Blocked FG gives Dragons win fourth straight in rivalry
Zach Allen and his Jefferson teammates were flat-out spent by game’s end Friday night, but Allen had one more play left in him.
The Dragon senior defensive end and fullback blocked Josh Swistak’s 37-yard field goal attempt as time expired to preserve a 17-14 Dragon victory and give Jefferson’s 12th graders a career sweep of rival Commerce.
“Our whole team is tired,” Allen said of the game’s final moments. “We’re all going both ways. We’re trying to swap in people … I mean, it’s nerve-racking. Everything about it is.”
But Jefferson could finally exhale after Allen’s block.
Besides saving the game, Allen said there was another motivating factor at work when Commerce lined up for its final kick.
“I remember two years ago, when my brother was playing and he blocked that last kick (against Commerce),” Allen said. “And I remember I got chewed out so bad for not even going on the play, so I gave it my all on that last kick and went after it.”
With their fourth straight win in this series, Allen and Jefferson’s 15 other seniors will graduate having never lost to Commerce.
“It feels amazing,” Allen said. “I know every one of my brothers has been playing with me since seventh grade at Jefferson and we’ve never been beaten by Commerce and we didn’t want to start now.”
Senior tight end and defensive end Hoytes Damons echoed Allen’s comments.
“I think we’re going to go down in history for doing that,” he said. “I’ve got to say thanks to all the other players who helped us last year and the past few years.”
A few of the seniors’ younger teammates helped out this year’s cause.
Junior Drequn Sewell and sophomore Bryant Shirreffs both scored touchdowns, while junior Asher Orr kicked a 27-yard field goal as Jefferson secured the most nerve-racking victory of its four-game winning streak over Commerce.
Orr’s field goal with 7:26 left in the third quarter broke a scoreless tie, followed just over a minute later by Sewell’s seven-yard touchdown run to put the Dragons up 10-0.
Shirreffs then gave the Dragons a seemingly comfortable 17-6 lead at the 8:25 mark in the fourth quarter with a one-yard score. The sophomore, who transferred from Athens Academy, finished 10-of-13 for 95 yards through the air in his first Jefferson-Commerce game and first start under center for the Dragons.
“I was really excited at the beginning of the game,” Shirreffs said. “As the game progressed, my composure got a little bit better. I thought our offense did a really good job. Our line was blocking extremely well and our tailbacks did a good job running the ball.”
Dragon senior Chris Jackson ran for 64 yards on six carries. His third quarter runs of 26 yards and 29 yards set up Jefferson’s field goal and first touchdown. Jackson, however, played sparingly after that due to cramps.
Jefferson finshed with 203 total yards, rushing for 108 and passing for 95.
Defensively, Cain Finch picked off a pass in the third quarter and returned the ball to the Commerce 36. Jefferson scored three plays later on Sewell’s seven-yard touchdown run.
Commerce lost despite rushing for 271 yards. Most of that came via a stellar night from quarterback Cody Streetman, who ran wild with 185 yards on 32 carries and two touchdowns.
Jefferson coach T. McFerrin said he and his staff were “completely surprised” by Commerce’s offensive game plan and use of its quarterback. Jefferson had prepared all week for Commerce’s wishbone and double slot attack, but the Tigers came out running Streetman as a single-wing back essentially instead.
“It looked almost like Tim Tebow with what they were doing on offense,” McFerrin said. “I can’t say enough about Streetman.”
Allen said the Tigers did a good job of blocking for their quarterback.
“They were bringing eight people to one side,” Allen said of Commerce’s rushing success, “and he (Streetman) was just following them.”
Streetman ripped off runs of 28 and 30 yards in the fourth quarter to set up his one-yard score with 5:24 left in the game to cut the Dragon lead to 17-12. Streetman then tacked on the two-point conversion to bring the Tigers within a field goal.
On the final possession of the game, Commerce drove from its own four to the Jefferson 20, but the Tiger rally ended when Allen got a hand on Swistak’s potential-game tying kick.
Commerce dominated the line of scrimmage and the time of possession early, holding the ball for all but 1:05 of the first quarter.
Jefferson ran just two plays in the opening period.
The first half ended in a 0-0 deadlock, though Jefferson did start to get moving offensively in the second quarter once the Dragon defense finally got Commerce’s clock-eating offense off the field.
“I think it’s more that we had the ball more that made our success (later on),” Shirreffs said, noting Jefferson’s very limited snaps in the early going.
With Friday’s win, Jefferson continued its recent hold on the rivalry, but McFerrin praised both Dragons’ and Tigers’ grit in what was a physically-draining contest between two long-time rivals.
“Both teams just played their guts out,” he said.
NOTES: Cody Berryman graded out highest on the Jefferson offensive line … Jason Demos, making his first start, had 12 tackles … Finch, in addition to his big third-quarter interception had a huge 47-yard rugby style punt that pinned the Tigers inside their five for the final drive … Carson Newman had 13 tackles at outside linebacker to lead the team.
Fannin Co. 17, Gilmer Co. 14
Banks Co. 40, Social Circle 14
Union Co. 40, Towns Co. 7
West Hall 18, East Hall 6
8B-AA Jefferson 17, Commerce 14
Elbert Co. 20, Stephens Co. 14
Jackson Co. 14, Johnson (Gainesville) 8
North Oconee 42, Arabia Mountain 7
Hart Co. 14, Franklin Co. 14
Athens Christian 28, Oglethorpe Co. 19
White Co. 21, East Jackson 14