Two years ago, Jones linebacker Taylor Bilyeu was crushed when a broken ankle cut his season short just six games in.
At the time, Bilyeu was a sophomore just starting to make a difference on Jones' defense. He had racked up nearly 100 tackles before the injury.
“We felt like he was going to be a big part even then,” Longhorns coach Dave Martin said. “It was a glaring deal for us not having him as a kid in the backfield and on defense for us.”
Since then, Bilyeu has come back stronger than ever.
Going into Saturday's Class 3A semifinal against Blanchard at 1:30 p.m. at Putnam City Stadium, Bilyeu has 1,105 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing and 161 tackles on the other side.
Bilyeu is still, two years later, trying to make up for missing those games as a sophomore.
Jones' season ended with a 26-20 overtime loss to Davis that season.
“It was devastating,” Bilyeu said. “It was just terrible. I feel like I brought a pretty good amount to the table that year especially on defense and I think the team could've made it lot further if I hadn't have gotten hurt.”
Bilyeu was a huge part of both sides of the ball when Jones made it to the Class 2A finals.
This season, especially early, his offensive role was even a bigger part with the Longhorns breaking in a new quarterback in David Cornwell.
“A kid like him being able to go out there and really pound the football for you, gives you another dimension,” Martin said. “They start to try to drop too many and things like that and Taylor's going to hurt them.”
And lately, Taylor has benefitted from Cornwell's chemistry with his receivers, most notably Randall Case.
Bilyeu is confident Jones' improvements will lead to a different outcome from the first time the Longhorns met Blanchard earlier in the season. Blanchard won that game 28-25.
“The biggest thing in that game was the turnovers,” he said. “If we keep those down and play the way we've been coached, we'll be fine.”
It will be the second rematch for Jones this season.
The Longhorns fell to Perkins in the season opener, 18-15, but blew out the Demons 48-12 in the opening round of the playoffs.
“We learned a lot from that,” Bilyeu said. “We learned tendencies and little flaws that we can pick up on easier the second time.
“It's the same way this week.”