• John Macon Gillespie

Jones To Honor Fallen Teammate During Season, Fortius Project

Adversity is something that nearly every team will go through at some point during the season. For the Ole Brook Panthers, they faced it before the season even began. Jordan Blackwell, a linebacker going into his senior year, was murdered this past summer when his home was broken into. Blackwell sacrificed his life, shielding his 15-year-old cousin Caleb from gunfire.

The burden weighed heavy on the football team and community Blackwell left behind, including another cousin and teammate, 2019 defensive back/safety Axavian Jones.

“As a team, we’ve learn to overcome many obstacles that stood before us after losing my cousin Jordan Blackwell. He was a great athlete, brother, and teammate,” Jones told SES Mississippi. “He left a big dent in our team which lead the whole team to become closer from the freshman all the way to the seniors. We all came together and focused on our main goals for the season and that was to get a state championship but unfortunately we came up short.”

Jones and the rest of his team honored Blackwell’s sacrifice by putting together their best season since making it to a state championship game in 2010. The team’s 11-2 record was the team’s best since winning it all in 2004.

Brookhaven will go into this season without the reigning SES Mississippi 5A coach of the year Tommy Clopton, who is stepping down to be a principal at the school. Jones is prepared to take the lessons Clopton taught him and do great things with his new head coach Tucker Peavey.

“[Clopton] is a great coach and a father figure to some teammates. He push you to your limits and more,” Jones said. “We’ve been around him since the 8th grade and all we know is Coach Clopton. He promised us our next head coach will be just like him or better. He made the right choice with Coach Peavey. We just have to get adapted to his style of coaching and the way he run things and everything will fall in place.”

Jones was part of a young secondary last season that ended up being one of 5A’s fiercest. Last season, Jones deflected 13 passes and had a interception to go along with his 48 tackles.

“We were arguably one of the better secondaries in the state,” Jones said. “We were so good because we came in and worked our butts off from Monday through Thursday. We competed against each other every day and treat it as a game situation. That helped us during the games, it transitioned to game day on Friday. We fear no one and wanted the best competition available on Friday. We will be good this season, but with my brother departing for college, it will be a huge void to field.”

His older brother Jemaurian signed with Southern Miss at season’s end.

“I’ve learned a good bit from my brother. He always pushes me to be better than him,” Jones said.

One of the things on Jones’ offseason checklist is the Fortius Project. He will make the 274 mile trip up to Booneville to polish up his skills and improve as defensive player.

“I need to be more quick and patient with my hands and feet at the line. Also, I need to be more effective with my press,” Jones said. “I can play corner or safety. At corner, I use my feet really well and can drive my hands through the receiver’s chest when necessary. I see myself a better safety because I have the vision and have great read eyes where I can scheme the whole field and be on every play. I’m an all around player.”

Brookhaven will look silence any doubters out there and push through a loaded Region 3-5A this season.

“We will pick up where we left off this upcoming season,” Jones said. “We’re working extremely hard and are more focused than ever, because we believe in ourselves if no one else does. Just stay tuned.”

**Photo Courtesy of April Clopton

#JaredRedding #FortiusProject #Brookhaven

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