THE JEFFERSON Dragons (8-1, 6-0) extended their win-streak to eight and clinched the Region 8-AA championship with a dominant 35-7 victory over Riverside Military Academy (1-8, 1-5).
Jefferson’s first region title since 2009 also ensured home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“Overall I think it has been a really positive season,” said Dragon quarterback Bryant Shirreffs. “We are region champs, which feels great.”
The Dragons wasted no time in getting their high-powered offense firing on all cylinders on homecoming night.
After winning the coin toss and electing to receive, Jefferson drove 75 yards downfield. The drive was capped off by an 11-yard rushing touchdown by junior running back Tristen Jackson.
After forcing an Eagle punt, the Dragons found themselves facing a fourth down decision. Jefferson elected to take a shot at a 42-yard field goal, but the kick sailed wide left, forcing the Dragons to turn the ball back over to Riverside.
Following another Riverside punt and a Jefferson turnover on downs, the Eagles showed a spark on offense when Riverside’s Elijah Holyfield broke a 77-yard touchdown run, tying the score at 7-7 early in the second quarter.
The tie was short-lived, when Shirreffs carried the ball into the end zone from 17 yards out, putting the Dragons up by a score.
Jefferson extended its lead quickly with Shirreffs throwing for touchdowns on two consecutive Dragon possessions; one to Donnie Hatfield and another to McKay Dickens.
Jefferson held a commanding 28-7 lead going into the half.
The Dragons would score once more in the third quarter, when Jackson ran in his second touchdown of the night.
The Jefferson defense held firm throughout the second half, keeping the Eagles out of the end zone for the remainder of the game.
McFerrin said beating Riverside was a challenge.
“They really played hard,” he said. “They played a really good game against us … They have some really good football players. The Holyfield kid is something else.”
Riverside showed the Dragons around five different defensive looks, none of which Jefferson had seen on film, according to McFerrin. Still, the Dragons earned almost 400 total yards of offense — 186 through the air and 202 on the ground.
McFerrin praised his offensive coaches for their adjustments.
“We made game adjustments and took advantage of some of the things they were doing,” McFerrin said.
McFerrin also pointed to the play of the Dragon offensive front against Riverside’s blitzing defense.
“I’m proud of our linemen,” he said. “I was proud of them keeping their poise.”
Jefferson could have had much more yardage if not for a few dropped balls.
“The disappointing thing was the dropped passes,” McFerrin said. “We had 3-4 dropped passes.”
While Shirreffs was enthusiastic about sealing the region title, he feels that his team has the capability to perform at an even higher level.
“We have some more business to get done,” said Shirreffs. “We’ve kind of dropped off lately, so hopefully we can get back on track. I mean, we are winning, but we need to get things rolling a little better.”
Shirreffs was 15-of-21 passing with 186 yards and two touchdowns. He also racked up 81 yards on the ground and one touchdown.
McFerrin was pleased with Shirreffs’ night.
“Bryant Shirreffs had a great game,” McFerrin said. “He played one of his better games.”
Had it not been for a few wide receiver drops, Shirreffs’ yardage “would have been astronomical.”
Jackson finished with 66 yards and two TDs.
Senior linebacker Wesley Simonton led the Dragon defense with 15 tackles on the night.
McFerrin noted the defensive effort of Justin Holcombe, Simonton and Tyler Bowen.