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Brayden Varnell’s Game-Winning Pass Sends Jefferson to Win Over Elysian Fields

Jefferson quarterback Brayden Varnell threw the game-winning touchdown against Elysian Fields on Friday night. (Jeff Stapleton, ETSN.fm)

[By Anthony Hawthorne, Special to ETSN.fm]

ELYSIAN FIELDS — Facing a third-and-10 at their own 30-yard line late in the fourth quarter of a tie game, the Jefferson Bulldogs faced the possibility of giving up the ball and possibly the game.

Brayden Varnell had other plans.

Varnell’s 70-yard pass to a streaking Ty Lafayette with 1:57 remaining in the game put Jefferson on top, the defense forced their fourth turnover of the game on the ensuing possession and the Bulldogs held on for a 21-14 victory.

Elysian Fields’ Tanner Davis picks up a first down against Jefferson on Friday night. (Jeff Stapleton, ETSN.fm)

The Yellowjackets’ final drive started at their own 25-yard line and included consecutive fourth-down conversions, moving the ball just past midfield behind the legs and arm of freshman QB Logan Hughes. Hughes scrambled for 21 yards on a fourth-and-11, then found Drake Davis for seven yards on a fourth-and-3, but the ‘Jackets couldn’t convert on both third- and fourth-and-inches.

His third-down pass was incomplete and his sneak on fourth was fumbled as he was stuffed up the middle, and Jefferson’s LaTaurus Gadderson made the recovery to seal the victory.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the defense. Coach Lee and his staff do a heck of a job with them. We did give up a little bit of yardage late but we told them don’t give up the big play,” Jefferson head coach Derek Simmons said.

Varnell led the way for the Bulldogs, completing 9 of 22 passes for 160 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and added a score on the ground. Terrance Whitaker added 38 yards rushing while Lafayette had 2 catches for 66 yards and the game-winning TD.

The Bulldogs (1-1) opened the scoring early in the second quarter on a textbook read-option play by Varnell, pulling the ball from the running back at the last possible second and taking off and outrunning two defenders for a 31-yard score.

The left side of the line, anchored by Ryan Cox, was effective the majority of the second half as the Bulldogs made it a point to use their standout 6-foot-5 lineman. Chris Smith’s 16-yard score to tie things up late in the third was opened up by a huge hole to the left where the tailback went untouched into the end zone. Under pressure most of the night, Varnell had plenty of time on his game-winning heave, finding Lafayette wide open across the middle where he outran the defense to find paydirt.

“That’s a play we run all the time, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Ty made a heck of a catch, that’s what he does, he’s a playmaker for us” Simmons said.

The loss ruined an impressive night by the Jackets’ (0-2) defensive front of Braden Jett, Zach Holcomb, Tristen Moore and linebacker Tanner Norman, who totaled seven tackles-for-loss and eight sacks, two each from Jett and Norman. Just a week after being gashed by Corrigan-Camden, the Jackets defense allowed just 74 yards on the ground.

It was the offense that had trouble at times moving the ball especially early, not getting their first first down until the 6:24 mark of the second quarter. The combination of penalties and turnovers put them behind the eight ball the majority of the night.

Hughes eventually found a rhythm, completing all three of his passes and running for 16 yards, including a 2-yard score just before half to tie things up. The Jackets’ second score came on a Hughes pass that went through the hands of Davis, off a Bulldogs defender and into the hands of Tramell Hudson in the end zone.

The Bulldogs play host next Friday to Paul Pewitt while the Yellowjackets travel to Arp.

Jefferson’s Terrance Whitaker runs upfield against Elysian Fields on Friday night at Yellowjacket Stadium. (Jeff Stapleton, ETSN.fm)

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