Dragons take the field

The Jefferson Dragons run through the banner for the first time in 2021.

Jefferson hits the road for the first time in 2021 this week. The Dragons travel to Lawrenceville to play Central Gwinnett from Region 8-AAAAAA.

Jefferson (1-0, 0-0 Region 8-AAAA) dominated the Black Knights last year 61-7, but they played a team that was far from its best. COVID-19 ravaged Central Gwinnett's season, it kept them from fully installing head coach Jason Thompson's system in his first year on the job. The Black Knight also had to play three games in the span of eight days at the end of last season. They finished the year 1-9 and winless in region play.

Central Gwinnett (1-0, 0-0 region 8-AAAAAA) is starting to fit Thompson's mold in year two. Offensively, that mold is a power-spread offense utilizing a wide range of skill players a a mobile quarterback named Justin Johnson. Johnson is in his second year as the Black Knights starter, he passed for 2,282 yards last year with 15 touchdowns. He'll sling the ball to five different senior receivers, and hand it off to the running back duo of Jonathan Bing and Jason Jackson.

Jefferson head coach Gene Cathcart says Central Gwinnett's athleticism, size and depth really concern him. 

"They have several things that concern us," Cathcart said. "Offensively they've got some athletes. They spread the ball around. They're balanced out of the spread offense with a mobile quarterback.

"We were really pleased with our defense last week against a really good team. Central Gwinnett is a little bit more balanced, they tend to be in some more two-back sets. Our secondary and linebacking corps will have to play really well, but we'll need another good outing from our defensive line. They played really well against Rabun County, but this is a different kind of matchup. They have a little more size up front. There will be more positions we'll have to defeat individual blocks. We believe they can do that, but we'll just have to see how they perform."

Cathcart hopes his programs tendency to utilize a great deal of players early in the year will help negate Central Gwinnett's depth advantage. However, the Dragons will be without one of their on field leaders; Jordan Perry. The senior running back/linebacker suffered a torn MCL and a meniscal bruise against Rabun County. 

Good news is, Perry won't have to undergo surgery. Cathcart believes he'll return at some point this season.

The Black Knights will look to stop Jefferson's vaunted triple option attack with a stack 3-3-5 defense led up front by nose guard Markeith Cunningham. They also have a solid group of linebackers, but the secondary is the strength of their defense. 


Cathcart reached a huge milestone Friday night. Jefferson's 22-15 win over Rabun County was the 150th victory in his storied 17-year career. His impressive win total is padded by seven region championships across two states, and a South Carolina State Champion in 2012 at Greenwood. He's also just nine wins away from reaching 50 wins as head coach of the Jefferson Dragons. 

"It's flattering, but that tends to belong more to the players and coaches that I've been blessed to work with," Cathcart said. "It was exciting to do it in front of the home crowd at Jefferson. I really appreciate everyone in our Jefferson Dragon family congratulating me with notes and texts and calls this week. It certainly let you know that we're really fortunate to do what we do at such a special place.

"It would be awfully cool looking back over that time when I retire, but right now I'm fighting for win number two this Friday."

Jefferson at Central Gwinnett

Who: Jefferson at Central Gwinnett (Tally Johnson Field)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Records: Jefferson 1-0; Central Gwinnett 1-0

Coaches: Gene Cathcart, Jefferson (fifth season at Jefferson, 41-9; 17th season overall, 150-51); Jason Thompson, Central Gwinnett (second season at Central Gwinnett, 2-9; fourth season overall, 13-20)

What else: Jefferson defeated Central Gwinnett 61-7 last year. That was the first meeting between the two schools since they were Region 8-A rivals in 1974-75. The Dragons battled the Black Knights to a 7-7 tie in 1975 and defeated them 21-14 in 1974. The only other Jefferson vs. Central Gwinnett game happened in 1957 in which the Dragons won 20-0.


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