Three weeks before their nationally televised game in Las Vegas, the Armwood Hawks have been dealt the proverbial rotten hand.
Senior tailback Matt Jones, a University of Florida commitment and the projected linchpin of the 2011 Hawks offense, has a slight tear in his right meniscus and is expected to miss the Aug. 26 game at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman.
A Thursday morning MRI exam revealed the tear, which coach Sean Callahan said occurred at a summer camp at the University of Central Florida. Jones can run straight ahead, Callahan said, but can’t cut right or left.
“I could let him play because he can run, but I think as a coach the right thing to do is get him better,” Callahan said. “I don’t think Matt would be happy with his production with the way he would play as opposed to the way he’d play when he’s healthy.”
Jones couldn't immediately be reached Thursday. Callahan said he seemed to respond to ice treatments following the camp, but again began feeling discomfort during seven-on-seven competition. When the Hawks' full-time trainer returned to work Monday, she immediately suggested the MRI exam.
At the most, Callahan said, Jones will miss two games including a Sept. 2 contest against Brandon. The Hawks are idle the following week, making his projected return a Sept. 16 home game against Tampa Bay Tech.
"We're in a seven-team district and the right thing to do is have him ready for those games," Callahan said. "I think in time he'll be happy with the decision. Right now he's struggling."
Jones (6-foot-3, 215 pounds), who committed to UF in the spring, was named by national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming as the nation’s No. 2 “big back” earlier this week. Though dogged by consistency issues last season, he still ran for 1,447 yards.
When he was on, Jones was a dreadlocked beast, unstoppable downhill. He had six games of 100 or more rushing yards in the regular season, but managed only 278 in the Hawks’ first four playoff games.
In the Class 4A state final against Tallahassee Lincoln, he ran for 147 yards including a 79-yard TD run on the second half’s opening play, but wore down from there, citing dehydration issues. Armwood lost 17-14.