CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The drums started beating for Oak Hill running back Jalen Jones last season.
Even with George Washington's Ryan Switzer wrapping up his second straight Kennedy Award as the state's top player, Jones was starting to open some eyes around West Virginia, and he led all state athletes with 197 points scored in the regular season.
The beat started to get a little louder in the playoffs when Jones led the Red Devils into a meeting with Cabell Midland, the No. 1 seed in Class AAA. Oak Hill fell 52-20, but Jones flashed his considerable skills, running for 135 yards and two touchdowns and returning a kickoff 60 yards to set up a score.
The drums are getting even louder now that Jones, a 5-foot-7, 160-pound senior, has helped the Red Devils again make the postseason with the No. 9 seed, earning them a date at No. 8 George Washington (8-2) in the opening round. Kickoff is set for 7:30 Friday night at Steve Edwards Sr. Field in South Hills.
Jones, considered one of the top candidates for this year's Kennedy Award, comes into the game with 1,535 and 20 touchdowns on 191 carries.
He's sparked the Red Devils to an 8-2 record, including wins against two playoff teams - AAA Lewis County and AA Nicholas County. Oak Hill's only losses have come to unbeaten Point Pleasant (No. 4 seed in AAA) and Bluefield (No. 3 seed in AA).
"He's a very talented running back,'' said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. "He punts, he kicks, he returns kicks, he's everywhere. He's a lot like Ryan was for us. They do a real nice job of getting him the ball.''
The threat of Jones breaking off a long gainer at any time makes the rest of Oak Hill's skill corps all the more dangerous.
Running backs Jarrell Green (737 yards, six TDs) and K.K. Goodman (644 yards, 14 TDs) also carry solid numbers, and Deonte Scruggs has thrown for 527 yards and four scores, with Goodman his top target (14 catches, 223 yards, two TDs).
"Jalen is one of the keys to our offense,'' said Oak Hill coach Eddie Souk. "A lot of people key on Jalen, but we have other kids in the backfield. We think all of them can play.''