Thanks to an effective running game and an opportunistic defense, Jefferson found its way to the state playoffs Friday on something of an off-night.
Sophomore tailback Tristen Jackson ran for two touchdowns in the third quarter and finished with 114 yards on 25 carries as Jefferson (8-2) overcame a 10-7 halftime deficit in a 21-10 win over Dawson County. The Dragon defense forced five turnovers. Click here for pictures.
"The first half, we weren't really getting off the ball as much as we wanted to and we weren't getting penetration," said Jackson, who recorded his third-straight 100-yard game. "Second half, we got fired up and the line was able to move their defensive line better and I broke tackles and was able to get into the open field."
The Dragons beat Dawson County (5-5) 42-14 on Sept. 9, but this one didn't go nearly as easy. Jefferson, however, got the big plays when needed.
The Dragon defense forced three fumbles in the third quarter as Jefferson shutout Dawson County in the second half. The defense supplied the team's only points in the first half with Carson Newman returning a fumble 35 yard to give Jefferson a 7-3 lead in the first quarter.
Newman turned in another stellar night from his defensive end position. In addition to his score, he recorded 17 tackles. Kody McDonald also had a standout night with 11 tackles, one forced fumble, one tackle-for-loss and one interception.
The Dragon defense, like the offense, improved in the second half as it held Dawson County to 196 yards of total offense.
"In the beginning, I'm not going to lie, we played kind of flat," Newman said. "And in the middle, when we were down, we decided to step it up, step it up hard and make sure that you didn't want to run against us."
Offensively, the Dragons finished with 162 yards on the ground, while quarterback Bryant Shirreffs was 7-of-14 for 81 yards through the air.
Jefferson's berth to the state playoffs hung in the balance in the first half as Dawson County scored on a three-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to take a 10-7 lead.
Jefferson attempted to re-take the lead right before the half with a drive to the Dawson County one-yard line. But time ran out on the Dragons when officials said Jefferson didn't get the ball spiked in time as it tried to run one final play.
Jefferson, however, got down to business in the second half, covering 59 yards on just five plays on the opening drive and getting a two-yard score from Jackson to take a 14-10 lead.
"One of our coaches kind of amped us up, started yelling at us and got us to play with more intensity and more fire," Jackson said of halftime. "We came out and showed it in the second half."
Newman said he and his teammates took coaches' half-time words to heart, especially the words of one coach in particular.
"Speeches by coaches, one in particular, Bob Gurley. He doesn't say a lot, but when he does, it motivates," he said.
After picking up a Dawson County fumble on the Dawson County 26 later in the third quarter, Jefferson scored again with Jackson finding the end zone from one yard out to up the advantage to 21-10.
With the win, Jefferson will face no. 2 Calhoun (10-0) on the road next week in the first round of the state playoffs.
Great job by kickoff kicker Chandler Schlutow, putting the ball in the end-zone multiple times to help the defense control the field!!! And great job to Asher Orr for continuing to be consistent in point after kicks!!! :) Proud of our boys and looking forward to next Friday night!!
I am a Dragon fan and have been for years. However I am realist. Jefferson has two chances Friday night slim and absolutely none! The way they have played the past several weeks leads me to this conclusion. Defensivly they have looked good but offensivly they have looked lethargic. However great job guys for getting this far!
You are correct. Calhoun is a beast and has been state runner-up for the last three years to Buford. Two years ago Banks County went over there to face them and lost 73-0. Let's hope that Jefferson will fare much better!