is playing both side of the ball. When you’re playing both side of the ball, you’re not at the top potential you could be playing one side.”
Jones was at his best Week 7 when the Black Knights hosted Northwest in a showdown for first place in Division 2A-A of the WVC. He rushed for 374 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries in the 38-27 victory. He had 311 rushing yards in the Black Knights’ 37-21 victory over Lakeland for the D2-2A championship.
He finished his career with 4,056 rushing yards and 57 rushing TDs, averaging 6.9 yards per carry. Those numbers would have been higher if not for several blowout victories this season where the starters were pulled.
Still, that’s quite impressive for a player who spent four years on the varsity and carried the ball only once his freshman season.
Coach Jerry Gilsky was in his first year when Jones was a freshman. He weighted the options whether Jones would be better off on the varsity or playing freshman ball. He finally decided to bring up Jones and Brady Butler — another two-way star and Times Leader All-Star selection.
“I don’t like to make a quick decisions on freshmen,” Gilsky said. “The thing I focus on when I bring up freshmen are maturity and socially if they are able to handle it with older guys. That’s important even before the football aspect.
“He along with Brady were mature. We had a spot for him. You don’t want to bring up a freshmen up if you’re not going to play them.”
Jones started at nose guard as a freshman. His only carry was for minus-2 yards. He became the team’s second-leading rusher as a sophomore and paced the team’s ground game as a junior and senior. He closed out his high school career on his home field in the UNICO All-Star Classic, earning game MVP honors by rushing for 105 yards and four touchdowns in the West’s 55-14 victory over the East.
The days of being the primary ballcarrier are likely over for Jones. He would love an opportunity to play at Penn State, but there are many fallback options. Gilsky said several Division II PSAC schools are interested in him as a blocking fullback.
And if that’s where the next chapter of Jones’ football career heads, he seems fine with it.
“Getting the ball is fun and you want to be able score,” Jones said. “But without the blockers, there’s no running the ball. So you want to be a good teammate and block for them just as much as they block for you.
“Blocking is really fun, actually. Being a fullback, there are a lot of quick blocks that are misdirection, so they hardly see you coming.”