When they were freshmen on the Catonsville High junior varsity, sack-happy defensive ends Sean Lipscomb and Julian Jones made a pact to meet at the quarterback.
Now, as senior standouts on a 8-0 squad that averages more than four sacks per game, those meetings have become commonplace.
Fortunately for Comets quarterback Aaron Jones, he doesn't absorb their punishment in practice — Lipscomb and Julian Jones are limited by the Catonsville coaching staff to how much mayhem they can unleash.
"Me and Julian have had a thing since freshman year," Lipscomb said. "As long as we see each other down the line, we make sure we see each other in the backfield. We race to see who gets to the quarterback first."
"That's a perfect example of two guys that have come up together and learned the same thing for four years," Catonsville coach Rich Hambor said.
They are part of a nasty and opportunistic defense that has already produced eight defensive touchdowns this fall.
Julian Jones boasts a pair of fumble recoveries that he has returned for touchdowns and Lipscomb forced one of the fumbles with a jarring tackle in a 35-7 win over Franklin.
The fact that the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Jones was in the right place at the right time on both occasions was no accident.
"We had been watching film seeing how the quarterback scrambles out," Julian Jones said. "Knowing I have Sean on the back side, causing fumbles and stuff, I can always depend on my D-line. Against Woodlawn, the quarterback scrambled to my side, and Antoine Wright was holding him up. I just came up and gave him a pop, and the ball just fell out on the ground. I just reacted and picked it up."
Jones also proved earlier this season he has good hands on the offensive side..
In back-to-back wins over Boys' Latin, 27-7, and Perry Hall, 35-23, he caught two touchdown passes in each game from Aaron Jones.
Although they are not related, the Joneses proved they were key components of a making the Comet family winners.
"For Aaron and Julian to have a great first game and come up big, it let everybody know that we were pretty deep and we were not going to depend on one or two people to carry the load," Hambor said.
It was a big help, considering standout Deniko Carter, who leads the team with 421 yards receiving (32 yards per catch), missed the opening game with a broken thumb.
Julian Jones had shown signs he could be a receiving threat at tight end in 2010 when he caught four touchdown passes, including an 85-yarder in a 39-7 season-ending victory over Towson.
"We knew Julian could get downfield last year, but a lot of that was a product of our running game," Hambor said. This year it's even — it's our running game and him being able to get downfield to get separation. In the Towson game (last year), he caught a pass in the middle and outran the safety and cornerback, who both had an angle on him."
For the tight end and captain, catching passes turned into a whole new adventure.
"Back when I played rec, I played offensive line and I never got the ball," said Jones, who converted to wideout as an eighth-grader playing for the Banneker Falcons. "(This year's success) surprised me a lot, because I was only expecting to get about the same as last year. We don't pass the ball a lot, so to come out with two touchdowns in the first couple games was very exciting."
In the convincing win over Franklin, Jones was upset because he dropped a couple passes and he apologized to the team.
"He wanted to make it easier on his team and he wanted to get his backup in the game," Hambor said.
Jones (9 receptions, 221 yards, 5 touchdowns) has caught only one scoring pass since the second game, but his teammates have picked up the slack.
Carter has seven touchdown receptions and Lipscomb had his first in a 39-17 victory over Eastern Tech Oct. 6.
"I got the ball and I got scared at first," Lipscomb said. "But I saw Julian in front of me, and he laid the block — it was wide open for a touchdown."
Having another weapon like Lipscomb (7 receptions, 86 yards) is a welcome sight for Aaron Jones (29-for-62, 733 yards).
"They make my job easy. Sean's got hands, Julian's got hands and Niko has hands," the quarterback said. "I can count on them catching it when I throw it up. Even when I throw a bad pass, I know they are going to adjust to it."
Aaron Jones threw two touchdowns to Carter in the Comets' 48-7 victory over Milford Mill Oct. 21.
He had four completions for 130 yards in the first half as the Comets built a 42-0 lead.
Jones' transition, from a solid quarterback to an elite one, can be traced to a one-day summer camp at the University of Maryland.
"They really showed me how to become a real good quarterback. I think that really changed how I play the position," said the 6-foot-2, 175-pounder.
An ability to run gives him another weapon to wield.
Although DeAndre Lane is the leading rusher (88 carries, 835 yards), since taking over full-time tailback duties when Jerome Williams went down with a broken collar bone, Aaron Jones (three rushing TDs) has also proved capable of gaining valuable yardage on the ground.
The win over Boys' Latin in the season opener was Aaron Jones' favorite highlight.
"That was my first game running the ball, and I got yards and I threw two touchdowns and I played defense," Aaron Jones said.
Although his defensive snaps have been limited since that game, he enjoys watching teammates, such as Lipscomb, continually make highlight-reel plays.
Lipscomb's four sacks against Franklin fall into that category.
When Hereford was having success with power dives up the middle during its best drive, it was Lipscomb who was hauling down the runner before he could break away.
"He's very strong. He reads well, and he's very long and hard to block," defensive coordinator Warren Como said. "The backbone of our defense is our ends."
While speed and quickness are the most obvious attributes of the defense, Como noted 17 of the top 22 players are in his weight training class.
Lipscomb, 6-foot-3, 183 pounds, also has an unmatched motor that ignites quickly.
"Just because I have a high metabolism and I can't gain weight, I will still hit you on the football field like I weigh 320," Lipscomb said. "As long as you have the heart and the will to play football, anything is possible.
Hambor allows Lipscomb to takes chances.
"He knows his limitations and he knows when he can and can't extend himself and still recover," said Hambor, who watched Lipscomb block a punt in the win over Milford Mill.
One thing Lipscomb had trouble getting over was last year's first-round playoff loss to North Harford.
It was as difficult a loss to take as the first one he suffered with an Arbutus Gold Eagles 11-13 team that also included Aaron Jones and Lane.
That team went undefeated until they lost in the championship game on the Catonsville High turf.
"My first time ever coming to Catonsville High, playing on the turf, and we lost to Linganore by two touchdowns," Lipscomb said. "I said 'I'll never lose on this field again.' We lost only one home game (Eastern Tech last year)."
Lipscomb heard the doubters after last year's playoff team lost some talented seniors, which only motivated the returning players.
"People said we are not going to win and that made me madder," Lipscomb said. "This is our last year. It made us work way harder."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun