Jefferson Looks to Continue Dominant Run After Three Consecutive Shutouts
Jefferson's past three games are Exhibit A as to how dangerous the 6-0 Bulldogs are in 2017.
In those three games, Jefferson has outscored its opponents 181-0. You have to go back to Sept. 15 to find an opponent who scored on the Bulldogs, and back to Sept. 1 to find an opponent that held Jefferson to under 30 points.
"We've just got a great group of kids who are playing hard, enjoying the game and playing with tremendous effort," Jefferson coach Antwain Jimmerson said on Tuesday. "That's one thing we teach from week to week, is to play hard and we're proud of them."
Last week's 63-0 shutout of New Boston -- after winning 24-14 in 2016 -- was an exclamation point on a three-game run of pure dominance. The Bulldogs took the ball from New Boston eight times, including five fumbles, and scored twice on defense in a 40-point second quarter.
Over the last three games the Jefferson defense has posted an incredible 41 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and 12 takeaways.
"We're not the biggest defense around, but these guys play hard. They really get after people," Jimmerson said. "They know how to chase the football. Our goal is to get the ball to go sideline to sideline and we shut down the middle of the field."
Senior defensive end Taylor Smith, Jefferson's only returning starter on the defensive line this season, has the kind of numbers through six games many players would be praised for having in an entire season. Smith leads his team in tackles with 73, while also having recorded 11 tackles for loss, five sacks and a fumble recovery.
Eric Gipson, who moved from receiver to defensive end this season and returned an interception for a touchdown last week, has been equally impressive. The senior has 62 tackles -- 19 for loss -- five sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery through six games.
"Taylor plays with that edge you want to see in a defensive end. He plays fast and is able to turn the corner. And Eric's been playing really well coming off the ball," Jimmerson said. "It's always good on defense when you can chase people down and get a good pass rush without having to blitz."
Offensively, growth has been the name of the game for Jefferson. Junior Trey Hodge is gaining another year under his belt of leading an explosive offense that is averaging nearly 50 points per game in 2017.
Hodge has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,101 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions while leading the team in rushing touchdowns with seven. Jefferson is averaging more than 10 yards per carry as a team, led by junior Tybo Williams' 399 yards and five touchdowns. Junior receiver T.Q. Jackson has been Hodge's favorite target, catching 19 balls for 480 yards and four touchdowns.
"We have a guy in every phase of our offense who can be explosive for us," Jimmerson said. "We're doing a good job of making plays when they present themselves, and we've done a good job of spreading the ball around and that's going to help our team moving forward. That's something we wanted to do going into camp, get as many kids ready to play as possible and I think as a staff we've done a good job of that."
Jimmerson said one of his goals with his staff was to encourage his players to participate in more than one sport to build experience and athleticism, and he said he's noticed a difference this season.
"Our head basketball coach, baseball coach, track and golf coaches are all football coaches, and we've really pushed our guys to be multi-sport athletes," Jimmerson said. "And we really think that's helped our team. We've definitely become more athletic."
Now 6-0 and in the driver's seat of District 8-3A Division I, Jefferson looks to keep rolling toward a second consecutive district title. Up next is longtime rival Hughes Springs, which is coming off a surprising 36-point loss to White Oak after starting the season 5-0.
Ball control is Hughes Springs' method of operation, and Jimmerson said his team will need to take advantage where it can and keep winning the turnover battle.
"They're a great ball control team but also very explosive. Being able to slow them down is where it begins with us this week," Jimmerson said. "We need to force the ball outside and try to chase it down. No doubt (the turnover battle) is a key going into any week and even more this week because they do a good job of hanging onto the football. It's going to be a great contest and we'll have a great crowd."