WINDER — With the star-studded duo of TJ Skelton and Evan Shirreffs on the field for Jefferson, a productive and powerful offense was expected. What was not expected was how the Dragons used almost everybody but Skelton on their way to a 41-7 win over the Winder-Barrow Bulldoggs at W. Clair Harris Stadium in Winder.
“We threw the ball around early, but the way things were going and with the flow of the game, we felt like establishing the ground game was in our best interest,” year Jefferson coach Ben Hall said Friday night.
The Dragons (2-0) cranked out 348 yards on the ground, largely split between Sammy Williams and Colby Wood. Williams had 22 carries for 176 yards and two touchdowns while Wood carried 16 times for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
Shirreffs threw for 200 yards and a touchdown in his second game back from a season-ending injury in 2013. The senior quarterback threw just two interceptions all of last season, and he continued that impressive accuracy Friday with 14 completions on 20 attempts without an interception.
The Jefferson offense had its way against the Winder (0-1) defense, but with minimal impact from senior receiver Skelton. The returning All-State athlete picked up 44 yards receiving with just four catches. On the other hand, Dalton Hill caught six for 113 yards.
“Our receivers, when we’re in our pro personnel, we’re balanced on either side. We’ve got two great receivers ... who are interchangeable. I’m sure there’ll be games where TJ out produces Dalton. These guys aren’t selfish. They understand that,” Hall said.
“We’re hurting,” Winder-Barrow coach Heath Webb said. “We had some guys who were upset because they lost, and that’s a good sign for the program.”
The Bulldoggs had a couple of good chances to make the game interesting early as two drives stalled in the red zone, one a late second quarter drive that ended in a missed field goal from the Jefferson 12, wasting a 75-yard, six-play drive.
Shirreffs found Hill for a 47-yard completion at the close of the first quarter for Jefferson’s first touchdown. The Dragons went up 13-0 when Trent Sorrells found the end zone on a 3-yard plunge and Gage Lawson nailed the PAT.
The Bulldoggs scored late in the third quarter when Noah Chapman tossed a lateral to receiver Brandon Hayes, who found a wide open Bradyn Randall a yard deep in the end zone. The touchdown was set up by a Jefferson fumble deep in its own territory, recovered by Winder’s Drezdin Williams.
“That seemed like a moment where the game could turn in our favor, but we just couldn’t finish,” Webb said.
Defensively, Winder struggled mightily to hold Jefferson’s potent offense in the second half. The Dragons opened up their offense with three fourth quarter touchdowns, one with just about a minute to go as Wood trotted 89 yards on an end-around.
Wood only got the chance because another Winder-Barrow drive stalled deep in the red zone late in the fourth quarter with the score still 34-7.
Running back CeCe Green has been pegged as the workhorse of the new Winder-Barrow offense, but most all of his offensive production Friday came through the air. The junior had 71 yards receiving, but just 3 yards on the ground with eight attempts.
Jefferson’s senior-heavy defense had a lot to do with that, as Hall pointed out.
“When you have a talent like CeCe Green, it’s hard not to key on that guy,” Hall said.
“We should be good on defense. We had nine returning starters off last year’s team. We’re senior-laden and we have great leaders over there.”
The Winder-Barrow defense gave up a lot of yards, but Jeremy Ramsey’s 10 tackles for the Doggs stood out as a defensive gem.
“Our effort was great all night long. I never felt like there was a moment where we didn’t play hard or that we gave up. It was one of those deals where, at this moment, Jefferson was just better than us,” Webb said.
“We have to work here to raise the bar, and that’s what we’re doing. The positive here is effort. There are things here we need to fix, but the positive is effort.”
Both Winder-Barrow and Jefferson need to forget Friday’s landslide quickly as they move on to crucial early-season matchups. The Dragons visit North Hall, a team they lost to 41-34 last season.
Winder-Barrow gets its Region 8-AAAAA schedule started in just their second game by playing host to cross-county rival Apalachee.
“We’ve got to jump into the region schedule, so there’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves,” Webb said. “We’ve got to go to work on Monday, and that’s what we’ll do.”