Jefferson

Austin Redmon and Oscar Escobedo corral North Oconee's quarterback deep in the backfield for a sack late in the first quarter Friday (Oct. 29). Jefferson's defense kept the Titans out of the end zone for most of the night, but not enough as the Dragons lost 11-6.

JEFFERSON – Jefferson’s undefeated streak, run at the top of the state rankings and reign over Region 8-AAAA are over thanks to No. 9 North Oconee.

The Dragons lost to the Titans 11-6 in the de-facto region title game Friday (Oct. 29). They will enter the AAAA State Playoffs in two weeks as a No. 2 seed.

“All the credit goes to them,” said head coach Gene Cathcart. “They played well. I got out-coached. Their kids played hard. It was a frustrating night.

“Defensively we played well enough to win a championship. Not taking anything away from them, we just weren’t able to overcome some penalties and some plays they made.”

Jefferson (8-1, 4-1 Region 8-AAAA) outgained North Oconee 163-134, but a series of special teams errors and a bad start on offense awarded the Titans four points and favorable field position for their only touchdown drive.

North Oconee (7-3, 6-0 Region 8-AAAA) started winning the field position battle by getting two first downs on its opening position. A punt backed the Dragons to their own 11-yard line. Jefferson went three-and-out and North Oconee got a piece of the ensuing punt.

The Titans took over at Jefferson’s 25-yard line and quickly drove to the 3-yard line, but a fumbled snap ended up in the grasp of Jefferson linebacker Kadin Bailey at the Dragons’ 14-yard line.

However, Jefferson couldn’t do anything with the momentum and went three-and-out. The Titans rushed the punter again, and this time they blocked the punt. The ball rolled out of the end zone for a safety, and North Oconee led 2-0 with 2:51 left in the first quarter.

North Oconee returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield, and a personal foul by the Dragons moved the Titans to Jefferson’s 34-yard line. Jefferson dodged another bullet when Malaki Starks intercepted a pass at the 3-yard line late in the first quarter.

Jefferson finally earned a first down early in the second quarter when Starks hit Jack Eubanks for a 21-yard pass. That ended up being Starks’s only completion of the game, he attempted eight passes.

The Dragons ultimately stalled at their own 36-yard line and North Oconee snuffed out a fake punt to take over at the 33-yard line. North Oconee scored a touchdown on a one-yard drive soon after to extend its lead to 9-0 with 7:18 left in the second quarter.

Disaster struck again after another Jefferson three-and-out at its own 23-yard-line. A snap sailed way over the punter’s head and went out of bounds for another safety. North Oconee led 11-0 with 5:30 left in the second quarter. The Titans took that lead into halftime.

Jefferson scored its only touchdown when Tre Reece ran 56 yards down the Titans sideline for a score. However, Jefferson failed on the two-point conversion attempt and still trailed 11-6 with 8:12 left in the third quarter.

The Dragons wouldn’t come close to scoring again. A fumble at the Titans 35-yard line and a failed fourth-down conversion at the Titans 41-yard line prevented any more scoring threats. Jefferson had one more chance when North Oconee missed a 33-yard field goal with 1:04 seconds left in regulation, but an interception two plays later squashed Jefferson’s scoring hopes.

“We made uncharacteristic mistakes on special teams that we haven’t been making at all in three years,” Cathcart said. “When [North Oconee] had to, they stepped up and made some plays. All of the credit in the world goes to Tyler [Aurandt] and those guys. We have to take care of us and get ready for Madison County and then see what playoff draw we get.”

The Dragons will attempt to salvage its regular season at home next Friday against Madison County (6-4, 3-3 Region 8-AAAA).

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