Gainesville at No. 1 Stockbridge
No. 3 Buford vs. Worth County
No. 5 Jefferson at No. 2 Blessed Trinity
Dawson County vs. Spencer
JEFFERSON — As Alex Corbett recalls, the normally boisterous Memorial Stadium became nearly silent after last season’s overtime loss to Blessed Trinity.
Only one feeling remained: A small vibration in the back of Corbett’s helmet as Blessed Trinity fans loudly celebrated their victory, which knocked the Dragons out of the Class AAA state playoffs.
This year, with the chance of redemption on the line, the center said he was dedicated to flipping the script.
“It was a sense of shock,” said Corbett after Tuesday’s practice. “It’s something that’s stuck with me ever since then. We saw them on our side of the bracket when we first got to the playoffs this year, and we wanted to play them ever since.”
The fifth-ranked Dragons (10-1) got their wish, and will face the undefeated No. 2 Titans (10-0-1) in the second round of the Class AAA state playoffs this Friday at Blessed Trinity Stadium in Roswell.
Jefferson’s offense is powered by standout sophomore running back Colby Wood (2,027 yards so far this season), who leads the state in touchdowns (32). Part of his success, according to Wood, has been his experienced offensive line, which returned four starters over the offseason.
The line has paved the way for the Dragons to put up an average of 274 rushing yards per game so far this season.
Wood has already broken the school’s single-season rushing record (1950 yards, held by Curtis Segars since 1950).
“The line always does their job,” said Wood. “They can give me 5 yards, or a break, and I can use my vision. I like running behind these guys. I think they’re some of the best in the state. I wouldn’t change them for anything in the world.”
Some of Jefferson’s veteran linemen have played together since middle school, according to junior right tackle Caleb Chandler, who said “the stars have aligned” for Jefferson and Blessed Trinity to meet up again.
Wood’s vision, Chandler said, makes the line’s job easier because they communicate well with the sophomore in order for him to break through for big yardage.
The team typically hits its stride late in games, according to Corbett, with the offense able to relay information back and forth quickly between snaps.
“It depends on how the defense is slanting, we can give him a good idea of whether to cut outside or stick inside,” said Chandler. “Colby has amazing vision.”
While Wood will likely receive the most touches against Blessed Trinity, the offensive line can also block for Jefferson’s other offensive threats, including Zack Boobas, who ran for 189 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 49-0 first-round win against Pepperell.
Meanwhile, sophomore quarterback Bryce Moore is nearing 1,000 yards through the air this season, and spent several reps Tuesday afternoon working through long passing situations. In 2014, the Dragons attempted four straight passes in its overtime possession before falling 28-21 to the Titans.
“We’re not going in looking for revenge,” said Jefferson coach Ben Hall. “We’re just looking for a smart game, execution in all phases. It was a hard-fought battle last year, so we expect nothing less this week.”
Last season’s loss has become this year’s motivation for the offensive line, according to Corbett. The senior likened his unit to “one big machine,” which works together if all of the pieces are together.
He said Jefferson will have to play its best game yet to progress to the state quarterfinals. Blessed Trinity has given up just 9 points per game, and has never conceded more than two touchdowns in a game so far this season.
“Something stuck with me last year,” Corbett said. “Every single week, we’ve been working harder to get to this point.”