Last Saturday, with seven total touchdowns, Robert Jones ’16 turned in perhaps the best performance by a quarterback in recent Andover Football history. With four passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns, Jones had a hand in every Andover scoring play in its 49-35 opening win over Loomis. What’s even more remarkable about Jones is that, in a world where high school athletes often specialize in one sport, he runs track and is the second-ranked high school sprinter in Massachusetts. His success in both sports is not exclusive–a lot of his success in football comes from his track speed, and vice versa.
A runner who specializes in sprints, Jones ran a 40-yard dash time of 4.43 seconds, which was faster than any quarterback who ran at the 2015 N.F.L. Draft Combine.
On the second play from scrimmage, Jones connected with Jack Belluche ’16 for a 57-yard touchdown, a play that would set the tone for what would become an offense-focused shootout.
Jones was Andover’s leading rusher with 125 yards on 11 carries, with a long of 57 yards. Jones had over 100 yards and two touchdowns by the end of the first quarter. He also posted an 80 percent completion percentage, throwing for 252 yards and an eye-popping 16.8 yards per attempt.
A local from Wayland, Mass., Jones is of average quarterback height and weight at 6’1” and 190 pounds, but his speed, smarts and game management skills set him apart.
Jones frequently relies on his ability to operate outside out of the pocket and make smart decisions while under pressure. Because he excels at extending plays, he is able to avoid careless throws. “I always look to pass first but if I don’t like what I see in the defense and our guys aren’t, I try to give them some time. If no receiver looks open after that, I take off,” said Jones.
When the pocket does collapse, he is able to roll out with his eyes still looking down the field for open receivers, and his vision allows his receivers to improvise and make plays in the open field. “When Jones extends the play, he gives the team a chance to create something out of nothing,” said Keegan Cummings ’17.
Quarterbacks are often more comfortable when their team has the lead, and even though Andover led comfortably for much of the game, Jones never lost composure and kept communicating with his teammates even when Loomis tied the game at 35 late in the third quarter. Andover went on to score 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to put the team ahead 49-35 for good.
Head Coach Leon Modeste said, “I think he reads the defense pretty well. His close rapport with his running backs and receivers allows him to switch up the play at the line of scrimmage to find receivers the defense left unchecked.”
Jones’s overwhelming success in his first game for Andover demonstrated his impressive ability to adapt to the team’s offense in such a short period of time. Jones’s years of experience and extensive knowledge at the quarterback position allowed him to connect with the starters immediately.
After playing four years at Wayland High, he worked relentlessly with trainers in the offseason to improve his mental and physical game. His experience and athletic ability allowed him to guide a fully functioning offense that could attack in multiple ways, helping Andover to score both on the ground and in the air.
Overall, Jones had a dominant performance in his first game, impressing with his seamless transition to the Andover playbook. “He made it look easy, as if he had been running this offense for years,” said Will Nuga ’17.
Jones displayed this quality against Loomis, when he rolled out of the pocket while avoiding three defenders to connect with Belluche for his third passing touchdown.
This year’s team, led by Jones, has a shot to knock off the 2013 Jack Etter Bowl Championship Andover team as the most explosive in the last decade. That team, which was quarterbacked by Ian Maag ’14, another Post-Graduate from Massachusetts, averaged nearly 33 points per game en route to an undefeated season.
If Jones’ performance on Saturday is any indication, Andover appears to have a good shot at putting up similar offensive numbers. Jones will look to improve on his game against Loomis when Andover takes on Kent this Saturday.