JEFFERSON - Compared to Jefferson’s last three outings, 33 points on offense sounds paltry.
But to head coach Gene Cathcart, there’s no such thing as an ugly win, and he found plenty of beauty in a 33-0 victory Friday night over Franklin County.
“Every win is hard fought and worked hard for,” Cathcart said. “That bunch (Franklin County) played hard tonight. Coach Paul Sutherland does an incredible job. You can tell with how those young kids played tonight, they’re not going to be down very long.
“In this offense, everyone assumes it’s a ball control offense, but if it’s functioning well with good players, you’re going to have an opportunity to make big plays. Our guys executed well. It’s a fun group to coach. They sure do play hard.”
Much of the game’s glamour came from all-around player Malaki Starks. The sophomore made big plays with as much abundance as the big time collegiate offers he received through the week. Starks had an interception return for a score, a long touchdown run from scrimmage and another interception to help keep Franklin County from scoring before halftime.
Starks accounted for 79 of Jefferson’s 280 yards of offense. Jefferson spread the rest of the yards among quarterback Colby Clark, fullback Kade McNally and slot back Kolton Jones.
“He played exceptionally well. He’s certainly one of the most explosive players around,” Cathcart said about Starks. “He’ll be a marked man every time he comes on the field. The beauty of the deal is we’ve got some other weapons around that are very, very good players, that make it hard to allocate to just him.
“Colby (Clark) played well on a limited number of carries and had the nice touchdown pass. The other backs ran well, they didn’t get as many carries because we had fewer offensive plays than what we wanted. Considering we saw a different defense, that they had well prepared for us, I thought we executed okay until the second half where we lost our focus a little bit.”
Jefferson (4-1, 2-0 Region 8-3A) put the Lions away early. The Dragons nearly blocked the Lions’ first punt of the night, and took over at the Lions’ 42, and Starks wasted no time finding 24 yards down the visiting sideline. A few snaps later, Clark ran eight yards and trucked a defender into the end zone, opening the game with a 7-0 Dragon lead.
The Lions had a successful drive going their next time out, before Jefferson deflected a third down pass into the air. Two Dragons struggled to make the interception before Starks grabbed the ball and ran 43 yards to the end zone. Starks added one more touchdown before the end of the first quarter, taking a toss sweep 43 yards to the house, stretching the lead to 20-0.
Clark shares credit for Jefferson’s last two touchdowns. He hit Josh Cochran in stride for a 33-yard touchdown pass shortly before halftime, and dove into the end zone from three yards out soon after the break. Jefferson’s defense preserved the shutout thanks to a pair of fourth down stops and Starks’ two interceptions.
The Dragons travel to Hart County next Friday night to play the No. 5 ranked, undefeated Bulldogs. This will be Jefferson's first game against a top five opponent since losing to Monroe Area a year ago.