JEFFERSON — Jefferson used its running game and had enough big plays to outlast Jackson County 31-14 Friday night in a Region 8-AA South rivalry game at Panther Stadium.
Jefferson (6-2, 3-2) took only a 17-7 lead into the half, but a long touchdown drive on the Dragons first possession of the second half followed by a 40-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by Andre Daniel left the Dragons with a comfortable 31-7 lead.
“We had to earn everything we got tonight,” said Jefferson coach T. McFerrin.
“We didn’t come out very focused and just slopped around, but it does feel good to win the football game.”
After forcing a Jackson County three-and-out on the opening drive of the second half, quarterback Bryant Shirreffs and sophomore running back Tristen Jackson helped lead the Dragons down the field on a drive capped by a 4-yard fade route in the left corner of the end zone, Shirreffs passing to senior Will Puckett.
Puckett also had a big catch in the first half when he broke wide open downfield and reeled in a 54-yard grab to set up a 28-yard field goal by Asher Orr.
Jackson pounded out yards on the ground all night, carrying the ball 15 times for 107 yards.
Shirreffs followed up his shaky performance against Elbert County last week by completing 14 of 20 passes for 172 yards and two scores. He also ran for an 11-yard score to put the Dragons up 14-7 in the first quarter.
For the Jackson County offense, its best drives of the night came on its first and last drives of the game. After allowing a quick score by Jefferson to open the game, quarterback Jalen Banks completed 4 of 5 passes for 50 yards on the Panthers’ opening possession before the senior capped off the drive with a 6-yard run.
Down 31-7 in the fourth quarter, the Panthers (2-6, 1-4) took advantage of a Jefferson fumble that was recovered by Andy Williams on the Jefferson 39. Kyle Daniel led the drive at quarterback and scored on a 1-yard quarterback keeper with 1:37 to play.
“Our kids played a fantastic football game,” Jackson County coach Billy Kirk said. “Our kids played hard and we had some calls that didn’t go our way, but you can’t control that stuff.”
Jefferson is still on pace to make the state playoffs as the No. 4 seed and the third place team out of the subregion. The Dragons will stay on the road next week as they face another county rival in East Jackson.
The loss eliminates Jackson County from playoff eligibility. The Panthers hit the road next week to face Hart County.