COLONIE — Donald Jones’ first varsity rep at quarterback for Christian Brothers Academy was a comedy of errors. The sophomore, brought in as a change-of-pace option from starter Jack Gregory, mishandled the shotgun snap, triggering a sequence where four different players had the ball in their grasp before La Salle Institute’s Dominick Nemier ended up pouncing on it 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
The rest of Jones’ snaps?
Those were significantly better.
“It was a tough sight to see on your first varsity snap at quarterback,” Jones said. “It was only up from there.”
Brought in on multiple occasions in Friday’s Week 0 game to run CBA’s wildcat-style package, Jones ran the ball 11 times for 105 yards and a pair of second-half touchdowns to spark the Brothers to a 20-0 victory over La Salle in the “Battle for the Sabre” to give CBA a milestone victory in what was both head coach Bobby Burns’ debut with the team and the maiden game on the new artificial turf field at Puleo Stadium.
“It’s a special thing to open up the field, play for the Sabre, get the win,” Burns said. “It’s a stepping stone forward.”
Jones’ two first-half rushes netted a loss of 10 yards, and while Burns said he was a bit “gun-shy” to immediately throw the sophomore back into the fire, ultimately he put his faith in Jones’ speed and shiftiness.
“He’s electric with the ball in his hands,” Burns said.
Jones ripped off a 64-yard run late in the third quarter, setting up his 1-yard touchdown three plays later and giving CBA a two-score lead for the first time in a game that had been nip-and-tuck for nearly 36 minutes, with CBA struggling to get much forward momentum on offense while La Salle moved the ball efficiently, only to bog down with turnovers and penalties inside CBA territory throughout the night.
“That’s when I felt unstoppable,” Jones said of his game-breaking run.
Burns spent six seasons as the head coach at Troy, posting a 58-4 record and winning back-to-back Class AA state championships in 2016 and 2017. Burns’ most recent Troy team looked capable of capturing a third state title, going 7-0 in the rescheduled “Fall II” season and overwhelming Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake to win the Class A area championship, but the New York State Public High School Athletic Association didn’t hold any state championship events during the 2020-21 academic year due to restrictions brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
His first game at CBA saw his new team — which Burns said was missing a few key players Friday due to COVID-related quarantines — take a while to get going, but the defense forced four turnovers and a turnover on downs on La Salle’s five first-half possessions, all of which breached CBA’s side of the 50-yard-line.
“I’m glad we won,” Burns said. “However, it wasn’t very pretty at all. But, an ugly win’s a heck of a lot better than a pretty loss.”
“I think we stopped ourselves,” La Salle coach John Audino said after his team’s season-opening defeat. “You can’t have five turnovers and win a game, and we had five turnovers in the first half.”
CBA’s offense produced negative net yards until Brendan Simek’s 28-yard touchdown run with 3:17 left in the first half finally allowed the Brothers to breathe a sigh of relief.
“The kids relaxed right after that,” Simek said. “We were able to play our game, and the mistakes we made didn’t really matter.”
LSI 0 0 0 0 — 0
CBA 0 7 7 6 — 20
CBA — Simek 28 run (Roberts kick)
CBA — Jones 1 run (Roberts kick)
CBA — Jones 13 run (Kick failed)