There were times last season when Isaiah Jones was sent in during mop up time and he’d over think or get out of position.

His instincts were a scrambled mess.

“I couldn’t really find my place,” Jones said. “It was kind of hard as good as we were last year and I told myself I’d work hard and never let it happen again. I was going to contribute anyway I could.”

When a player isn’t playing instinctively and hesitating instead of just reacting it leads to a bad play and a place on the bench.

It seems like 100 years ago for the Mountain Pointe senior.

Jones has developed into a vital part of Mountain Pointe’s linebacker corps as the top-ranked Pride heads into Friday’s Division I state semifinal against Desert Ridge at McClintock.

“Now, I am locked in and it’s a good feeling,” he said. “You could tell we were going to be something special and it’s great being part of it.”

Jones came into the program as a 5-foot-8, 150-pound defensive back, but as he got bigger — 5-11, 195 — he moved closer to the line of scrimmage.

“Jones is one of the most improved players on the team,” Vaughan said. “When he first started he was a cornerback and for awhile he was too small to play linebacker. We always knew he was going to be pretty good, but he was kind of out in between.”

Jones, who had eight tackles against Red Mountain last week, has been starting at outside linebacker all year. He has three tackles for the loss, a fumble recovery and sack on the season.

He doesn’t have eye-popping numbers but he is playing his role.

“The linebackers are the heart of the defense and we have some of the best backers out there,” Jones said. “You don’t have to try to do too much because there is always someone there to make the play. It all happens in front of us and we help (the defensive line) lineup.”

It’s been quite the transition considering he wasn’t even sure where he was supposed to lineup last season.

“It just shows how far I’ve come,” Jones laughed. “I wasn’t happy with where I was last year and knew something had to change.”

Fellow outside linebacker Trey Lauer, who also made the transition to linebacker from defensive back, said Jones’ development isn’t surprising.

“He grew into that physical guy and became a linebacker,” Lauer said. “You could see it coming into this year. He has come into his own and it is part of maturing and being a good fit for the team.”

Jones, who has a 3.0 GPA and plans on attending Arizona if a college opportunity in football doesn’t come his way, is proud to walk on the field as a starter on what is considered the state’s top team.

“I’m playing for my family,” he said. “I know my parents liked coming to games (last year), but now that I am out I feel like I am playing for them.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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