It's practically impossible to separate Richard Mounce and Marquan Jones. That fact was driven home Friday night when Jones tied a national record and Mounce just missed one as Blythewood, S.C., exploded during a spectacular 84-41 Class AAA playoff victory over Blue Ridge. The teams combined for 1,200 yards.
Jones used his 4.45 speed and 35-inch vertical jump to grab 17 passes for 376 yards, and his eight touchdown catches tied the national record set in 1998 by Earvin Johnson of Los Angeles Cathedral. Mounce completed 27-of-39 passes for 549 yards, and his nine touchdown passes were just one short of the national record. He threw only one interception.
Blythewood (10-1), a second-year high school near Columbia, is the first South Carolina football team to win a regular-season region championship in its first varsity campaign. The Bengals fielded only a JV team last year.
"We've really challenged them because most new schools have struggled," said coach Jeff Scott, son of Clemson assistant head coach Brad Scott. "They've been throwing and catching for a year and a half [with a lot of offseason work].
"Jones is a phenomenal athlete. He has very quick feet, great hands and vision. He is a great route runner. They have great chemistry together. Mounce has that 'it' factor. Whenever things break down in the pocket, he stays calm and is able to make plays. He has a very strong arm and is very accurate."
Scott moved Jones from quarterback to receiver as a freshman, but there is no jealousy because he already has made a commitment to attend Clemson. "The most [TD catches] I'd had before was three and then the coach called the dogs off," Jones said. "It's playoff time and we had to make a statement. I was fortunate. I am a firm believer in God and I am blessed. I try to keep humble. It was not just me, but also my quarterback and linemen."
Mounce, who has a 3.75 GPA, has committed to Clemson for baseball. He had six TD passes in an earlier game this fall. "The game definitely was exciting," he said. "[Jones] was getting open. I've got to give a lot of credit to him. I'd hit him for about 10 or 12 yards and he'd take it 50 yards. He probably made me look a little better than I am. We've been best friends since ninth grade. When a play breaks down and he's covered, he always turns deep. I throw behind him and he comes back."
The acrobatic Jones has an off-field talent that also may serve him well on the field. Scott said Jones can do a standing back-flip twist. "I said, 'Wow, that's pretty impressive, but I don't ever want to see you do it again,"' Scott said, laughing.
Jones, who has been doing flips since he was 5, wowed the other players with an exhibition last summer at the Clemson Football Camp, and he is the reigning Mr. Grand Talent at Blythewood High. On Friday night, Jones leaped over a defender to snare one of his eight touchdown passes. Who knows, some day he may repeat that feat but do it backward.