TO THE HOUSE

Jefferson's Malaki Starks breaks for a 64-yard touchdown run to start the second half Friday night in the Dragons' 41-7 win over Gainesville. 

GAINESVILLE — Malaki Starks said Jefferson's football team showed up at Gainesville “anxious” after an extended layoff between games. The Dragons took out that pent-up energy on the Red Elephants.

“We wanted everything,” the star sophomore running back-defensive back said.

Well, the Dragons — who hadn’t played since Sept. 6 — got just that, racing out to a 27-0 halftime lead on Gainesville in routing the improved Red Elephants 41-7 Friday (Sept. 20) at Bobby Gruhn Stadium.

Jefferson’s game with Southside (S.C.) on Sept. 13 was canceled due to weather.

The Dragons (2-1) showed no rust, piling up 310 rushing yards and 435 total yards on the Class AAAAAA Red Elephants in their fourth-straight win over Gainesville (2-2).

"They (Gainesville) have improved a lot," Jefferson coach Gene Cathcart said. "And this was just one of those nights. (Quarterback) Colby (Clark) made great reads, great decisions. Defensively, we played well. Our secondary probably played the best I've seen them in a long time."

Cathcart added that he was happy to see his team return to game action. With an off-date Aug. 30 and last week's cancelation, the Dragons had only played two games to this point.  

"It's hard to get better constantly being on the practice field," Cathcart said. 

The multi-talented Starks led the way Friday with six touches for 146 yards (75 receiving yards, 71 rushing yards) with three touchdowns. Starks ran for two of those touchdowns. He provided the first score of the game with a nine-yard first-quarter touchdown run and later ripped off a 64-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half.

Perhaps even more impressive, though, from Starks was a circus catch for a 33-yard touchdown during the second quarter.

“I had a great time,” Starks said. “It’s all because of my boys. I can’t do it without them. I give them all the credit. Colby (Clark) did throw some good balls, and I ran for some good yards. It was fun.”

Colby Clark was highly efficient, hitting on 5-of-6 passes for 125 yards with the senior throwing touchdown passes to both Starks and Josh Cochran.

His 33-yard throw to Starks gave Jefferson a 14-0 second quarter lead. Starks went up high with one hand for Clark’s pass, double tipped it and came down with the ball in the other hand for the score.

Clark’s pass to Cochran came with six seconds left in the first half and covered 18 yards. Cochran out-leaped a Red Elephant defender in the end zone for the ball, giving the Dragons a 27-0 lead.

Sandwiched in between those touchdown passes was a 15-yard scoop-and-score from defensive back Kam Robinson after a botched hook-and-ladder play from Gainesville.

Kolton Jones also found the end zone in the rout, scoring on a 15-yard run late in the third quarter for Jefferson’s final points.

That score answered Gainesville’s only touchdown — a 35-yard touchdown pass from Gionni Williams to Walter Dixon midway through the third quarter.

Jefferson limited Gainesville to 229 total yards.

Meanwhile, the Dragons have racked up 1,054 yards of total offense in their last two games in their triple option scheme. 

Starks said he's excited about what the offensive unit could accomplish the rest of the way. 

"I feel like as a player, we can do anything we want to do, and go as far as we want to go if we all buy in, and we're going to be fine," Starks said. 

"We certainly know we've got playmakers," Cathcart said. "A lot of them. And (coach) Mike Doolittle did a great job spreading the ball around. The offensive line allowed us to protect against those eight-man fronts and make some plays in the throw game."

The Dragons have now won two straight games since losing to Oconee County in the season opener, outscoring West Hall and Gainesville by a combined 103-14.  Jefferson opens region play next Friday at East Jackson.

“The reports of our death the first week were probably greatly exaggerated,” Cathcart said. “The reports of us correcting everything against West Hall were greatly exaggerated. I’m just ready to get off the elevator and rollercoaster and kind of get that steady chugging-on and have each Friday night, now, as we enter region play to just see how much this team can grow.”

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