Alquann Jones

Press Football Player of the Year Alquann Jones of Millville

Alquann Jones remembers the touchdowns he scored this fall for the Millville High School football team.

The running back remembers the wins.

He remembers the enthusiastic crowds at Millville's Wheaton Field.

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But most of all, he remembers the fun he and his teammates had.

Jones led the Thunderbolts to a historic season. Millville finished 11-1, won a Cape-Atlantic League title for the first time since 1989 and reached the South Jersey Group IV final for the first time since 1997.

Jones rushed for a CAL-record 2,296 yards and scored a school-record 29 touchdowns. The 5-foot-8, 168-pounder carried 330 times and didn't rest when the opposition had the ball. He also excelled at defensive back.

Jones is The Press Player of the Year.

"It always feels good to be part of something special," Jones said. "We were winning games for coach (Jason) Durham, winning games for the younger guys, winning games for the town."

Jones and his teammates worked hard in the offseason. They lifted weights, ran sprints and talked of the upcoming season.

"We hung out, laughed and talked about how we wanted to go to the (South Jersey) championship game," he said.

Jones relished playing alongside his friends. He credited his offensive line for much of his success.

"Just us being in the huddle was always fun," he said. "There was never a dull moment. We were always making fun of each other. It was just an experience."

Few towns care about football like Millville does. The Thunderbolts are one of the few schools to sell season tickets. Fans packed Wheaton Field to watch the Thunderbolts' big games. Jones gave them plenty of thrills.

"It felt like a college game," he said. "Our fans are the best I've ever seen. We brought the tradition back."

His 66-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter of Millville's 27-19 win over Atlantic City on Nov. 4 showed him at his best.

Jones grabbed the handoff and burst up the middle into the Vikings' secondary. He then zig-zagged his way between three defenders and ran untouched in to the end zone.

Jones wants to play college football but has yet to decide on a school.

Millville's season ended with a 55-34 loss to Pennsauken in the S.J. Group IV title game at Rowan University on Dec. 2.

One of Jones' favorite memories of the season came from the game right before the title contest - Millville's 34-0 win over Vineland on Thanksgiving Day.

Jones went back to Wheaton Field last week for a photo shoot and video interview. He remembered his 7-yard run in the third quarter. It was his last touchdown at Wheaton Field. It was also the touchdown that broke the school record.

"It was very emotional," he said. "Me being a senior, it was my last game here. It was a big moment for me. I wouldn't have scored all those touchdowns if it wasn't for coach Durham and the line, too. It felt good being a part of history and being in the record books."

Team of the Year

The St. Joseph football team finished 5-5 when the current seniors were freshman in 2008.

For most schools, that's an average season.

For St. Joe, it was motivation.

"I always wanted to come to St. Joe," Wildcats senior fullback Eli Pogue said. "They were always so dominant. I wanted to be on one of their teams. I came in and we were 5-5. I was like, 'What's going on?' "

The Wildcats responded with three straight state titles, winning championships this year and in 2010 and 2009.

St. Joseph is The Press Team of the Year.

The Wildcats had one of the most dominant seasons ever by a local school.

They finished No. 1 in The Press Elite 11.

They won the state Non-Public I title.

They outscored their opponents 474-19.

They did not allow a touchdown in their last 31 quarters - nearly eight full games.

The Wildcats defeated St. Mary of Rutherford 51-0 in the state title game.

"My senior class has such good chemistry," Pogue said after the St. Mary win. "We talked (after the 5-5) season that we were going to turn this around. That 5-5 season drove us to get to now."

Coach of the Year

Bob Coffey did more than coach a team this fall.

He led an entire community.

The Mainland Regional coach is The Press Coach of the Year.

Four Mainland players died in a car crash on the Garden State Parkway on Aug. 20.

Coffey helped his players and the community deal with its grief. The Mustangs played hard every game and finished 5-5.

"I don't know if there was a better person to lead these kids and this community," Mainland athletic director Mike Gatley said of Coffey. "He kept the staff together. The kids together. He was the guy to bring this whole thing together."

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