Lonnie the leader

Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, September 23, 2003

By By DAN WEISS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Determination has taken over inside of Niles High School senior running back Lonnie Jones.
It was apparent last Friday night when Jones scored his second touchdown. After escaping the initial line of Battle Creek Lakeview defenders, the Spartan secondary met Jones about 10 yards away from the end zone. It appeared this wouldn't be a scoring run for Jones.
Then he showed why he is one of the best running backs in the state as he broke several tackles and carried a few more Spartans into the end zone with him.
Jones has rushed for 991 yards and 12 touchdowns in the first four games of this season. He is being recruited by big-time college football programs and he appears to have the Vikings on track for a third straight playoff appearance.
Several factors have played into the drastic improvement Jones has showed already this season. His own motivation to be the best he can be has combined with a better fell for the game. An impressive offensive line has also given Jones plenty of opportunities to make big plays.
Jones is without a doubt the best running back Janicki has had in his four years at Niles. Since he was a freshman everybody knew he was going to be something special. And, while he has always been a solid offensive threat for the Vikings, it wasn't until this year that he has shown how good he really is.
Janicki and the rest of the team now look to Jones as a leader.
He'll have to go hard this week as Niles faces possibly its toughest challenge of the season in Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West Division rival Lakeshore.
The Lancers are undefeated and are coming off a 38-7 victory over previously-unbeaten Battle Creek Central, a team that beat Niles 30-14.
Jones has a little bit different perspective on the upcoming clash with Lakeshore.
He needs just nine yards to reach 1,000 for the season. When asked about the significance of that accomplishment, Jones' response carried an air of confidence.
With such a dominant player in the backfield, some may be too quick to label the Vikings a one-man team.
If all 22 starters follow Jones' lead, the Vikings will be just fine.