Tuesday December 5th, 2023 8:55PM

Football playoffs: Jefferson uses big second half to blow past Maynard Jackson

By Bo Wilson | Video by Seth Chapman

JEFFERSON, Ga. — It took Jefferson 22 minutes to erase the goose egg on the scoreboard Friday night. 

When they did, it was game over.

The Dragons (11-0, Region 8-5A No. 1 seed) scored 48 points over the next 24 and 1/2 minutes en route to a 48-14 win over Maynard Jackson at Memorial Stadium in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. 

The Dragons also got the first-round exit off their backs Friday night. In the last two seasons, they were eliminated in the opening round. The Dragons will host Hiram in the second round on Friday. 

"We finally got that monkey off our back," Jefferson coach Travis Noland said. "Maybe we can play a little better next week." 

As for the game, Jackson's game plan was crystal clear early on. The Jaguars came out intending to stop Clemson-commit Sammy Brown on offense, and they did in the first half, stacking the box with nine defenders to stalemate Brown, who had 33 rushing yards at halftime. 

"They were putting nine in the box," Noland said. "So, we had to change our plan and hit some pass plays, and we did." 

The passing game turned the tide for the Dragons and ultimately changed their momentum, but it took more than 19 minutes of play for the passing attack to work.   

But rewind to the first 20 minutes that led to the explosive first-half finish. Jackson held on to a 7-0 lead with 7:24 remaining and was having more success on both sides of the ball than the Dragons. Jefferson could only muster 49 total yards of offense with less than eight minutes left in the first half. 

The lackluster play by the Dragons started on the opening drive when Brown fumbled the ball, and the Jaguars scooped it up. The Jaguars almost cashed the Dragon turnover early in the first quarter, but Jefferson's defense stopped the drive on a 4th-and-goal play from the one-yard line. 

The Jaguars then big-played the Jefferson defense, grabbing the lead on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Rashad Harp to Rickey Dorn with 7:24 left in the half. Dorn also hauled in a 52-yard pass two plays before. 

After the Dragons and Jaguars went three and out on back-to-back drives, Jefferson had a breakthrough on offense thanks to quarterback Gavin Markey. Markey found an opening, eluded the Jackson front, and got loose down the Jaguars' sideline for a 63-yard run to the one-yard line. It was the spark the offense needed, and Brown finished the drive with a one-yard TD plunge for the Dragons' first TD of the game with 2:32 remaining. Taylor McCall's extra point tied the game at 7. 

But Jackson responded on the ensuing drive when DeAngelo Dozier returned the kickoff to the Dragons' 45. Jefferson gave the Jaguars an extra 15 yards on a personal foul penalty to the Dragons' 30-yard line. Two plays later, Harp connected with Dorn on a 30-yard TD pass to give the Jaguars back the lead, 14-7 with 1:43 left in the first half. 

As Noland said, the Dragons needed to find their passing game, and they did on the final two drives of the first half. 

Markey connected with Zay Minish on a 65-yard TD pass with 1:27 left to tie the game at 14.  

After Jackson was forced to punt on the next drive, the Dragons went to work from their 47-yard line. Markey quickly found Minish on an 18-yard pass followed by a 31-yard dart Tripp Dye, setting the Dragons up at the Jackson four-yard line. On the next play, with 8 seconds left, Markey hit a diving Minish for the four-yard passing touchdown. Taylor McCall's extra point gave the Dragons the lead for good, 21-14. 

Markey finished the night 8-of-15 for 207 yards and four touchdowns. 

"Gavin has been playing really well the last nine weeks," Noland said. "And he made a lot of plays for us tonight." 

Minish led the Dragons' receiving corps Friday night, hauling in four passes for 116 yards and three touchdowns. 

In the second half, the Dragons took all the momentum early on back-to-back drives. 

On Jackson's opening drive of the second half, Jaden Butts intercepted Harp and returned it to the Jackson 12-yard line. Brown finished the drive with a 12-yard TD run to give the Dragons a 28-14 lead. 

After forcing the Jaguars to punt, the Dragons landed what would be the most significant blow of the game -- a 45-yard Brown touchdown run. The missed extra point gave the Dragons a 34-14 advantage with 7:24 to go. 

Later in the third quarter, Markey hooked up with Minish for a 29-yard TD pass and Brown on a 41-yard TD pass. 

"We played a little bit better in the second half," Noland said. "But they had a good game plan and some good players. It was a good challenge for us. We have a lot of things to try to clean up for next week if we want to keep playing. " 

GAME NOTES: Sammy Brown finished the night with 11 carries for 90 yards, three touchdowns, and a 41-yard touchdown reception ... Along with his 207 yards passing, Markey rushed for 63 yards ... Jackson QB Rashad Harp was 12-of-24 for 168 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed 17 times for 47 yards ... Kenyan Gillam led the Jaguars rushing with 13 carries for 54 yards ... Rickey Dorn hauled in seven passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns. 

  • Associated Categories: Sports, High School Sports, Friday Game Night, Sports Video
  • Associated Tags: High school football, Jefferson football
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