Jefferson and West Hall players finally got to hit someone other than their own teammates Thursday night, as they faced off in one of the area’s first scrimmages.
The Dragons came out ahead 26-0, but both teams made big plays while giving their coaching staffs plenty to chew on ahead of the regular season.
Here are a few highlights and the coaches’ observations from Thursday’s action:
Defenses force turnovers: Each team had four takeaways.
Jefferson coach Ben Hall said his defense’s effort was important with his group having a young offense.
“We caused some turnovers,” Hall said. “We were able to capitalize on what the defense gave us. We’ve been counting on them to do that.”
He credited an “11 hats to the ball” mentality for the Dragons’ defensive effort, which limited West Hall to one first down in the first half.
The defensive highlights began with West Hall’s Ty Statham stripping the ball from a Jefferson runner on the Dragons’ third play from scrimmage.
Also in the first quarter, Jefferson’s Trent Sorrells had an interception and a 31-yard return to set up the contest’s first score.
The Dragons’ Kendrick Robinson returned the first of his two interceptions 30 yards for a touchdown with 10:28 left in the second quarter to push it to 13-0 in Jefferson’s favor.
On the ensuing drive, the Dragons’ Deshon Lester recovered another fumble as Jefferson took over just outside West Hall’s 10 after a personal foul penalty.
West Hall’s Jacob Miller had an interception late in the first half and added another on the opening possession of the third quarter. Miller returned his second pick inside the Jefferson 5, but much of that return was negated by a block in the back penalty.
Robinson’s second pick came in the third quarter.
The Spartans’ Andrew Lilly recovered a fumble as Jefferson was inside the Spartan 10 in the fourth quarter.
Strong test: West Hall coach Tony Lotti said he scheduled a state power like Jefferson to give his team a good barometer in its scrimmage.
“I wanted to see if some kids could play under the lights,” Lotti said. “Some of them did better than I thought they would.”
Lotti said Jefferson gave his team some defensive looks he was expecting, but he didn’t have his guys practice against those schemes.
“I wanted to see if we could adapt on the run,” Lotti said.
The contest provided him with plenty of material against a program he said is one the Spartans want to emulate.
With his daughter’s rehearsal dinner tonight and her wedding Saturday, some of Lotti’s film-watching might even come from the back of a church, he said.
Special teams: Jefferson missed an extra point in the first half after two guys ran off the field who were supposed to be part of the play.
“Those things are frustrating,” Hall said. “But that’s why you scrimmage.”
Hall noted that the one missing aspect in Thursday’s scrimmage was live special teams play, as no defense was played against kicks or returns. That will be a point of emphasis in the Dragons’ upcoming practices.
Lotti, meanwhile, had his faith in West Hall’s kicking game confirmed. He said punter Anthony Lotti had averaged about 44 yards on seven first-half punts and had more strong kicks later in the scrimmage.
Defensive stand: West Hall’s defense stood tall after a fumble gave Jefferson a little more than 10 yards to drive. The Spartans held on fourth-and-inches at the 1 when Evan Shirreffs’ pass into the end zone fell incomplete in the second quarter.
Williams carries early load: Jefferson’s Sammy Williams carried the ball on five of the six plays on the lone offensive scoring drive of the first half.
Williams accounted for 25 rushing yards on the 23-yard drive, capped by his two-yard scoring run as Jefferson took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Other big plays: Robinson broke to the edge for a 32-yard touchdown on a short pass from Dragon backup quarterback Lane Sorrow in the third quarter.
Jefferson’s Shirreffs connected with Dalton Hill for a 40-yard pass on a first-quarter drive that ended with a missed field goal.
The Dragons’ Colby Wood had a 23-yard run in the fourth quarter that reaped an extra 11 yards for a horse collar penalty that moved the ball to the West Hall 11. He then added a 37-yard run before scoring a touchdown on a one-yard run with 55.8 seconds left.
West Hall’s Cooper Adams broke off a 24-yard run in the game’s final minute.
The Dragons begin the regular season Aug. 22 by hosting Rabun County, while the Spartans open at Johnson on Aug. 29 in the Battle of Oakwood.