The Pulaski County High School football team has a new head coach and he is no stranger to the area or the program.
Todd Jones, a former wide receiver for the Cougars and former coach of the champion Essex High School Trojans, was introduced as the new Cougar football coach by Pulaski County school superintendent Dr. Robert Becker during the school board meeting Thursday evening.
Jones is a 1990 graduate of Pulaski County High School. He joins his former coach and mentor, Joel Hicks, as just the fourth coach in the history of the Cougar football program. Jones talked about the decision to come to Pulaski in an interview on Thursday evening.
"My father passed away a while ago on Memorial Day weekend," Jones said. "When I was at home I took the opportunity to walk into the field house and they were working out. The atmosphere was just awesome. The kids were working so hard and into it. When you have an opportunity, you just try to make the most of it. When you get a chance, you have to jump at it and go from there. I was very fortunate. While it is short notice, you never know when you will get another opportunity like this."
Shortly after graduating from PCHS, Jones attended Emory and Henry and pursued a bachelor’s degree in physical education. Upon graduating in 1994 at the age of 23, he became a junior varsity coach. A year later, he became a varsity defensive coordinator for Essex, then was named the interim coach at Essex during the middle of that season.
Since Jones took over Essex, the Trojans have made the Virginia High School League (VHSL) playoffs 13 of his 14 seasons. The team also had a 135-34 record over that time, which includes five Region A Division 2 crowns and nine Northern Neck District championships. Last season was his most successful, as he helped guide the Trojans to a 14-0 record and a VHSL Group A Division 2 championship. For his efforts on the gridiron last year, he was named the Virginia High School Coaches Association (VHSCA) Coach of the Year. He also owns six District Coach of the Year and Region Coach of the Year honors.
Jones will play the Radford Bobcats, who Essex beat to win last year’s state title, in his first game as the Pulaski County head football coach on Aug. 27. He talked about the opportunity to face Radford again and what that moment will mean to him.
"I have a lot of respect for coach (Matthew) Saunders, his staff, and his kids," Jones said. "They are getting ready for this season and have a lot of players returning. It is going to be a really big ball game. They have to come into the ‘Cougar Den’ this year and play. That is something that will be special. It doesn’t have anything to do with me at Essex. That is over. It doesn’t matter what I did there. What matters now is what we are going to do in Pulaski County."
While at Essex, Jones was famous for his spread passing offense, while the Cougars have used a powerful rushing attack for many years. He explained what his approach will be to finding out which type of offense he will be running.
"First of all, we need to look at the personnel. We have some time before practice starts and I need to look at the old films. I will just start looking at that and implementing different things. Everyone talks about the spread. That is the way we have run it in the past. We are going to get the ball into a lot of kids’ hands. At any time, any of them can touch the ball. We do like to show a lot of different formations as well.
"We (Pulaski) have been fortunate to run the football last year and we had a really good quarterback, who had been with us for a while. He worked hard, but we still had guys around him that put the time in. Right now, I have an idea of what we (Essex) have done that has been successful for me for the last so many years. When we went to the state championship game back in 2003 and we were primarily a run team. We are just going to find out what works best for Pulaski County."
While Jones was aware of the sanctions made against Pulaski County, he didn’t let that deter him from taking the job. He said his approach will be placing the past in the past.
"Things have happened that are out of our control," he said. "It is over. There is no looking back. There is looking forward. We are just going to try to make this a season to remember. It is time to move on and prepare for a 2010 season like no other."