ARLINGTON - Everything hit Dru Jones at once.
The senior had just made the game-sealing interception in the 2A DII state championship against Falls City and the Elks were up 12 with mere minutes away from their fourth state title as a program.
The moment finally came to him after he stood up with the ball, and all he could do was crouch back down and cry.
“The emotions finally hit when I got the interception,” Jones said. “I just started crying because it's my last high school game and I’ve been through it all with these guys and it's just amazing to go out like this.”
The previous drive, he was on the receiving end of a touchdown on fourth-and-10 that resulted in the game’s 39-27 final score over Falls City. The Elks’ star outside man, who was a day shy of his 18th birthday, finished with 303 total yards of offense and three of Stratford’s biggest plays of the day: the go-ahead touchdown, the 32-yard dagger score with 1:24 to play and the final interception to cap it all off.
The emotions ran through AT&T Stadium and not just with Dru. After Stratford’s go-ahead score, the jumbotron showed his mother, Carla Jones, crying and in full display of her joyous emotion to the 5,002 in attendance along with the rest of Jones’ family. His brother, David, lives in Colorado with his father, Chris. Family from all over, from Colorado and Kansas, converged to watch their son, brother, nephew, and grandson have the biggest game of his life.
“They came all the way to Arlington just to watch me play,” Jones said. “And it's just amazing. Just knowing the love and support I have, and I've had it for my whole life. It's amazing.”
Funny enough, on the final touchdown, Stratford quarterback Cody Rinne, the game’s Offensive MVP, wasn’t sure he put enough on the pass to beat the Falls City defense; the pass just creeped over the outstretched secondary and dropped right to Jones.
“I thought it was picked at first honestly,” Rinne laughed. “I saw they were manned up, so Coach (Matt) Lovorn changed it and I saw Dru kind of had a step, so I just threw it up and he did the rest. I thought it was picked, then I saw him get it."
That kind of chemistry was sown back in June.
Stratford, a team perhaps more known for ground-and-pound football, surprisingly qualified for the State 7-on-7 Tournament in College Station. Games like Thursday’s shootout, where the Elks needed some big plays, showed the value of that journey.
“I think it built our chemistry more than anything because Cody (Rinne) didn't play much that last year,” Jones said. “And it helped him adapt to how we run our rotes and how he needs to throw the ball because we were playing against bigger schools.
“It really helped us build our chemistry we stayed I think three or four days. It was great. Cody became more confident we had young guys that hadn't started on defense like Freddy Duarte, he really stepped up big and that was where the journey started, really.”
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