Posted: Monday, August 13th 2012 at 9:45am
Football 2012: Jefferson still amongst but favorites but facing questions
By Jeff Hart Staff
JEFFERSON -- It should be an interesting year in the newly-aligned Region 8-AA in 2012. Only one team in the current set-up -- Jefferson -- posted a winning record in 2011, as the Dragons went 8-3.
Still, that doesn’t give Jefferson coach T. McFerrin any reason to feel his program is a favorite in 2012.
“We lost a lot of good players, including four of our top five linemen, and we’re much smaller than at any time since I’ve been here,” he said. “The records from last year don’t mean much. Washington-Wilkes is loaded and big; Oglethorpe County may have the fastest team in Georgia; Rabun should be tough, with coach (Lee) Shaw and his spread offense; and Greene County has a lot of talent and should be better than last year.”
Jefferson opens the season against arch-rival Commerce and is looking to win an unprecedented sixth straight game over the Tigers. The Dragons also will get a quick test in the new Region 8-AA. They open their league schedule against what should be a much-improved Greene County squad on the road and then play host to Washington-Wilkes, which returns most of its starters from what was a playoff team in 2011.
Jefferson lost four of its top five linemen from last season to graduation and will have to revamp the unit. However, what the Dragons lack in size they make up for at the skill positions -- especially in the passing game.
Jefferson returns quarterback Bryant Shirreffs (Sr., 1,873 yards passing, 19 TDs, 2 INTs in 2011) and three of their top receivers from a year ago in senior WR McKay Dickens, junior WR Isaiah Blake, and junior TE Donnie Hatfield. They may have to rely on their aerial attack early on while they wait for returning rusher, junior fullback Tristen Jackson, who is likely out the first month of the season after off-season knee surgery.
“We’ll probably have to throw the ball more this year because we just don’t have the size to run over people this year,” McFerrin said. “I think our line will be good, it’s just going to be on the smallish size compared to the other teams in the region.”
But McFerrin also feels his Dragons could, and should, be in the hunt for both a playoff spot and the region title by the end of the year. He said Jackson should be ready when they open region play Sept. 28 against Greene County.
“I think the region will be wide-open and I hope we’re in the running for the title,” he said. “Again, Washington-Wilkes probably has the best athletes and I think our game with them and the Green County game will be the key to who wins it.”
JEFFERSON: NEED TO KNOW
TEAM COLORS: Royal Blue, Red, and White
CURRENT REGION: Region 8-AA
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: T. McFerrin, fourth year, 25-8
2011 RECORD/ ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 8-3, reached first round of Class AA playoffs
KEY LOSSES: Lost four of five starters on offensive line.
KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. Bryant Shirreffs, Jr. FB Tristen Jackson, Sr. OL Collin Anthony, Sr. WR McKay Dickens, Jr. WR Isaiah Blake, Jr. TE Donnie Hatfield
DEFENSIVE STYLE: 4-3 -- Jefferson likes to attack and penetrate and create pressure. The Dragons will be smaller but quicker than in years past.
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. LB Wesley Simonton, Sr. LB Kody McDonald, Sr. DE Tyler Cole (started at LB in 2011), Jr. Tyler Bowen (started on DL in 2011), Sr. DL Connor Paul, Sr. DL Justin Holcombe
SPECIAL TEAMS: Sr. PK, P Chandler Schlutow, Jr. KR and PR Isaiah Blake
STRENGTH: Passing attack -- The Dragons aerial offense should be strong with the return of Shirreffs and eight receivers that could all see significant action.
QUESTION: Tristen Jackson/overall inexperience -- Jefferson's leading rusher in 2011 is coming off knee surgery and is expected to miss the first month of the season. More than half-a-dozen sophomores are expected to contribute heavily at beginning of season.
KEY GAMES: Open the season against arch-rival Commerce and is looking to win a unprecedented sixth straight game over the Tigers. The Dragons will get a quick test in the new Region 8-AA.They open their Region 8-AA schedule against what should be a much-improved Greene County squad on the road and then play host to Washington-Wilkes, which returns most of its starters from a playoff team in 2011.
TRENDING: The Dragons have advanced to the state playoffs in four of the last five seasons and barring injuries should be a solid favorite to make the playoffs again and challenge for the region title.
Aug. 31 at Commerce
Sept. 7 vs. Jackson County
Sept. 14 at North Hall
Sept. 28 at Greene County
Oct. 5 vs. Washington-Wilkes
Oct. 12 at Rabun County
Oct. 19 vs. Oglethorpe County
Oct. 26 at Social Circle
Nov. 2 at Riverside Military
Nov. 9 vs. Union County
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