It wasn’t a typical night at Memorial Stadium for the Jefferson High School football team. The Dragons are used to slaying their opponents early on without too many mistakes.
However, the Cherokees of Kendrick High School were able to expose some of Jefferson’s weaknesses that were previously nonexistent.
Rodney Carr of Jefferson brought back the kickoff return to the 39-yard line and nearly broke free but his breath-taking run was cut short. After two short runs and not a lot of movement, quarterback Bryant Shirreffs rolled out and drilled a 24-yard pass to Isaiah Blake. Chandler Thompson picked up a few yards for Jefferson and Shirreffs put the Dragons at the 15-yard line. Jefferson had a few struggles on their first down attempts but rebounded with a 14-yard touchdown catch, courtesy of Shirreffs to Donnie Hatfield.
Kendrick came out in the wishbone formation but their offensive stance didn’t fool the Jefferson defense. On the ensuing punt, Carr made a risky catch but made up for what could have been a disaster and took it to the 43-yard line, giving the Dragons great field position. Tristen Jackson finished things off with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Up 14-0 on their next drive, Thompson fumbled, an error that Jefferson usually doesn’t commit. The surge of momentum propelled the Cherokees into Jefferson territory. After knocking on the door for a while, KHS punched one in from one yard out and topped things off with a two-point conversion.
The Cherokees had a quiet drive down field where they utilized the running game to pick up a small yardage while squeezing through defenders.
However, Jefferson answered with a short run to pay dirt by Jackson, who got some assistance by a teammate who helped him keep his balance as he spun into the end zone.
With less than four remaining in the first half, Jefferson was in a crucial third down situation and Shirreffs was heavily pressured by the KHS defense. Adding another score to put Kendrick away early would have been more satisfying but the Dragons settled for a 13-point lead at the half.
Jefferson came out of the locker room fired up out with a 21-8 lead and shut down Kendrick’s running game immediately. Yet, KHS came right back and intercepted a pass from Shirreffs. The Dragons got revenge when a punt by KHS was tipped and the Dragons, allowing them to start their drive in Kendrick’s territory.
It seemed as if the Cherokees practically gave Jefferson its next score as Sammy Williams marched 10 yards into the end zone. On the next possession, the Dragons moved at a turtle’s pace but their patience paid off as Jackson took made his third trip in between the pylons.
Evan Shirreffs, the backup quarterback who led the junior varsity squad to back-to-back undefeated seasons, stepped in for his older brother Bryant and nailed a touchdown pass to Dalton Hill. With a 35-8 lead, Jefferson didn’t have put anything else on the scoreboard but, since it’s the playoffs, you can never be safe. The Dragons made one more journey to end of the field and took a 42-8 win over Kendrick in the first round of the state playoffs. Jefferson will play host to Westminster this Friday. Showtime is set for 7:30 p.m.