Berwick High School's Josh Jones, above, ran for 616 yards and nine touchdowns during Friday's 60-29 victory against North Vermilion in District 8-3A action in LeRoy. The total by Jones, if included in the National Federation of High School Associations' records, would rank as the sixth-best all-time mark, according to the list found on the association's website. Berwick will continue its season Friday when it opens the first round of the Class 3A playoffs on the road against Northwest High School. (Submitted Photo/Courtesy of Beverly Vincent)
A Night For The Ages: Jones runs for 616 yards, 9 TDs in Panthers' win
Josh Jones found an opening, dodged a tackle, and he was gone.
That sums up how much of Friday's game unfolded for the Berwick High senior running back, who had one of the best single-game rushing performances in national high school history compared to statistics compiled by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
He led his team to a 60-29 win against District 8-3A opponent North Vermilion to close the regular season.
Jones rushed for 616 yards on 27 carries and nine touchdowns. Of the top all-time national single-game rushing totals, the 616 yards would rank No. 6 if included on the National Federation of State High School Associations' list found on its website.
Berwick (5-5 overall, 3-2 in District 8-3A) will enter the Class 3A playoffs as the No. 22 seed and will travel Nov. 9 to face Opelousas-based Northwest High, the No. 11 seed.
The North Vermilion Patriots (5-5, 2-3) missed the playoffs.
After Friday’s career-high night, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Jones quickly pointed out Friday’s performance was far from a solo effort.
"Our offensive line did a great job," he said. "I was just running behind them, having fun."
Jones said he ran to the best of his ability using his "God-given talent."
"It's really not much kudos to me,” he said. “It's kudos to my offensive line. They allowed me to do everything I did," Jones said.
Berwick Coach Mike Walker said the performance by Jones Friday and his 417-yard rushing game Sept. 28 against Ascension Episcopal were "two of the best individual effort games I've ever seen."
North Vermilion allowed Berwick to run the ball, and the Panthers stuck to the rushing attack with Jones, Walker said.
"Josh Jones and the offensive line did a great job ... executing the blocking schemes and just a great individual effort by him," Walker said.
Members of Berwick's offensive line expressed what being part of the effort meant to them.
"We just witnessed history," said Seth Giroir, a left guard and tackle. "Running backs like Josh Jones, those don't come by all the time. He really is a special running back. And to be able to block for him really is an honor."
"Tonight was just amazing for everybody," right guard Grant Hebert said.
"We had an amazing running back just run all over the field, pretty much wherever he wanted," Hebert said. "We played with a lot of passion, a lot of determination when our center (Noah Fryou) went out (with an injury). And we just played for him, and we played for this whole school and this whole team."
Tristan McGonagill, who played right tackle and center, said he "just really had fun trusting my team, trusting my O-line, trusting Josh Jones to really run the ball ... believed in my friends and believed in my loyalty to my brothers. They're all family."
Matthew Legendre, a left guard and tackle, said he "just started having fun using everything that was gifted to me by God.”
"It works. Hours and hours of work, months training. It all pays off in the end," Legendre said.
Jones didn't waste any time starting his big night, running the Panthers' first play from scrimmage 59 yards for a touchdown.
North Vermilion answered on its first drive when Malik Criner scored on a three-yard run to tie the game at 7.
In the second quarter, Jones really got going, scoring on runs of 55, 84 and 92 yards. Berwick went into halftime with a 26-14 lead. Jones had 332 yards rushing at halftime.
Even with the incredible performance by Jones, North Vermilion looked very much in the game at the start of the third quarter. On their first drive of the second half, the Patriots scored on an 11-yard run by Criner to narrow the Panthers' lead to 26-21.
Jones went right back to work and scored on a 73-yard run to extend Berwick's lead to 32-21 with 9:14 left in the third quarter. He then got in the end zone for the sixth time Friday, scoring on a 13-yard run on Berwick's next drive.
But North Vermilion wasn't going away yet. Quarterback Darius Gilliam scored on a four-yard run with 2:04 remaining in the third quarter to cut Berwick's advantage to 39-29.
However, Jones continued his dominance in the fourth quarter and scored three more times on runs of 32, 16 and 44 yards.
Due to the outstanding rushing feat by Jones, Berwick didn't need much of a passing game. Quarterback Mitchell Sanford was 2-of-7 passing for six yards. Sanford did help his offense, though, by intercepting two passes as a defensive back in the second half. Both of Sanford's interceptions led to touchdown runs by Jones.
North Vermilion Coach Brett Blakey spoke highly of what Jones achieved Friday night.
"Hats off to him. He played his tail off tonight," Blakey said.
"He just made us look foolish. And then there were times where we didn't give ourselves a chance. When you're facing a running back that good, you got to do everything perfect almost every play, or he's going to make you pay. And he made us pay nine times tonight," Blakey said.