A match-up of the two most prolific offenses in the region produced plenty of points Friday, but turnovers proved to be the difference- maker in Jefferson's 38-28 loss to North Oconee.
The Dragons' Bryant Shirreffs threw for 242 yards and four touchdowns but Jefferson (4-1, 1-1) couldn't overcome three fumbles — two of which came on special teams — in its first setback of the season. Click here for game photos.
"We all played hard, but we didn't play necessarily our best," Jefferson senior receiver Will Puckett said. "But we played hard. It's just a tough loss."
Puckett had a huge night nevertheless, catching three touchdown passes from Shirreffs and totaling 67 yards receiving in the losing effort. Donnie Hatfield also hauled in a touchdown reception and finished with 62 yards receiving.
Jefferson's defense came up with some key stops late, which could have given the Dragons a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter. Trailing 35-28 with eight minutes left to play, the Dragons forced a North Oconee punt and had seemingly seized the momentum. But Jefferson fumbled the ball away on the punt return, and the Titans (5-0, 2-0) cashed in with a field goal to provide the final margin of victory.
The game started in similar fashion for the Dragons.
Jefferson gave up a costly first-quarter turnover on special teams when North Oconee picked up a fumble on a botched Dragon punt attempt and raced in for a score to take a 7-0 lead.
The Dragons recovered, however, with Shirreffs tossing touchdown passes to Hatfield (12 yards) and Puckett (10 yards) to take a 14-7 second quarter lead. But North Oconee answered with three straight scores between the second and third quarters to lead 28-14 with 10:09 left in the third quarter.
Shirreffs and Puckett struck again, though, connecting for a 15-yard scoring strike with 7:53 left in the third quarter to cut the lead to 28-21. After the Titans went ahead 35-21 with another third-quarter touchdown, Puckett grabbed his third touchdown reception of the game when he caught a four-yarder from Shirreffs with 10:39 left in the game. That touchdown was set up by a 40-yard reception at the North Oconee five yard line by McKay Dickens.
Jefferson moves on to face Oglethorpe County next week on the road.
"It (the loss) will be tough to bounce back from," Puckett said. "We came in here confident being 4-0 and all, but I think we'll be able to bounce back next week against Oglethorpe."
Tough game for Jefferson, but everyone knows they were better than North Oconee. It was luck alone that won North Oconee the game. Jefferson is definately a top 5 team. In fact, probably only Calhoun, Buford, and Elbert County could beat them without luck.