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Jefferson quarterback Bryant Shirreffs says he loves the fourth quarter.
The entire Dragons (2-1) program loved the way their third-year signal-caller orchestrated their offense and a come-from-behind 27-21 victory over North Hall on Friday at The Brickyard.
Trailing 21-12 early in the fourth quarter, Shirreffs was the man behind two Dragon touchdowns. In the final period, Shirreffs completed all six of his pass attempts and picked up big chunks of yards almost every time he ran the ball, primarily out of an empty backfield.
“Bryant showed a lot of character tonight,” Jefferson coach T. McFerrin said. “He did a great job running with the ball.
“We put the game on his shoulders.”
“That was incredible,” Shirreffs said. “That was the most inspirational game I’ve ever been part of.”
To give Shirreffs more room to run, McFerrin said Jefferson went with the empty backfield to spread out the Trojans’ (2-1) defense. On each touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, Shirreffs (127 rushing yards, 144 passing) set up the score with a run of 15 yards.
“We have to find an answer to playing against that,” North Hall coach Bob Christmas said. “We’ll see more of that later in the season.”
The Dragons rolled the dice and recovered an onside kick while trailing 21-19 with 6:15 left to play and the ball at their own 38 after a 15-yard penalty at the end of the play.
On the winning touchdown drive, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Shirreffs started the drive with a run of 10 yards, then completed an 18-yard pass to tight end Donnie Hatfield, who led all receivers with seven catches for 71 yards.
Jefferson scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 10-yard pass to Chandler Thompson in the corner of the end zone.
However, North Hall made things interesting on its final drive, thanks to a couple long runs by Kevin Christmas, who finished with a game-high 21 carries for 180 yards. Christmas’ 4-yard run got the ball down to the Jefferson 18 with only 15 seconds left.
After a pass attempt went in an out of a Trojan receiver’s hands on third-and-4 in the end zone, junior quarterback Andrew Smith took the ball running from one side of the field to the other and got all the way down to the 4 before being tackled to end the game.
“That was a supernatural effort by Andrew on that final play,” North Hall’s coach said.
Christmas was not so pleased with the mental mistakes. Despite running for 398 yards, the Trojans were penalized for 81 yards and turned the ball over twice on fumbles in the first quarter.
“Those penalties killed us,” Christmas added.
Despite the slow start and trailing 6-0 in the second quarter after Shirreffs’ first touchdown run, North Hall responded with a 1-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Bradley Brown and a 3-yard score by Kevin Christmas.
Trailing 14-6, Shirreffs scored his second touchdown for Jefferson with just 4:00 left in the opening half on a run from the 4.
Kevin Christmas had his longest run of the game early in the fourth quarter with a 31-yard touchdown run and 9:08 left in the game, giving the Trojans a 21-12 lead. The touchdown drive started when North Hall’s Marcus Hulsey intercepted a Shirreffs pass at the goal line, bringing an end to a promising Jefferson possession.
Then Jefferson started to rally.
The Dragons’ first touchdown drive just seven plays, the biggest of which was a 16-yard run by Shirreffs down to the North Hall 10. Sammy Williams scored two plays later on a run from the 3 for the Dragons.
After recovering the ensuing onside kick and first down at their own 38, the Dragons started with a big run by Shirreffs that went for 10, followed by another run by the quarterback up the middle for 7.
Shirreffs said all the credit for the comeback goes to Jefferson’s defense for making some big stops, especially the one on the Trojans’ final drive. North Hall also stalled out on a nine-minute drive to start the third quarter and failed to score when a long field goal came up just short.
Both programs have next week off before starting region play. North Hall visits Dawson County on Sept. 28 to get started in Region 7-AAA. Jefferson visits Region 8-AA opponent Greene County on Sept. 28 in Greensboro.