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Posted: Saturday, December 8th 2012 at 2:29am

Dragons historic run not done; make first state title game since '77

By Jeff Hart Staff
click to enlarge
Jefferson's Bryant Shirreffs
JEFFERSON – Jefferson proved Friday night it was good enough to make the Class AA state title game.

In eight days, they will get a chance to prove they are good enough to win it all.

The Dragons advanced to their first state title game since 1977 after wearing down a solid Greater Atlanta Christian team, 42-14, at Memorial Stadium.

Coach T McFerrin, who last guided a team to the finals in 1995 with Elbert County, said he wants to find out as well.

“We’re obviously good enough to get to the finals,” he said. “We’ll see if we’re good enough to win it all next week. But we’re going to enjoy this for a day or two.”

Jefferson (13-1) already has set several team records like most wins in a season, the second-longest winning streak in school history (13), and can grab another first with a state tile.

It won’t come easy, however, as the Dragons will have to do it against defending Class AA champion Calhoun, which held off Lamar County 21-14 in the other semifinal. The Yellow Jackets (14-0) are making their fifth consecutive trip to the Georgia Dome finals but the first where they will not play Buford for the title.

“Calhoun is tough and they’ve been there many times so we’ll have our hands full,” McFerrin said. “But this team always believes it can win and I’m excited to see how they respond.”

The Dragons were knocked out of the 2011 playoffs in the first round by Calhoun in a 39-6 loss in Calhoun.

Senior linebacker Wesley Simonton, who took a few quiet moments of reflection after watching the clock tick down on the Dragons’ most significant win since the age of disco, said it is a dream come true.

“I’ve always dreamed of getting a chance to play in the Dome and now it’s coming true. It’s just hard to put into words. As players I think we’re just proud to be able to give this to our fans,” Simonton said.

Most of the fans who stormed the field to celebrate weren’t around or don’t remember the 1977 team that went to the state championship game. Simonton said they want to give them something else to remember next week.

“I’m not going to predict anything but we always feel we can win. I don’t see any reason why we should think any different now,” he said.

It was Simonton that gave Jefferson its biggest shove toward the finals Friday. In a three-play sequence he sacked GAC quarterback Rafe Chapple, stuffed senior running back Kyle Scales, and then contributed to a GAC fumble that gave the Dragons the ball with the game tied in the second quarter.

Four plays later senior Bryant Shirreffs rambled 51 yards for a touchdown and a lead the Dragons would never relinquish.

“It’s a team effort,” Simonton said. “The guys did their job and I just found a way to the ball. I just take care of my half of the field.”

McFerrin said that sequence was what they needed at just the right time.

“It may have saved the game,” McFerrin said. “They had scored two straight times and we were having trouble stopping them. I think that got the guys going and they just played great after that.

“But that doesn’t surprise me. These kids never quit and are probably the most overachieving group I’ve ever had. I just hope this isn’t a dream and I wake up and we still have to play.”

The GAC fumble came one possession after Chapple had torched the Jefferson secondary for a 79-yard bomb to tie the game at 14. After the fumble, the Dragons yielded just 96 yards until the final drive of the game. In the second half the Dragons stopped the Spartans twice on downs and then time ran out to end the game and their third drive.

“The defense was tired after last week but we gave them a couple of days to rest and I thought they just played magnificent,” McFerrin said.

Both teams showed big-play capability in the first half. Shirreffs engineered two first quarter scores for the Dragons, highlighted by two big pass plays to Walter Chapeau. Shirreffs capped their first drive with a 10-yard TD pass to Chandler Thompson for a 6-0 lead.

The Spartans answered right back with Kyle Scales rushing for 67 yards of a 74-yard drive to give them a 7-6 lead midway through the opening period. But the Dragons would reclaim the lead using an 11-play, 62-yard drive, capped by a 2-yard run from Sammy Williams after Shirreffs connected with Chapeau on a 22-yard pass on 3rd-and-21 at the Spartans 24. Shirreffs would convert a two-point conversion run to make 14-7 with just 1:05 left in the quarter.

But GAC would again come back. Chapple connected with speedster Peter Whiteneck on a 79-yard TD pass just 44 seconds later to tie the game at 14.

The second quarter, however, was all Dragons. After the offense was forced to punt for the first time, the Jefferson defense took over.

After forcing another GAC punt after Chapple was sacked for the second time on third down, Shirreffs capped a seven-play drive with his second touchdown pass of the half, a 20-yard screen pass to Isaiah Blake with 3:15 left in the half for a 27-14 lead.

The defense would step up again in the waning seconds of the half when Austin Mixon picked off Chapple to end the half.

In last week’s triple-overtime win, the Dragons relied on the passing of Shirreffs. Against GAC, the ground game dominated the Spartans defense.

Jefferson churned out 257 yards on the ground, paced by 118 yards by Shirreffs. Tristan Jackson added 77 yards and one touchdown and Williams finished with 62 yards one one score.

Chapeau had three catches for 54 yards and Blake had three catches for 61 yards and one touchdown. Shirreffs would finish unofficially 9-for-12 for 136 yards and two TDs passing.

Chapple, who came in averaging 175 yards a game, finished with 182 yards with one TD and one interception, but had just 50 yards passing after halftime. Scales had 105 yards rushing but left in the third quarter with an injury and never returned.

NOTES: The win for Jefferson was the 400th in the program’s history. ... McFerrin, in his fourth year at Jefferson, is 38-9 so far, the best four-year run in school history. ... Jefferson finished a perfect 8-0 at home in 2012.

GAC..................14…......0.........0.........0 -- 14
Jefferson..........14..…...13…....8.........7 -- 42

First Quarter
JEF -- Thompson 10 pass from Shirreffs (kick failed) 6-0, 8:19
GAC -- Scales 15 run (Holzgrefe kick) 7-6, 5:09
JEF -- S. Williams 2 run (Shirreffs run) 14-7, 1:05
GAC -- C. Williams 79 pass from Chapple (Holzgrefe kick) 14-14, 0:21

Second Quarter
JEF -- Shirreffs 51 run (Schlutow kick) 21-14, 8:06
JEF -- Blake 20 pass from Shirreffs (kick failed) 27-14, 3:15

Third Quarter
JEF -- Shirreffs 5 run (Chapeau pass) 35-14, 3:09

Fourth Quarter
JEF -- Jackson 3 run (Schlutow kick) 42-14, 2:17
Associated Categories: Sports News, High School Sports

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