Dragons 27, Panthers 7
Difference maker: Sammy Williams’ spectacular running has been a consistent theme in 2014 and it continued with 126 yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns against Dodge County.
Stat that matters: Jefferson ran 73 offensive plays, compared to Dodge County’s 28.
Turning point: Trent Sorrells’ fumble recovery with Jefferson up 20-7 halted any momentum Dodge County looked to get going into halftime and the second half.
Who’s next: Jefferson (12-0) hosts Blessed Trinity. Dodge County’s season is over.
JEFFERSON — The No. 1-seed Jefferson Dragons put together another dominant performance in the Class AAA state playoffs Friday night at Memorial Stadium, ousting the No. 3-seeded Dodge County Indians, 27-7.
With the win, Jefferson reached 12-0 for the first time in school history. The Dragons next host undefeated Blessed Trinity (12-0) next Friday night in the quarterfinals.
It is the third consecutive quarterfinal appearance for the Dragons.
“It is special. It is special to be undefeated at this point,” Jefferson head coach Ben Hall said about the 12-0 mark and advancing to the quarterfinals.
“I didn’t realize it until today that it would be the first time. It’s not like people around here were walking around talking about being 12-0 for the first time in school history. But we are happy to be here.”
Hall said it is “huge” to have next week’s quarterfinal game at home to avoid distractions that can come with traveling during the playoffs and a holiday break.
“We are looking to have a solid week of practice and have a home game and that’s great,” he said.
“Blessed Trinity, I haven’t really seen them that much, but I know what they have. They are a very good football team.”
Jefferson was led by senior running back Sammy Williams’ 126 rushing yards and three first-half touchdowns.
Freshman running back Colby Wood added 96 yards and one score.
Quarterback Evan Shirreffs continued his hot play from last week, passing for 225 yards. He connected with wide receiver Dalton Hill four times for 104 yards.
“We struggled a little bit at the beginning of the game,” Hill said. “The defensive line for Dodge County, they (were) physical. They were tough and fast. They got through our (offensive) line a couple of times.
“But, luckily, we work through adversity and we pushed through.”
Hill added that penalties and dropped passes can’t continue next week against a solid Blessed Trinity team, but he wasn’t looking so far ahead that he couldn’t appreciate what the team accomplished and what it means for the community.
“I love this town. I love everybody here, the community, the players, the coaches,” he said. “Being 12-0 like this is great. This is my third straight time going to the third round. The team’s great. It’s the coaches that are teaching us well and coaching us the way they should be coaching us. So, we have to give thanks to the coaches.”
T.J. Skelton snagged six passes from Shirreffs for 98 yards.
However, the offense committed two turnovers (interception and fumble), and Hall said they are going to “get that fixed” before next week’s game.
“When you get to this point in the playoffs, you can’t afford turnovers,” he said.
Trent Sorrells led the Dragons’ stellar defensive performance, hauling in an interception and recovering a fumble.
The defense held the Indians’ offense to 139 total yards, 61 of which came on one play.
“Our defense played tough,” Hall said.
Shirreffs found Skelton three times on the game’s opening drive, including a 28-yard first down catch. And with the aid of two offside penalties, Williams finished the drive with an 8-yard scamper to the end zone to give the Dragons an early 7-0 lead.
After Sorrells’ interception on the Indians’ opening drive, the Dragons squandered great field position. After converting on fourth down twice, the Dragons fumbled, giving the Indians new life late in the first quarter.
They wasted little time in converting the mistake into points as running back Kyle Glover scored on the fourth play of the drive from 13 yards away to tie the game at 7-7.
The second quarter belonged to Jefferson as Williams bounced his way for a 12-yard touchdown to cap off a six-play drive with 9:29 left until halftime.
After the Dragons’ defense forced a three-and-out series, Wood scored from 18 yards away for a 20-7 lead.
The Indians thought they had found a second wind as they intercepted Shirreffs’ pass with 2:54 left until halftime. But Sorrells had other plans, recovering an Indians fumble two plays later, giving the Dragons’ offense a short field to work with.
Five plays later, Williams had his third and final touchdown of the game, scoring on a 2-yard run to extend the Dragons’ lead to 27-7 at halftime.
That remained the score throughout the second half.