MAKING the one-mile trip down Hwy. 11, Jefferson used a big third quarter to distance itself from neighboring Jackson County Comprehensive High School and clinch the no. 3 seed out of Region 8-AA South. Quarterback Byrant Shirreffs’ opinion of the Dragons’ 31-14 win: Good enough.
“It was one of those games where we didn’t really get better, but we didn’t get worse at the same time,” Shirreffs said.
Jefferson — which led 17-7 at the half — broke the game open with two big scores in the third quarter to build a 24-point lead en route to moving to 4-0 all time against Jackson County. Click here for pictures.
Shirreffs threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Will Puckett with 5:43 remaining in the third to put the Dragons up 24-7, and Andre Daniel — 13 seconds later — added a long fumble return for a touchdown as Jefferson took a commanding 31-7 lead and moved to 3-2 in Region 8-AA South play.
Jackson County coach Billy Kirk said that barrage of third-quarter points in such a short period of time “killed us.”
“That’s the frustrating part,” Kirk said. “But that’s why they say football is a game of inches and a game of seconds.”
Dragon coach T. McFerrin said his team — coming off a loss to Elbert County last week — didn’t play the first half with the intensity that he would have liked but seemed to come to life in the third quarter.
“It got better in the third quarter,” McFerrin said. “The sidelines got more into it and they got much better in the third quarter. I thought we had some energy then.”
McFerrin added that he was very impressed with Jackson County (2-6, 1-4) and said that the Panthers deserved a lot of credit. In fact, he even told Kirk that he believed the Panthers had played their best game of the season.
“They came out ready to play,” McFerrin said. “And they embarrassed us. But we won the ball game. That’s the important thing.”
Shirreffs finished 15-of-21 with 170 yards passing with touchdown passes to McKay Dickens and Puckett. Shirreffs also ran for an 11-yard score, while Asher Orr kicked a 27-yard field goal. Tristen Jackson finished with a career-high 120 yards rushing, while Shirreffs completed passes to seven different receivers. Jefferson finished with 353 total yards.
“We had fun out there,” Shirreffs said. “We had some big plays in the game, and overall, I think I made some new relationships with some receivers that will bode well in the future.”
Shirreffs hit Dickens for a 20-yard tunnel screen pass on fourth-and-nine to put Jefferson on the board on the Dragons’ first drive.
With the game later tied 7-7 in the first quarter, Shirreffs kept for an 11-yard touchdown to put the Dragons up 14-7. Orr capped the first half with his field goal to give Jefferson a 10-point cushion at half time. Then came the big third quarter.
Jefferson’s Carson Newman had another monster game with 15 tackles, four tackles for loss, three sacks and two pass break-ups. Wesley Simonton had 19 tackles, two tackles for loss and one pass break-up.
Jackson County, which honored its seniors Friday, made things interesting in the first half.
Quarterback Jalen Banks scored from six-yards out early in the contest to tie the game 7-7 in the first quarter, capping a carefully-engineered 12-play drive that saw Banks convert a third-and-11 with a pass to Xavier Harper.
Kirk said he felt his team came ready to play.
“I thought our coaches and our kids did an excellent job of executing the game plan,” Kirk said.
Banks finished 12-of-19 on the night with 85 yards passing and 63 yards rushing on nine attempts.
“He gives us an extra dimension with his legs with him being able to run the ball,” Kirk said. “He was a catalyst for us.”
Jackson County threatened with two more first half drives, but those drives stalled due to two big Jefferson sacks.
Kyle Daniel provided the Panthers’ other score with a one-yard plunge in the waning moments of the contest. Jackson County finished with 235 total yards.