Telegraph-Journal photo

Armed and dangerous

by Kevin Barrett - Friday, September 12, 2008

This article is courtesy of Telegraph-Journal

If anyone questions the throwing arm of new Saint John Greyhounds quarterback Caleb Jones, they just need to check the record book.

He last played quarterback in bantam and his presence at the high school level was highlighted by his performance at running back.

Now he's in charge of the Greyhounds' offence, a team that's expected to contend for the New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association's football title.

But this summer, Jones, a talented multi-sport athlete, set a New Brunswick record in the summer - in javelin - as he won the Canadian 17-and-under championship in Sherbrooke, Que.

"It has its differences but it helps a little bit," the 6-foot-2 Jones said with a laugh on the eve of the kickoff for the Southwest Conference's regular season.

So his arm is strong enough to hit the deep route and his experience last football season as one of the Greyhounds' top offensive threats as a running back, proves he is dynamic enough to avoid the rush.

Now, head coach David Grandy hopes Jones puts it all together all season for a team eager to advance deep in the post-season.

Judging by a 20-7 victory over perennial championship contender Fredericton last week in the teams' only exhibition game, Jones and Co. are off to a great start.

"It was a good game but where it was an exhibition, you don't really know," Jones said. "The coaches are moving players around to try things out but we played very well; better than I thought we would."

Saint John last defeated Fredericton in 2004 (14-7) and for the past three years, the Greyhounds were 0-3 against the Black Kats, outscored 97-6 in the process.

So any victory over the Kats - pre-season or not - is noteworthy.

"It's only early," said Grandy, who has cautioned his players not to read too much into the pre-season victory and get ready for Friday's opener against Harbour View (Millidgeville, 4:30 p.m.).

Saint John is grouped in the South Division of the Southwest Conference with St. Malachy's, St. Stephen, Rothesay, Harbour View and Simonds for the regular season. Simonds was 0-5 in the 12-man division and the other four played in the 10-man class.

Therefore, Saint John, 5-1 in the 12-man division last year before a narrow 9-7 quarter-final loss to Oromocto ended their season, should be a favourite.

"There was some difference between the 12-man and 10-man divisions but in the past couple of years, it has gotten really close," said Jones, a close friend of Trevor Harrison, the hard throwing pivot from St. Malachy's.

Last weekend, Harrison threw for more than 500 yards in a 35-14 victory over Oromocto.

"He and I play the game a little bit differently but he is phenomenal," Jones said. "St. Mac's are going to have a great team."

Jones also umpires a lot in the city and was a baseball player through the South End Little League system.

But football has his full attention these days.

"It is a great time and I really enjoy it," he said. "Playing running back can come in handy because if I do get in trouble, I can take off running."

Grandy, despite the favoured status, is not putting anything up on the win column until the final scores are determined.

"These are high school players so you never really know what you are going to get every day," he cautioned, sounding like the coach of a favoured team.

He knows everything doesn't always go to plan.

Since winning the 10-man division provincial title in 2003, Saint John has gone 17-7-1 in the 12-man class but have only two playoff victories.

They hope to build on that this season.

"We prepare for each game as if it is a championship game with the same type of plan every game," Grandy said. "The preparation and work that goes into it is the same every year. We are just not getting over the hump."

Other key players in the team's lineup are Evan MacAuley, Chris Tilley, Justin Nason, newcomer Blake Johnston and defensive anchor Alex Hachey at middle linebacker.

In other Southwestern Conference action Friday, Simonds travels to Rothesay at 4:30 p.m. and St. Malachy's hosts St. Stephen in a rematch of last year's 10-man division final at Shamrock at 7 p.m.

Saturday, Hampton is at Fredericton, Sussex journeys to Leo Hayes and Oromocto hosts Kennebecasis Valley. They are all 1 p.m. starts.