JEFFERSON -- No. 6 Jefferson clinched its first region championship since 1977 and earned a berth in the state playoffs with a hair-raising 17-16 victory over North Oconee on Friday night.
North Oconee scored a touchdown with 33 seconds left and had a chance to tie, but missed the extra point to give the Dragons the victory.
"I hate to see a game settled on something like that," Titans coach Terry Tuley said. "I think Jefferson has a good football team. Both teams played well tonight."
The Dragons (9-0, 8-0 Region 8-AA) jumped on the scoreboard at the midway point of the first quarter when Virgil Appleby found a running lane and raced 60 yards for a touchdown.
"We made some mistakes and kept them in the ballgame long enough," Dragons coach Bill Navas said. "In the end, I'm tickled. Virgil's run was big and our defense helped us win the region championship."
The Dragons defense kept the Titans offense on the sidelines on their opening three possessions of the game, forced three consecutive three-and-outs and held them to 88 yards on the ground.
"Our defense is tough and we fly to the ball," Redd said. "We just tried to stay excited during the whole time. They played better than I thought they would and it was a good game."
The third defensive stand by the Dragons ended when Lucas Redd applied a jarring hit which knocked the ball loose as the Titans were trying to convert a third-down pass.
The Dragons offense was ineffective on the following drive, but Tab Martin picked off a Sam Zornig pass.
The senior defensive back made a juggling grab at the Dragons 40-yard line and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown with a slew of Titans in his wake.
"It was time to make plays tonight," Martin said. "When I got that ball tonight, I knew I had to get in the end zone and it was all about playmakers stepping up tonight."
The Dragons would only manage three additional points in the second half, when Lucas Redd connected on a 23-yard field goal.