Jefferson scores 42 points in second half, blows out Rabun County
JEFFERSON answered any questions regarding a letdown Friday with opportunistic defense, a stout running game and an avalanche of second-half points in a 55-7 belting of Rabun County on the road.
The Dragons (5-1, 3-0) led just 13-7 at the half but exploded for 42 second-half points and rushed for 355 yards in their fifth win in a row. Jefferson also forced five turnovers, picked up six sacks and had two defensive scores. Click here for photos.
With the lopsided win, the Dragons successfully maintained the momentum gained from the previous week’s 31-0 shelling of no. 6 Washington-Wilkes.
“We knew that Rabun County had nothing to lose,” said Jefferson defensive end Tyler Bowen, who had five tackles, two forced fumbles and two sacks. “We knew it was their Super Bowl. We knew we had to come and play, and we couldn’t be cocky. So we came out, we executed and we played together and we won the football game.”
The Dragons remained unbeaten in region play and assumed sole possession of first place with yet another blowout of an 8-AA opponent.
But Jefferson coach T. McFerrin noted that there were some nervous moments when the score was 13-7.
“The first half was scary,” he said. “But we kept shooting ourselves in the foot. We had all kinds of chances and couldn’t score and (had) 55 yards in penalties, I think. It’s the same old story about penalties … We dropped balls and overthrew. It was just a bad first half.”
Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs led the way on the ground with 152 yards and three touchdowns. Jefferson didn’t attempt a pass in the second half.
“Timing was off passing in the first half,” said Shirreffs, who now has three 100-yard rushing games this year. “So we ran it and they couldn’t stop us … We killed them in the second half with the running game. We didn’t need to pass.”
Shirreffs finished 10-of-22 with 103 yards passing and one interception in the first half before Jefferson decided to go to its ground game exclusively.
“We decided we were going to try to run at them in the second half and we certainly did,” McFerrin said. “And the defense played great. I was really proud of them … They hung in there, because they (Rabun County) are a good offensive team. They’re really scary.”
Behind another solid game from their offensive line, the Dragons rushed for over 300 yards for the first time this year. The Jefferson offensive front was down a starter, but Todd Brown filled in for Ethan Hix at tackle and the line enjoyed what probably was its second-best game of the year — behind the Washington-Wilkes game — according to McFerrin.
Jefferson found most of its ground success with the power running game with toss sweeps to Sammy Williams — who finished with 81 yards and a touchdown — and in the option game.
“I’m glad we can mix it up every week and be successful,” Shirreffs said. “It was definitely the passion and drive that carried us through the second half.”
In addition to Shirreffs and Williams, Jefferson got contributions on the ground from Tristen Jackson, who ran for 61 yards and a touchdown, and Antonio Strickland, who rushed for 19 yards and one touchdown.
Jefferson got bookend defensive scores to begin and end the game.
Bowen forced the first turnover of the night, sacking Rabun County quarterback Wes Holcombe in the first quarter and ripping the ball loose. Fellow defensive end Rufus Whitfield picked up the loose ball and lumbered 35 yards for the touchdown to give Jefferson a 7-0 lead.
“My teammate Tyler Bowen made the sack, and saw the ball going, so I picked it up and started running,” Whitfield said. “There the end zone was and I scored.”
Said Bowen: “I saw the ball, and I knew then we had to go for it. Because I knew that would be the turning point of the game right there — start it off quick.”
Whitfield said the moment was plenty exciting.
“A lot of adrenaline was rushing through my body,” the junior said. “I didn’t know what to do.”
Trent Sorrells capped Jefferson’s night by picking off a fourth-quarter pass and returning it 84 yards for a score with 2.5 seconds left in the game to push the lead out to 48 points.
Austin Mixon and Wesley Simonton also had interceptions in the Dragons’ dominating effort. Simonton finished with 14 tackles to up his team-leading total to 77. He also had a tackle for loss, giving him 15 for the year — also a team-best.