JONES — Jones sophomore Clayton Sims didn't expect to be the starting quarterback this early in his career.
But after David Cornwell — a highly-touted recruit who is verbally committed to Alabama — transferred to Norman North last summer, it was time for Sims to take over as Jones' signal caller.
After going winless in his first three starts this season, Sims has made impressive strides over the past five weeks — guiding the Longhorns to wins in four of their last five games.
Last Friday night, Sims displayed how far he and his team have come since September in a 21-19 win over ninth-ranked Tuttle.
Sims' 280 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns earned him The Oklahoman's staff selection as the City-Area Football Player of the Week.
“I knew I could fill David Cornwell's shoes,” Sims said. “Losing those first three games kind of troubled us, but I knew we could come back and that I was capable. David is a really great quarterback, and he taught me a lot, but I feel like I've filled those shoes with how I've played lately. I've got to stay focused on continuing to do that.”
Performances like Friday have Sims clearly out of Cornwell's shadow, and beginning to create his own legacy as Jones' quarterback.
He connected on 17 of 27 pass attempts for 238 yards and a touchdown in the win over Tuttle. He also scored a touchdown on the ground while rushing for 42 yards on 12 carries.
Both of Sims' touchdowns capped 80-yard drives. The first, a 1-yard quarterback sneak, put Jones (4-4 overall, 3-1 in District 3A-1) ahead 7-6 in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Sims found Levi Fox for a 47-yard touchdown to put the Longhorns up 21-12. The lead would hold in the second half as Jones controlled the ball and played stout defense to hold on for the win.
“There was some pressure to put up more points in the second half, but I knew we could rely on our offensive line to help us control the ball and our defense to get big stops,” Sims said.
That's another area Sims has improved since September, managing the offense. He says with the speed of the game now much slower than it seemed Week 1, he's been able to focus on limiting turnovers and relying on Jones' talented defense as a recipe for winning.
“It was an eye-opening experience in those first three games,” Sims said. “It was tough losing, but with those being nondistrict games I knew it didn't really matter. From then to now I've progressed and learned a lot. I'm not even nervous at all anymore.”
Through eight games this season, Sims has completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,611 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. He's also scored three times on the ground with 338 rushing yards.
“He's learned a lot throughout the season,” said Jones coach Dave Martin. “He's been able to make some plays with his feet, and he's been able to read coverage a lot better week to week. He's still a work in progress, but he's gained a tremendous amount of ground over the past month and a half.”
The win over Tuttle (6-2, 3-1) currently puts Jones at second place in the district standing, a game behind top-ranked Blanchard.
The Longhorns will host Little Axe this Friday.