Flying High: Jones Is Super
TAMPA - His nickname seems to fit. Superman. Carlton Jones, the blue-chip running back from Middleton High School, seems capable of anything on the football field. Sometimes, he can even fly.Midway through the second quarter of Saturday night's Florida Sentinel Heritage Classic - Middleton's 40-0 win against the Blake Yellow Jackets - Jones applied the exclamation point with a 46-yard touchdown reception from DeAndre Presley. Jones, a 5-foot-10, 215-pounder with a burst, shook a few would-be tacklers. He weaved through the secondary. Breaking free, he glided to the 5-yard line, then leaped in the air, doing a belly-flop into the end zone. 'That was my imitation of Reggie Bush,' Jones said, smiling in the aftermath of the big victory. It plays fine in the NFL. Not so in high school football. Jones was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Although Middleton coach Harry Hubbard said he could've done without the showmanship, there was an upside. With the Tigers penalized, place-kicker Zach Wehr got experience at attempting an extra point from 35 yards. He banged it through. It was that kind of night for Middleton (3-2). And that kind of night for Jones, who has made a career out of beating Blake. The Middleton Legacy Jones ran for 122 yards on 16 carries, and caught two passes for 62 yards. He scored twice. In three games against Blake - all victories - Jones has rushed for 386 yards (averaging 7.4 yards per carry). He was last season's game Most Valuable Player, but Saturday night's trophy went to Presley, who had a stunning 96-yard touchdown run. But even Presley, with the hardware in hand, could appreciate the value of having a franchise back such as Jones. 'He means a lot to our team,' Presley said. 'Everything about him is special.' In Section 110, there were at least 50 family members and friends who wore custom-made T-shirts with Jones' No. 6 and a photo of him in uniform. Jones' grandfather, Walter Gyden (Middleton, Class of 1969) was in the middle of the proud group. 'He's very excited to see his grandson playing for Middleton,' said Marion Gyden, Jones' grandmother. 'We're all excited. He's going to have these memories the rest of his life.' Jones seems unrushed to reach the next level - 'I just want to do everything possible to make our team win,' he said - but the next level seems to be on everyone else's minds. Dreams Take Flight The Florida Gators might be early leaders for Jones' services, but the list also includes USF, Maryland, LSU and Pittsburgh, among others. He has lost count of the inquiries. After the season, he will catch up. 'He's going to be a great one, and he already is a great one,' Hubbard said. 'I still don't think he's in complete form, though. Maybe I expect a lot out of him. I think I expect him to score every time he touches the ball.' Then Hubbard quickly added, 'I don't tell him that.' No matter. Jones knows he's being watched - by coaches, by teammates, by opposing defense, by recruiters - and wants to meet those expectations. So far, so good. Especially against the luckless Yellow Jackets (0-5). With Jones, Presley and a swarming defense, everything seemed to go Middleton's way. Even though the Middleton band got a big-time pregame introduction - And now, the magnificent, fantastic, one-and-only George S. Middleton High School Marching Band! - Blake was chosen as winner of the halftime Battle of the Bands. 'Hey, we should've won,' Jones said. But Middleton senior Renee Johnson, a cheerleading captain, put the proper perspective on the rivalry that began in 1947, but was interrupted for nearly three decades. 'It's just a game,' she said. 'We're all friends, no matter what. It's not about winning in football or bands. It's about how two schools come together as one on a night like this.' Middleton-Blake still means magic. There's amazing football, great music, food, fun, fellowship. It's still a night of dreams. And some of those dreams actually take flight.
It's official: Hillsborough high schools move to 8:30 a.m. start time, elementary schools to go earlier