Cavaliers’ Jones overcomes tragedy, stands tall
Published 10:24 pm Thursday, November 21, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
A decade ago, the Callaway Cavaliers ambled onto a football field in the southern portion of the state, hopeful of pulling off a playoff road win over a formidable and unbeaten Fitzgerald squad.
Leading that Callaway team was a junior quarterback named Quan Bray, who’d developed into one of the state’s most dynamic and heavily-recruited players.
Bray did plenty of good things that night, but it was Fitzgerald prevailing 35-21 to reach the state semifinals.
Flash forward 10 years and those powerhouses are set to meet again, this time in the second round of the Class AA state playoffs.
While Bray has long-since left his high-school days behind, and he recently finished his debut season in the Canadian Football League, the family will still be represented in the Callaway and Fitzgerald rematch.
Senior Jymere Jones, a wide receiver and defensive back, is a key player for the Cavaliers, and he’s also Bray’s younger brother.
“It’s a hard opponent,” Jones said as the last vestiges of daylight faded away at the close of practice on Wednesday evening. “We’ll just go out and execute and do what we do.”
An interested bystander will no doubt be Bray, who in many ways has been much more than a brother to Jones over the years.
Their relationship was strengthened, and changed, when they were forced to deal with a horrendous family tragedy.
In the summer of 2011, as Bray was preparing for his freshman season at Auburn, he found out that his loving mother, Tonya, had been shot and murdered by his and Jymere’s father, Jeffery Jones.
While Bray was freshly out of high school, his younger brother was only 10-years-old.
It was a devastating moment for the family, yet the brothers have persevered and succeeded, both on the field and off.
While Jones has been raised by his grandmother following his mother’s death, he’s been able to depend on his older brother for unwavering support.
“He’s always been there,” Jones said, with the ever-present smile clearly visible. “I used to watch him go out there. I was a little ball boy watching him play. And now I’m here. He always told me, just wait, your time will come. When your time came, just take advantage of it.”
Their time together over the years has been limited because of Bray’s football journey.
After four successful years at Auburn, Bray played in the NFL for three seasons, and he is coming off a phenomenal season with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL.
The two communicate as often as possible, though, whether it’s through texting, calling, or Facetiming.
“(Bray) kind of turned into a dad real quick,” said Dusty Hubbard, Callaway’s defensive coordinator since 2005. “Quan did a great job with him. When Quan wasn’t here, he always made sure he had people taking care of him. The grandmother’s done a great job with Jymere. It’s been one those things it took the whole village. I think Jymere’s got a bright future ahead of him.”
Jones’ senior season has easily been his best.
A part-time contributor in previous years, Jones has not only been a valuable member of a talented wide-receiver corps this year, but he has also been a starter on a lock-down defense.
“Jymere is not the fastest guy, he’s not the biggest guy, but when it gets down to it he’s a leader on our team, and we put a lot of weight on his shoulders both on the offensive and defensive side,” said Pete Wiggins, Callaway’s head coach. “I’m really proud of him.”
Jones was slated to take on an increased role as a junior, but an injury derailed those plans.
“We felt like Jymere was going to help us a lot last year,” Hubbard said. “He got hurt in preseason camp, and he ended up hurting his knee pretty bad. It was a lot more severe than people knew. And he really missed the first three or four games, and he tried to play on it. He never was really right last year. We knew he had some big-play ability with his height, and his ability to go up and get the ball. It just didn’t pan out for him last year, and it was more because of injuries. But everything’s worked out for him this year, and I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Jones, Hubbard believes, helps the team not only by what he does on the field, but by the limitless positive energy he brings to the school every day.
“He kind of lifts our team,” Hubbard said. “His teammates love being around him. His smile’s infectious, and the guys just kind of float to him. He has such a positive outlook on life. He’s overcome some tough situations.”
When the season began Jones was strictly a wide receiver, and he was a favorite target of quarterback Demetrius Coleman’s.
As the season progressed, a need arose on defense, and Jones was asked to fill it.
“Probably the first two or three games, we didn’t use him hardly at all (on defense),” Hubbard said. “We had a lot of trust in him. He pays close attention to detail. We felt like that was a position we needed to get better at, so we started giving him some reps, and he started developing in practice. By the time we got to region play, he was pretty much the starter.”
While Jones’ breakthrough season may have come a year later than expected, he’s nonetheless enjoying the ride.
“It was supposed to be last year, but I just waited on my time to come,” Jones said. “When my time came, I took advantage of it. I wasn’t mad last year that I wasn’t getting as much playing time, I just waited.”
On offense, Jones is part of a gifted group of receivers, led by position coach Dialleo Burks, that includes Jacob Freeman, Antinez Blount, Markus Morman and Jalin Shephard.
While Jones is always eager to get his hands on the ball, he’s just as happy to see one of his teammates make a big play.
In last week’s 54-7 win over Chattooga, Coleman threw six first-half touchdown passes, three to Freeman, two to Blount, and one to Shephard.
“I love when I see my brothers scoring,” Jones said. “When my brothers score, that just gets me more excited to see them shine. I love to see the whole group shine.”
Whatever Jones’ role has been, Wiggins said “his leadership has been on a high level.”
“His work ethic has increased greatly from the summer, and he has a confidence about him now,” Wiggins added. “I think coach Burks has done a phenomenal job with him and making him better. I think his work ethic and leadership in the weight room has made him better. And he’s one of the leaders that we lean on each week on this football team.”
CALLAWAY VS. FITZGERALD
WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Callaway Stadium
RECORDS: Callaway (10-1); Fitzgerald (8-3)
LAST MEETING: Fitzgerald beat Callaway 35-21 in the quarterfinals of the 2009 state playoffs