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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Player of the year? Oaks Christian's Malcolm Jones will make a run for it

Especially if given more second-half playing time, the running back will be turning some heads in an expected four-game romp through the playoffs.

November 20, 2009|Eric Sondheimer

It's that time of year in high school football when the player of the year is supposed to emerge, someone who lifts the team on his shoulders and doesn't let go until the championship trophy is kissed.

Running back Malcolm Jones of Westlake Village Oaks Christian is ready to fill the role.

"This is the finale of my high school career, so I'm going to go as hard as I can for as long as I can," he said.

It's a little scary to think what Jones might accomplish during Oaks Christian's expected four-game run through the Northwest Division playoffs if Coach Bill Redell actually plays him the entire game.

Much of the season, he has rarely played in the second half because the Lions (10-0) didn't need him. When called upon, he rushed for 280 yards in 38 carries against Mission Hills Alemany and had 332 yards in 28 carries against Venice. Last week against Ojai Nordhoff, he scored five touchdowns as he tried to get into shape for a playoff run. And he's also an outstanding linebacker.

Redell puts Jones on the same level as the three other top running backs he has coached: Russell White, Marc Tyler and Aaron Ware.

White went to California out of Encino Crespi, Tyler to USC and Ware is a defensive back at UCLA. But Jones might be the most prolific two-way player since Oaks Christian started its program in 2000.

He's a 6-foot, 215-pound senior who combines power with speed and exceptional lower-body strength to make life miserable for those trying to tackle him.

He has scored 99 touchdowns in his career while winning three consecutive section titles. He burst onto the scene three years ago as a freshman after Tyler suffered a leg fracture in a first-round playoff game. Jones was inserted at linebacker and came through with 15 tackles in the CIF state championship Division III bowl game against Santa Rosa Cardinal Newman, returning an interception 64 yards for a touchdown in Oaks Christian's 27-20 overtime victory.

That team included his brother, Marshall, now at USC, Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen and a host of other future Division I college players.

"Being able to play varsity with all those good guys, it was a great time in my life," Jones said. "As the years progressed, I was getting better and better and became more comfortable."

Jones picked UCLA over Stanford as his college choice, and an ex-USC standout, Clay Matthews, predicts that Jones will do just fine for the Bruins. Matthews, who coaches defense at Oaks Christian and played 19 years in the NFL, said: "It's a step up in tempo, and you never know how they'll respond. If I was a betting man, I'd bet he'd do well."

There were college programs that sought to recruit Jones as a linebacker, but running back is the position he wants to try in college, and the playoffs are a great opportunity to show his improvement in speed and vision.

With four or perhaps five games left, there are lots of candidates for player of the year in Southern California.

There's linebacker Jordan Zumwalt of Huntington Beach Edison. He has been so proficient at flattening ballcarriers for the unbeaten Chargers that USC offered him a scholarship.

There's running back Deontae Cooper of Perris Citrus Hill. He has rushed for 2,642 yards and 31 touchdowns. There's quarterback Cody Fajardo of Anaheim Servite. He has rushed for 661 yards, passed for 1,647 yards and thrown just two interceptions. There's receiver Geno Hall of Los Angeles Crenshaw. He has been fabulous for the unbeaten Cougars. There's receiver-defensive back Robert Woods of Gardena Serra. If there were a 10-star college prospect, Woods would be it.

But I have a suspicion that Jones is going to be turned loose over the next month, and everybody is going to be impressed with what they see.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATSondheimer

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