Late Jefferson rally falls short against powerhouse Buford
The careers of Jefferson’s seniors ended Friday against Buford in the second round of the state playoffs, but the Dragons seemingly did everything in their power to put that moment on hold.
Jefferson (11-1) rallied from a 30-14 fourth quarter deficit — scoring a touchdown, tacking on a two-point conversion and recovering an onside kick — but coughed the ball up on a potential game-tying drive in a 30-22 loss to Buford (11-1) at home.
“I’m still upset that we lost, but I’m really glad that we brought it back, because everybody thought it was going to be a blowout,” Jefferson senior running back J.J. Damons said. “We just fought hard. I guess we didn’t fight hard enough.”
It was Damons’ 49-yard touchdown reception and subsequent two-point conversion that cut Buford’s lead to 30-22 with 4:53 left.
Jefferson then rolled the dice and recovered an onside kick, setting it up at its own 48 with a chance to pull even with the Wolves.
The Dragons seemed on target to do so, moving to the Buford 21 in three plays. But Jefferson fumbled the ball away on the fourth play of the drive with 3:18 left, which sealed the victory for Buford and a second-round playoff exit for the Dragons.
Instead of looking forward to another round of the playoffs, Jefferson’s players now have to look forward to winter sports. But the football season won’t soon be forgotten.
“I don’t even want to leave,” Damons said. “We’ve got basketball season starting. I’ll probably get a week off and go back and relax and reminisce.”
Buford, playing the unfamiliar role of a no. 2 seed in the state playoffs, jumped out to a 10-0 lead Friday, but Jefferson got on the board with a 25-yard touchdown run from senior running back Caleb Meek in the second quarter.
The Wolves were able to limit the ground-oriented Dragons’ rushing attack for most of the night, however, so Jefferson went to the air for points the rest of the evening.
With the Dragons down 17-6 late in the first half, senior quarterback Darius Minor hit senior receiver Tyler Porter for a nine-yard touchdown pass and found Porter again for the two-point conversion to cut the Buford edge to 17-14 at halftime.
Buford appeared to have put the game away in the second half with touchdown runs in the third and fourth quarters, but Minor and Damons wouldn’t let the Wolves off the hook.
With just under five minutes left, Minor threw deep down the left sideline to Damons, who caught the ball over a Buford defender for a 49-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 30-20. Damons then tacked on the two-point conversion to narrow the deficit to eight.
“I didn’t think I had it in me at first,” Damons said of the touchdown grab. “I dropped two balls today (Friday), so I was like, ‘I guess I’ve got to get something in.’ I guess I got it when we needed it.”
But it wouldn’t be enough.
Following Jefferson’s onside kick and drive-ending turnover, Buford knocked out two first downs and punted the ball to Jefferson 10 with seven seconds left.
At that point, the Dragons were out of comebacks.
With the loss, Jefferson finishes the season at 11-1. The season included a perfect 9-0 record in region play and another Region 8-AA title.