Last year, Jefferson needed an overtime period to beat Rabun County. This time around, the job was done by halftime.
Sammy Williams ran for two first-quarter touchdowns and Dalton Hill ran for one and caught another in the second quarter as Jefferson (1-0) led the visiting Wildcats 36-7 at intermission en route to a 50-14 win Friday. Click here for photos.
“We were fired up for this game,” said Hill, who ran for a seven-yard score on a trick play and caught a 65-yard touchdown pass. “The offense knew what they had to do ... We just knew that once we came out here, we couldn’t drag around. We had to come out here with a fast start.”
Quarterback Evan Shirreffs, who didn’t play in this game last year, threw for 256 yards and a touchdown on 13-of-20 passing. He also added 44 yards rushing. His favorite target was Hill, who finished with 146 yards receiving.
Freshman Colby Wood, making his varsity debut, ran for 74 yards and two touchdowns in the second half as Jefferson reached the 50-point mark for the fourth time in its last seven games.
The Dragons, ranked no. 5 in Class AAA, finished with 479 yards of total offense and 17 first downs. But the offense was only part of the story.
Jefferson’s veteran-laden defense forced three turnovers and recorded a second-quarter safety. Cooper Young, who made the tackle on the safety, enjoyed a huge night with 12 tackles, two pass break-ups and an interception. Maverick McKinney finished with 11 tackles and laid a big-time hit on Rabun County’s Collin Grant in the second quarter, jarring the ball loose from the quarterback for Trent Sorrells to recover. Dontae Wilson finished with 10 tackles.
Jefferson limited Rabun County, an eight-win playoff team in Class AA a year ago, to just 238 yards of total offense.
“We all flew to the ball tonight,” safety Tradd Porter said. “I liked that. Everybody gave all they could. That’s all we can ask for.”
The Dragons, other than allowing a blocked punt, enjoyed special teams highlights as well. Hill, an all-state punter, boomed a 61-yard punt to pin Rabun County at the one-yard line in the second quarter, setting up the safety. Placekicker Gage Lawson had a perfect night, hitting both his field goal attempts (18 and 28 yards) while going 6-for-6 on PATS.
Rabun County hadn’t beaten Jefferson in its last 16 tries (the last win coming in 1955), so the Dragons knew the Wildcats had this game circled on their calendar.
But so did Jefferson.
“We knew that they were ready,” Porter said. “We’ve actually been waiting on this game, too. There was a bunch of talking on the internet or whatever that kind of got everybody going. So we were ready.”
Overall, the season opener showcased both positives and room for improvement, according to coach Ben Hall.
“We did some nice things on both sides of the ball, and we made errors on both sides of the ball,” Hall said, noting that the defense “played lights out again.”
Offensively, Jefferson is still a work in progress according to the coach.
“It’s going to be three or four weeks into the season before we jell like we’ve talked about jelling all year,” Hall said.
NOTES: Hill scored from seven yards out on a gadget play in the second quarter but the play actually called for him to pass. “That backside safety was over T.J. (Skelton), so I just decided to tuck it and run it.” After catching a 65-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, Hill thought he’d scored again in the third quarter when he outleaped a defender for the ball and fell into the end zone. He was ruled out at the one-yard line however … Williams had the hot hand early, scoring from three and eight yards out in the first quarter to give Jefferson a quick 14-0 lead … Coach Ben Hall said his new offensive line, featuring five new starters, is coming along. “Offensively, I’m proud of those guys,” he said. “They continue to get better up front. They just need continued reps.”