With their backs against the wall in enemy territory, the Jefferson Dragons found a way to win.
“That’s what champions do,” exclaimed Hall to his team as the Dragons celebrated a 61-57 win over Heard County Friday night.
Facing a 10-point deficit with eight minutes remaining in regulation, Jefferson quarterback Evan Shirreffs came off the bench to lead two quick scoring drives that sealed a four-point Dragon victory over the Braves.
Shirreffs, who was injured (thumb) in week five of the regular season, hadn’t played a snap in six weeks prior to the fourth quarter on Friday. Shirreffs led the Dragons downfield with a hurry-up passing offense before Tristen Jackson scored on a nine-yard run to cut the Dragons’ deficit to three points. The Dragon defense then forced a Heard County turnover on downs, giving Shirreffs and the Dragons about two minutes to put some points on the board.
With only 1:06 left in regulation, Shirreffs connected with T.J. Skelton on a nine-yard scoring strike to put the Dragons up 61-57. With the final seconds of the game ticking away, the Jefferson defense forced Heard County to turn the ball over on downs and Shirreffs took a knee as the Dragons earned a ticket to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
“I was on the sideline ready to go in the whole game,” Shirreffs said. “When they called my name, I knew I was going to give it my all for my team and my brothers out there. This may be the best feeling of my life.”
“We practiced these situations all year – two-minute drills,” said senior offensive lineman Jordan Tyler. “We had prepared ourselves. We knew we had to just do what we were coached to do and focused on executing.”
Battling in poor conditions, the defending Class AA state champions advanced to 10-2 in a statistically wild game. Heard County’s running back Duranta Dunson rushed for 490 yards and scored five touchdowns, while the Dragons tallied approximately 500 yards of total offense.
Skelton put the Dragons up early in the first quarter on a 55-yard touchdown run. Tristen Jackson ran in the Dragons second score from 15-yards out, then Skelton connected with Dalton Hill on a 3-yard touchdown pass.
Momentum swung towards Heard County early in the second quarter as the Braves went up 26-21, but Jefferson responded with a 38-yard scoring run by Isaiah Blake and a 6-yard touchdown pass from Skelton to Chandler Thompson.
In the third quarter, Skelton delivered a 38-yard touchdown pass to Hill and Blake rushed for another five-yard score.
Jackson led the Dragon rushing attack with 20 carries for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Blake had 20 carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Blake also added 49 yards receiving.
Skelton rushed for 113 yards and one touchdown, and went 7 of 12 passing for 82 yards and four touchdowns and also caught a touchdown.
Shirreffs was 5 of 8 through the air with 69 yards and a touchdown. Dalton Hill had two receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown.
Kendrick Robinson led the Dragon defense with five tackles.