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Jefferson needs 3 OTs to slip past Fitzgerald

POSTED: November 30, 2012 11:41 p.m.

JEFFERSON — With a 31-16 lead during the fourth quarter, the Jefferson Dragons didn’t imagine that it would take three overtimes to advance to the state semifinals.

But the Dragons (12-1) needed that much extra time to defeat the Fitzgerald Purple Hurricanes 53-51 Friday night in Jefferson.

Jefferson advanced behind the arm of quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, who found Tristen Jackson on a 5-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 51-51 in the third overtime. The Dragons went for the 2-point conversion and Shirreffs found Sammy Williams for the game-winning score.

Next week, Jefferson is host to Greater Atlanta Christian, which defeated Early County on Friday night.

“Unbelievable. I’m just so proud of our players for not quitting,” Jefferson coach T. McFerrin said. “(Players) have a lot of character and courage. I’m just so proud of them.”

Shirreffs led the Dragons’ offense with 235 yards passing and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns.

“I’m (tremendously) proud of our kids, being down two scores and the way Jefferson was playing, it would’ve been easy going into that fourth quarter to bow out,” Fitzgerald head coach Jason Strickland said.

The game only saw two punts and two sacks total. Fitzgerald committed the only turnover of the game with 1:09 left in the third quarter, which led to Williams’ second touchdown of the game and a 31-16 lead.

Fitzgerald outscored Jefferson for the rest of regulation, 15-0.

Ron Swain scored all three of Fitzgerald’s touchdowns in overtime. However, they were only able to connect on one of three two-point conversion attempts.

For Jefferson, Shirreffs ran in the first touchdown of overtime. Then, Jackson rushed in the second touchdown to send the game to a third extra period.

Fitzgerald tried to pull out at the stops from the beginning of the game. An onside kick started the game, but the Dragons’ special teams wasn’t fooled.

After recovering, Shirreffs marched the Dragons’ offense downfield and scored the first touchdown of the game on a 20-yard run with 9:50 left in the first quarter.

The Purple Hurricanes responded when Manuel Chavez connected on a 30-yard field goal to make it a 7-3 game with 4:02 left in the quarter. On the play before, the Purple Hurricanes had a touchdown called back by a holding call.

Shirreffs again led the Dragons downfield, connecting with Donnie Hatfield for a 4-yard touchdown and 14-3 lead after one quarter.

The next drive for the Purple Hurricanes’ offense didn’t take long. They scored in just over one minute, going four plays including a 40-yard pass from Romarius Gaulden to tight end Kevin Coney.

Larry Stewart finished the drive off with an 11-yard touchdown run, cutting the Dragons’ lead to 14-10.

On the Dragons’ next possession, the offense was unable to convert a fourth-and-2 and turned the ball back over. Jefferson’s defense returned the favor, holding the Purple Hurricanes’ offense to fourth-and-8 and disrupting the pass attempt to give their offense another shot before halftime.

The Dragons’ offense didn’t waste the chance. Facing a fourth-and-2 on the Purple Hurricanes 6-yard line, Williams pounded his way to the end zone for the touchdown, and a 21-10 lead at halftime.

The Purple Hurricanes started the third quarter off with a dominating drive, taking seven minutes and 35 seconds off the clock. Swain punched the touchdown in from 3 yards out, but they failed to convert the 2-point conversion and the Dragons maintained a 21-16 lead.

The Dragons’ offense stalled on their next drive, but kicker Chandler Schlutow connected on a 44-yard field goal to boost their lead to 24-16.

The Dragons’ defense then came up with a big play when senior lineman Todd Brown recovered a Fitzgerald fumble. The offense capitalized on the turnover, Shirreffs connecting with wide receiver Dalton Hill on 44-yard pass play down to the 3-yard line.

Three plays later, Williams rushed in for his second touchdown, giving the Dragons a 31-16 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Gaulden responded for Fitzgerald, taking just one play to run 52 yards for a touchdown. Stewart pounded in the 2-point conversion to cut Jefferson’s lead to 31-24 with 10:51 left.

With 8:04 left to play, Swain broke loose for his second touchdown of the game to tie the game at 31-31.

After forcing Jefferson to give the ball back on downs, Fitzgerald marched downfield for a potential game-winning field goal, but the Dragons’ defense blocked the kick, forcing overtime.

Jackson rushed for 31 yards and one touchdown. He also had three receptions for 49 yards and the game-tying touchdown in the third overtime.

Williams finished with 45 yards rushing and two touchdowns. His only catch was the game-winning two point conversion.

Tight end Hatfield caught four passes for 35 yards and one touchdown. Hill came up with two big catches for 73 yards. Both catches set up touchdowns for Jefferson.

Fitzgerald’s Stewart and Swain combined for 275 yards on the ground and seven touchdowns. Gaulden also rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns.


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