JONES — When David Cornwell stepped off the plane in Bamako, Mali, a little over a year ago, the first thing he noticed was the smell.
“It's just different,” said Cornwell, now Jones' quarterback. “It smells like burning firewood all the time.”
Right in the middle of the high school football season, Cornwell was literally half a world away on a mission trip to the West African country.
The trip has become something of a family tradition for the Cornwells. Ron and Debbie's older son, Daniel, had taken a trip to Mali as a sophomore as well.
The Cornwells had lived in Omaha, Neb., for most of David's life.
Their church, Christ Community Church, had long been involved in mission work in the country. David had worked with the church's Meals for Mali program, packing pre-made meals to send there.
He was excited about the trip but wasn't sure about the timing of it or his future once he returned to the U.S.
Cornwell expected to start as a sophomore at Millard South High School in Omaha.
The team had gone to the state championship game the year before and had a string of quarterbacks over the last decade who had started as sophomores and remained in place until graduation.
“I knew the system,” Cornwell said. “I was a ball boy, and by the time I stepped into freshman ball, I was next in line.”
Everything seemed perfect until his parents told him they were moving to Jacksonville, Fla., because of his father's job.
Cornwell thought the fit, football-wise at least, was a good one. He was in a recruiting hotbed and would play for former NFL quarterback Mike Loyd at Ponte Vedra High School.
Just more than six months after moving, though, Ron found out he would need to move back west. The family decided to move to Jones.
That was several months away, though.
For now, the family needed to decide on the best plan for Cornwell's education.
Cornwell could stay in school in Florida, knowing he would likely be uprooted by year's end, or he could homeschool for several months and prepare for the mission trip, take his ACT and focus on his mother's health.
Debbie had a thyroid condition for nearly 20 years but had been suffering bouts of insomnia and had lost more than 20 pounds in less than a month. At the time, doctors thought the symptoms were unrelated to the illness she'd been treated for previously.
“I was worried about that before,” Debbie said of David's reaction to another big life change. “But his attitude was one of, ‘I just want mom to be healthy and to just learn and grow.'
St. Mary (2-3) at Jones (4-1)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Noteworthy: St. Mary's Mikee Anthony has rushed for 638 yards and nine touchdowns. ... Jones' Taylor Bilyeu has 69 tackles and 380 rushing yards. ... Randal Case has six interceptions for the Longhorns. ... Two of St. Mary's three losses have come by six points, including an overtime loss to Christian Heritage. Its wins have come by an average of 46 points.