By Jason Chlapek, FNF Coaches Correspondent
August 24, 1992 is a day that will forever be on the minds and in the hearts of Wade Lawson, Jared Jones and Jonathan Jones.
It was on that day nearly 25 years ago that the trio crossed paths for the first time as kindergarteners at Joaquin Elementary School. Of course, Jared and Jonathan Jones already knew each other – they’re twins.
“They (the teachers) put us in separate classes after that (Kindergarten),” Lawson said.
These days, there’s no separating Lawson or the Joneses. They’re all coaching at Joaquin – their alma mater.
Lawson is the Rams’ head football coach and boys athletic director. Jared and Jonathan Jones are the offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively, for Joaquin.
“We always talked about working together one day,” Lawson said. “And it all worked out (this season).”
Lawson isn’t the only person in his family on the Joaquin coaching staff. His father, Mike, is a football and baseball assistant as well.
Lawson, Jared and Jonathan also were in each others’ weddings, and are either fathers or soon to become fathers. Jared and his wife have a one-year-old son, while Jonathan and his wife are expecting a daughter, and Lawson and his wife recently found out that they are expecting.
The three coaches graduated from Joaquin in 2005, where they played football, basketball, baseball and track and field. On the gridiron, Lawson was a running back and linebacker, while Jared and Jonathan were both offensive and defensive linemen.
After graduation, they all enrolled at Stephen F. Austin and graduated from there as well. After earning their degrees, they coached at different schools for a few years.
Lawson, who actually graduated from SFA in 2008, coached at Joaquin that fall before moving to Price Carlisle for a year (2009-10). He returned to his alma mater in 2010, and has been there ever since.
Prior to becoming the head football coach, Lawson was the head baseball coach and offensive coordinator. He earned his promotion to head football in December 2014, and is entering his third season in that position.
Jonathan took a similar path as Lawson. He became a linebackers coach at Pineland West Sabine (2009, 2010) before earning a promotion to defensive coordinator, which he held for four years (2011-14) before becoming the Tigers’ head coach (2015, 2016).
“I like both sides of the football, but defense is the side of the ball that I always coached,” Jonathan said. “I had to learn to get good on defense or else I would get beat.”
Jonathan left West Sabine for Joaquin this spring. He had a good reason to do so.
“My dad was diagnosed with cancer (in 2016), and it’s hard to be far away when your dad is sick,” Jonathan said. “I talked to Wade in the offseason about the possibility of coming back, and the more we talked, the more it became a reality.”
Jared began his coaching career at Hemphill. It was there that he discovered his love for the offensive side of the ball, and he even had a quip for his brother.
“I’ve always leaned more toward scoring points,” Jared said. “Jon’s the dull and boring one so he leans toward the boring side of the ball (defense).”
During Jared’s time at Hemphill, he operated out of the spread and the slot-T. He left Hemphill for Shelbyville in 2012, and when former Dragons coach Jason Ferguson took over the program in 2013, Jared became hooked on the slot-T.
“Coach Ferguson and I visited with (former Rogers/current Liberty Hill coach) Jeff Walker and learned about the slot-T,” Jared said. “I fell in love with that offense from there. Everything is so specific and detailed about the offense.”
Jared was the offensive coordinator for Shelbyville in 2013 and 2014, and the Dragons improved from a 3-7 team in 2012 to 5-5 in 2013 and 9-2 in 2014. When Lawson took over at Joaquin, he hired Jared to be his offensive coordinator.
Lawson replaced Wayne Gandy three years ago – the same coach he, Jared and Jonathan played for. Gandy was a disciple of the double-wing offense, but once Jared came on board, Gandy’s offense was scrapped for the slot-T.
The switch in offenses and the offseason program under Lawson have paid dividends for Joaquin. The Rams were 5-5 in an injury-riddled 2015, went 7-4 a year ago, and have high hopes for bigger and better things in 2017.
“We’re faster and stronger than we’ve ever been,” Lawson said. “We also have a staff full of people we know and trust. Whenever you have something like that, it’s a great thing. We have our heated arguments from time to time, but at the end of the day, we’re all on the same page.”
Joaquin is a member of a solid District 11-2A-Division I, which features Alto, Carlisle, San Augustine and Shelbyville. After finishing second in league play a year ago, Lawson, Jared and Jonathan hope not only for a return to the postseason, but also a district championship and a deep playoff run.
“We’re going to work and put in the time,” Lawson said. “We want to win.”
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