JEFFERSON -- Banged up or not Jefferson football still knows how to win.
The Dragons showed as much on Friday, fighting back from a fourth quarter deficit to pull out a 26-20 overtime defeat of Rabun County in Jefferson.
The Dragons pieced together the tying drive with just over three minutes to play and then scored the only points of overtime, as back-up quarterback TJ Skelton -- thrust into a starting role due to injury -- starred late, notching both of the touchdowns.
After coming on in an emergency role in last week's seven-point loss to Washington-Wilkes, Skelton rode a roller-coaster night -- one that ended in thrilling fashion, as the junior rushed for 119 yards and two scores while also passing for 114 yards and a touchdown.
"My heart was pounding, but I just went out there and tried to be a leader," said Skelton, who was 11 of 24 through the air with one interception. "It was a lot of fun; I couldn't ask for more."
Neither could Dragons coach Ben Hall, who lauded Skelton's performance.
"He did what we needed him to do. And he's only going to get better," Hall said of Skelton. "We're so limited with only four days of preparation, but we got it done."
A lot of that was also due to a stingy Dragons defense, which yielded just 217 yards to a Rabun offense that came in averaging 53 points and almost 500 yards per contest.
"We played well on defense, and that was a good team we faced tonight," Hall said. "Our hats off to Rabun County and coach Lee Shaw his staff -- the improvement they've made from year one to two is phenomenal. They're going to win a lot of games."
For a while it looked as if that would include Friday's contest, after the Wildcats defense made itself known. After solid play in the first half, allowing Jefferson just two scoring drives, the Wildcats pounced on four second half Jefferson turnovers -- including two third quarter fumbles that Rabun converted into touchdowns and a 20-13 lead. But the Dragons faced down the adversity, turning to Skelton's legs to do much of the damage.
"We did face adversity and the kids responded," Hall said. "We're banged up in places and we're putting the pieces together, but I'm so proud of them and the way they fought."
Skelton's three-yard run at the end of the fourth quarter knotted the contest 20-20. He then set up what could have been the game-winning field goal with four seconds remaining, but the 22-yard attempt flew just wide to send the game into overtime. But the Dragons weren't bowed, scoring with another run from Skelton before stoning the Wildcats' only possession of the extra frame.
"We had to come together, and we did that," said Skelton, who helped the Dragons rush for 234 yards