By Nelson Coffin, firstname.lastname@example.org
9:25 AM EDT, October 9, 2012
Ryan Jones will never be confused with Aaron Rogers, Tom Brady or any other strong-armed quarterback leading his team with a lights-out aerial assault.
What the Hereford High senior does have, though, is an uncanny ability to read rival defenses well enough to keep the Bulls' triple-option offense humming and the team on a playoff path at 5-1 after a 49-0 rout of Towson on Oct. 5.
If Jones can lead coach Steve Turnbaugh's club to a road victory over once-beaten Milford Mill on Oct. 13, Hereford will be in a commanding position to lock up a postseason berth.
And with Jones at the helm, there's no telling how far the Bulls could advance in November and December.
It all started with a signature win at the end of August over North Harford in which Turnbaugh said Jones was "spectacular."
"None of the seniors had ever beaten North Harford," Jones said. "It gave us a lot of confidence for our first five games, which were very challenging."
On every offensive possession, he has to make the correct call while barking signals over junior center Brock Turnbaugh, the coach's son and linchpin of a stout offensive line that also boasts seniors Cam Snyder, Chris Taormino, Brennan Butz and Graham Hensley.
"It's pretty much natural for me now," said Jones, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound product of the Hereford Rec program. "We only run a couple of plays, but it's not like we run the same plays over and over."
"He has a great grasp of what we do," coach Turnbaugh said. "If we were a little more efficient passing, he'd be even better. But he's improving. We only throw about four or five times a game. So he doesn't get many opportunities to throw. The more you do it in game conditions, the better you get."
When Jones yells a code word before the snap from Turnbaugh, the linemen know which play the play will be run and, sometimes, who will get the ball.
On other plays, Jones reads the defense as he's moving and either hands the ball off, pitches it or keeps it himself.
The latter situation is when the Bulls have done a significant amount of damage this year, mainly because, once he finds a seam, Jones' quick first step allows him to pile up a ton of yardage.
Just ask Franklin High, which built a 20-point lead after two key Jones' turnovers and then had to hold on for a 41-31 victory after he scored three touchdowns and ran for 182 yards on 16 carries last month.
"He's just a tremendous player," Franklin coach Anthony Burgos said.
"People aren't expecting the quarterback to pop out as quickly as he does," coach Turnbaugh said. "He takes them by surprise."
When Jones isn't carrying the ball, at least five other runners — seniors Mike Swiger, Ted Neubauer, Andrew Fisher and John Bauer and junior Adam Ceribelli — contribute.
"Ryan does a great job of doing what we need to do, and the line does a great job of blocking," the coach said, noting the forward wall averages 210 pounds per player. "It's not the biggest line we've ever had, but it's one of the most efficient and unselfish."
Oct. 13, at Milford Mill, 1 p.m.
Oct. 19, Kenwood, 7 p.m.
Oct. 26, Parkville, 7 p.m.
Nov. 2, at Perry Hall, 7 p.m.