BIG STONE GAP, Va. – C.J. Jones embraces the dirty work for the Union Bears football team.
But on Friday night at Bullitt Park, the junior linebacker and fullback played the role of hero.
With the John Battle Trojans focusing on Union star Mason Polier, the 6-foot, 190-pound Jones rushed for 91 yards as the Bears rolled to a 54-7 victory.
“Mason and I approach football the same way,” Jones said. “We’re a team. We both love to hit and we realize that we make each other better.”
With a share of the Mountain 7 District title on the line, the Bears (8-2, 5-1) ended the suspense early.
On the second play of the game, Union senior Daemai Lester scored on a 13-yard interception turn.
The powerful Polier took over seconds later.
Following the lead block of Jones, Polier split the middle of the defense on a 44-yard touchdown run.
With Jones carving out space, Polier then got outside the Battle defense en route to TD runs of 83 and 35 yards.
“Mason is a good athlete and a better running back than I am, so I don’t mind laying down the blocks for him,” Jones said. “When our line is blocking like they did tonight, everything is good.”
Polier went to the sideline midway through the second quarter after collecting 181 yards on the ground on just eight carries. He has rushed for well over 1,000 yards on the season.
Tight ends Trey Smith, Ethan Mabe and Malachi Jenkins also led the blocking brigade as the Bears opened a 34-7 halftime advantage.
“I was very impressed with our blocking,” Union coach Travis Turner said. “We’ve had six or seven injuries, so we’ve had to move C.J. to offense and he’s been a good surprise for us.”
So what is it like to play fullback with a star like Polier behind you?
“There’s not a whole lot of glory in that role, but C.J. does a great job with it,” Turner said.
Turner confirmed that sophomore running back Zavier Lomax is out for the season with a broken leg.
First-year John Battle coach Bradley Ricker knows all about injuries.
“We’ve lost six players, including four starters, along with a starting running back two weeks ago,” Ricker said. “When you battle adversity, you have to be able to push through it and that’s what we’ve tried to do.”
Quarterback Jack Thurston led Battle (2-8, 1-5) Friday with 101 yards passing while Shannon Wohlford scored on an 8-yard run in the second quarter.
Tyler McCloud, who began the season at offensive tackle, sparked the Trojans at tight end while Eddie Rodriguez, Jonah Welch and John Phipps led the defense.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Ricker said. “They’ve worked hard every week. We just have to get in the weight room and concentrate on getting bigger and stronger.”
Union’s two strong men, Polier and Jones, combined for over 10 tackles at their middle linebacker spot. Jones also flashed some speed on a 52-yard TD run in third quarter.
“They moved me to fullback in the Graham game and I’ve enjoyed it,” Jones said. “It’s fun to watch Mason run.”
The Union senior class now has a 41-8 record with three district and two regional titles. In the seven years since Union has been in existence, the Bears have won or shared five district crowns.
“And the future is bright,” Turner said. “We were able to get every player in this game and they all did well.”
Union freshman Peyton Honeycutt contributed 100 yards rushing and a score as the Bears compiled 428 yards rushing.
Jones is focused on the start of the Region 2D playoffs next week.
“It’s a serious time of the year,” Jones said. “We have to keep hitting and performing.”
John Battle 0 7 0 0-7
Union 20 14 13 7-54
U – Lester 13 interception return (Crist kick)
U – Polier 44 run (kick failed)
U – Polier 83 run (Crist kick)
U – Polier 35 run (Roark kick)
JB – Wohlford 8 run (Farley kick)
U – Guerrant 1 run (Roark kick)
U – Jones 52 run (Crist kick)
U – Honeycutt 75 run (kick failed)
U – Roark 26 interception return (Crist kick)
First Downs: JB 6, U 14; Rushes-Yards: JB 23-22, U 31-428; Passing Yards: JB 101, U 18; Comp-Att-Int.: JB 13-30-3, U 2-5-0; Fumbles-Lost: JB 3-0, U 1-1; Penalties-Yards: JB 4-35, U 2-15; Punts-Average: JB 4-31, U 0-0