HOMER -- Jefferson had its hands full Friday night when it traveled to Banks County looking to remain unbeaten.
The Dragons (7-0), however, were able to do just that with 34-22 victory over the scrappy Leopards (3-4) who came into the game having won three of their past four, after a slow start to the season.
Unlike previous games, Jefferson coach Bill Navas was forced to leave his starters in the game until the final moments when Zach Crosby scored on a 26-yard touchdown run with one minute remaining.
"They've got 20 seniors, and they had a lot of expectations this year," Navas said. "They're playing good football right now and they're a tough team to beat."
Banks County exhibited its toughness when it stopped the Dragons twice on fourth and goal during the game.
"Our field goal kicking situation is not the greatest in the world, but it's not like I don't have faith in them," Navas said. "I felt like we could score and they kind of whipped us up front. They did that quite a bit tonight, but our kids stepped up and made plays for our team."
Crosby was one of many Dragons who made big plays in the game.
He found the end zone in the first quarter to pull the Dragons within one, following a touchdown by the Leopards and finished with two touchdowns in the game on just five carries.
Darius Minor threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, finishing with 220 total yards on the night. Minor shook off an interception early in the third quarter by coming back on the following drive and hooking up with Chris Swancey for an 11-yard touchdown. The play was set up by a 79-yard punt return by Crosby.
Dragons running back Virgil Appleby was kept out of the end zone, but the speedster kept the chains moving throughout the game as he rushed for 95 yards on 23 carries.
"The offensive line was blocking good all night and we were just trying to wear them down," Appleby said. "They were opening up holes and we just tried to keep moving the ball."
The Leopards found some success on the offensive side of the ball with Justin Beasley who finished with 166 yards rushing. Sixty-five of those yards came on a touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
Navas said he was the best back the Dragons have faced all season.
Defensively, Derick Milsap had a solid game for the Dragons, including a pair of quarterback sacks in the second half, which kept the Leopards off-balance.
"We came out doing good at the beginning of the game but then we were going back and fourth," Milsap said. "We got our minds straight and came out in the second half and did our thing."
Leopards coach Blair Armstrong said despite the loss, he was proud of his team's performance against the Dragons.
"We've gotten better every week," Armstrong said. "This is the first game we've put it all together. Jefferson has a great football team and didn't make many mistakes. It would have been sweet to knock these guys off but hopefully we can survive the rest of the region and have a shot at the playoffs."
Jefferson returns home Friday against Rabun County while Banks County plays host to Fannin County.