Keeping up with the Jones’ at DHS

Principal of Darlington High School Dr. Greg Harrison, Coach John Jones, Jr., and Phil Jones, Athletic Director Photo by Jana E. Pye

Principal of Darlington High School Dr. Greg Harrison, Coach John Jones, Jr., and Phil Jones, Athletic Director
Photo by Jana E. Pye

By Jana E. Pye, Editor,

It’s a coincidence that the athletic director and the new football coach at Darlington High School share the same last name. They may not be related, but both Coach John Jones, Jr. and Phil Jones, athletic director, share the same vision for the Falcon’s football program – a winning team.

Jones, who is currently head football coach at Sumter High School, has ties to the area; he is a graduate of West Florence High School, and his mother is from Hartsville; “But I promise you, she’ll be wearing purple and black to all our games!” he was quick to add. With more than 20 years of coaching experience, 16 of them involved playoff games.

“I’m excited to have Coach Jones at Darlington High. He is going to be an asset to our students, our program, and our community,” said Dr. Greg Harrison, principal of the school. “Coach Jones has a proven track record of coaching football in 2A, 3A and 4A programs. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our school and we are looking forward to having him on board.”

Jones will teach weight lifting at Darlington High in the fall, and is eager to start working with his new team, and hopes the community will support the team at the games.

“One of the first things that’s got to be done is to build up some excitement for the fans,” said Jones. “At the end of the day, young men are playing in front of fans. And if they are playing in front of bleachers it’s one thing- but when they are playing in front of a place that’s got a lot of people there, and they are happy and excited to be there, and want to see what’s going on- it makes it a lot easier to play the game.”

In order to do that, he hopes to build a good product that will make the Darlington community proud.

“A long time ago I had a coach tell me ‘If they look good, they play good. If the house is full, they play good’ and that’s what we want. We want people to say when people come to Darlington to a game, it’s a 12th man crowd and atmosphere… they are loud, they are supportive and they are happy with what’s going on. If the community is happy, the players are going be happy,” looking over to Dr. Harrison and Coach Phil Jones with a wide smile,” …and administration is going be happy. Everybody’s going be happy …and that’s gonna make me happy.”

Jones himself played Offensive Line at Wingate College and the University of South Carolina; he earned his Bachelor of Science in Physical Education at USC, and later earned a Masters in Sports Science from the United States Sports Academy.

He has been head coach at Sumter for a year, during which time his team had the most regular season wins for the school since 2009; before that, he was the Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach for sixteen years at several South Carolina high schools helping lead teams to lower state championships in 2013 and region championships in 1994, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2009, 2011, and 2012.

Jones was also the head football coach at North High School for three years. Under his direction, the team tripled the number of wins from the previous three seasons and doubled the number of student-athletes participating in the program.

“We know we’ve got a little work to do,” said Jones. “We feel we have some great football players coming back. It’s our job to get those guys prepared and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Although Sumter was not a cakewalk, Jones is looking forward to working in this region.

“Hartsville and Marlboro played for the State Championship last year- so right there you are talking about the two best teams in Lower State are in your region. Coming from Sumter, I had an idea about what’s going on at Crestwood and those guys do a great job. Lakewood is under a coaching change, but they’ve got some really good football players over there. Manning does a great job; top to bottom, you’ve gotta play every week. You’ve got go to work and bring your lunch pail.”

When describing his coaching style, Jones shared, “Our special teams, we’ll be really aggressive. We’ll go after things, we want our guys with the mind set of holding onto somebody who’s about to score one way or the other- and play fast and play furious. And that’s what we like to do on all sides of the ball. We’ll be fundamentally strong. Look for us to spread it out a little bit more then they spread it out here lately, and offensively and defensively stay within the same scheme. Biggest thing is we’ve got to be fundamentally sound in everything we do.”

He has not made changes to his coaching staff, but according to A.D. Phil Jones, that’s his decision to make. “Hey, he’s the coach. If he wants me off, that’s okay…as long as he wins.”

And about that purple, does he have plenty of that to wear?

“I’m going be honest with you 100%, this is the first purple tie I’ve owned, I’ve got to give credit where credit is due,” said Jones, tugging on his purple tie at the press conference. “I was on my way from Sumter last night and my sister called me and said ‘I left you a present, I went and bought you a purple tie’. I don’t own a lot of purple. And now we’re going to. And luckily there, that is one of my little girl’s favorite colors…. so she is going to love a lot of purple, too.”

Jones will begin his coaching duties at Darlington High immediately, and will begin teaching duties in the fall.

Author: Jana Pye

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