Jensen Jones hurdles his way toward the end zone during St. John Neumann's 55-14 romp over Glades Central-Glades Day in a Class 2A regional semifinal Friday night at St. John Neumann. SAMANTHA HUSSEY/SPECIAL TO CSI
He had just rushed for 179 yards and four touchdowns, leading St. John Neumann to its first-ever playoff victory Friday night. So senior quarterback Jensen Jones took a moment to breathe it all in.
“The spring game, summer workouts, 5 a.m. practices, two-a-days … all the hard work we put in, it was all worth it,” Jones said after guiding the Celtics to a surprisingly lopsided 55-14 victory over Belle Glade-Glades Day.
“This was a really tough team. We just played extremely well tonight.”
Jones’ father, head coach Damon Jones, couldn’t have agreed more.
“This team is so dialed in right now. They’ve come a long way,” said Coach Jones, whose team improved to 10-1 on the season. “I have a really good coaching staff on both sides of the ball. And having a bye week helped. We got our batteries recharged and our guys were flat-out ready to play tonight.”
That preparation, apparently, is what sets Neumann apart. The Celtics, once again, appeared to be the smaller, slower and less-athletic team. Yet they won by 41 points. Go figure.
Friday’s game was not just Neumann’s first playoff victory; it was the Celtics’ first postseason home date since the program was started in 1980. (The 38 years in between included a 12-year dark period before the once-disbanded program was re-booted in 2000).
Now, the Celtics will get two straight playoff games on their home field, as they’ll host Hialeah-Champagnat (7-5), which advanced with a 24-16 win over Moore Haven. Champagnat thumped Neumann 44-12 in last year’s regional semis on its way to winning the Class 2A state championship.
“You couldn’t ask for a better scenario,” Coach Jones said. “Thanksgiving weekend, cool weather, a chance to knock them out. We’re gonna have our hands full, but we’re looking forward to it.”
“Playing Champagnat culminates this season perfectly, especially since they were state champs,” Jensen Jones said.
There were a few key plays that helped swing the pendulum in Neumann’s favor against Glades Day:
• Sparked by Andrew Saluan’s 39-yard fumble return, the Celtics sprinted out to an early 21-0 lead.
• With 7:21 left in the second quarter, Jones hesitated while waiting for his blockers — a la LeVeon Bell — then darted 25 yards to paydirt to make it 28-14. The Gators had just scored back-to-back TDs to make it a one-score game.
• On the final play of the first half, Glades Day’s Jacob Camacho dropped a touchdown pass that would have trimmed the score to 35-21. Big momentum swing.
• If the Gators’ bubble wasn’t burst yet, Jones let all the air out of it on the first play of the third quarter, bolting 65 yards up the middle to put the Celtics ahead 42-14.
Game, set, match.
From that point, Glades Day junior quarterback Anthony McPhee — who accounted for seven touchdowns in last week’s 39-29 win over First Baptist Academy — was mostly bottled up by the swarming Celtics defense.
Jensen Jones didn’t want to address his impending college choice, saying he’s been too busy anyway during playoff time.
“I’m just living the life,” he said. “Right now I’m on Cloud Nine.”