COMMERCE — The Jefferson Dragons started slower than they have all season Friday night against the Commerce Tigers in the 70th annual River War. But by game’s end, they were faster and more physical as the Dragons’ ground game wore down the in-county rival and resulted in a 34-10 victory.
Jefferson has won eight of the last nine games in the series.
Jefferson (4-0, 0-0 Region 8-AAA) was led by sophomore Colby Wood’s 181 yards on 27 carries. He also pulled the hat trick in touchdowns, scoring on runs of 15, 10 and 9 yards, respectively. Wood’s senior counterpart, Darrian Hill, added 61 yards on nine carries and scored one touchdown.
“We fought a gritty team tonight,” Jefferson head coach Ben Hall said. “That group right there (Commerce), they came out and they battled us tooth and nail just like we knew they would. We knew they would battle.
“I’m proud of the way of our kids responded. I’m proud of the way they responded when it didn’t go the easy way.”
Sophomore quarterback Bryce Moore threw for 123 yards, one score and one interception.
“The interception was a little bit of an underthrow. He wishes he had that one back,” Hall said. “He moved the chains for us a couple of times tonight. He’s growing into the position and we’re proud of him (Moore).”
The Dragons’ defense did its job as well, recovering two of three forced fumbles, including one that led to seven points, extending the Dragons’ lead from 6-3 to 13-3.
“I think that might have been the turning point if you had to pinpoint one,” Hall explained. “It allowed us to go into the half with 10-point lead instead of a 6-3 ball game. We benefitted there from the turnover.”
Commerce (2-1, 1-0 Region 8-A) was led by Cole Chancey’s 51 rushing yards. Will Thomas added 48 yards on the ground. Quarterback Caleb Brooks completed two passes for 57 yards and one touchdown. Wide receiver J’varius Wood was on the receiving end of both passes.
After Commerce converted a 35-yard field goal on the opening drive (3-0), the Dragons saw a game-tying attempt get blocked late in the first quarter. After an exchange of punts, Jefferson gained the lead when Moore struck wide receiver Caleb Cooley on a 7-yard pass play. Cooley finished the game three catches for 53 yards. The Dragons led 6-3.
Commerce fumbled on its next play from scrimmage, setting Jefferson up in great field position. Five plays later, Wood pounded through the Tigers’ defense for a bruising 15-yard touchdown to give the Dragons a 13-3 advantage at halftime.
Wood continued his stellar play in the second, capping off another five-play drive with a 10-yard touchdown run, bumping the Dragons’ lead to 20-3 with 6:37 left in the third quarter. The next Dragons’ possession, Wood carried the ball six of the eight plays for 53 yards, ending with his 9-yard touchdown run. The Dragons led 27-3.
Hill scored the Dragons’ final touchdown on a 4-yard run with 6:46 left in the game (34-3).
Commerce’s final touchdown came with 3:44 left in the game as Brooks hit Wood on a 17-yard strike to bring the score to 34-10.
Jefferson is off next week. Commerce travels to Athens Academy.