TAMPA — As Jefferson took the field, the rain came down hard but soon thereafter it turned into a breezy Friday night for a preseason tilt.
The Class 5A Dragons took down visiting Class A Pahokee 30-17 in a battle of region finalists from a season ago.
Jefferson won the turnover battle 4-2, with two interceptions from sophomore cornerback Eric Felder and two fumble recoveries from junior linebacker Jonathon Dixon.
“Defense is all about effort and attitude and getting those guys to run to the ball,” Jefferson coach Joe Midulla said. “Play hard and play together. A big thing that we talk about here is playing together as a team and play together as a family. We were able to do that pretty well tonight.
Junior quarterback Tre Simmons got the Dragons going late in the first quarter with a drive packed with impressive runs, including a 15-yarder from him and a 16-yard dash from junior running back Jeremiah Burnett.
Two plays into the second quarter, Simmons, a transfer from Armwood, took a quarterback keeper 2 yards for a score to put the Dragons ahead 6-0. The two-point conversion failed.
Jefferson gets on the board first on a 2-yard QB keeper from junior @TreSimmons8. 2-point conversion is unsuccessful.2Q - 11:31 Jefferson 6Pahokee 0@JBOYS_FOOTBALL @TBHomeTeam pic.twitter.com/yrMm3RALUs— ᴊᴀᴋᴇ ᴘᴇʀᴘᴇʀ (@JakePerper) August 17, 2019
A slew of penalties led to another touchdown drive from Jefferson as Burnett galloped in for a 2-yard score at the 4:41 mark to make the game 14-0. The two-point conversion was successful.
The Dragons backfield tandem of Burnett and senior Andrew Ellis turned in a nice night on the ground, combining for 27 carries and 139 yards and a touchdown. Burnett led the way with 15 carries for 87 yards (5.8 per carry) and a score.
“It was a good start for them. They have a long way to go,” Midulla said of his running back duo. “Our whole team has a long way to go. It was a good start to the season to get a good measuring stick.”
Pahokee tacked on a 29-yard field goal from Daniel Rodriguez right before the break. Taking over at its own 47-yard line, senior back Cory Pope powered his way down the field for a 40-yard scamper to give the Blue Devils some life down 14-3.
The field got muddier in the second half which led to more penalties (24 for the game).
Early in the third quarter, the Dragons continued their offensive surge on a 5-yard touchdown from junior wide receiver Jamari Gassett.
Jefferson takes advantage of a short field following Jonathan Dixon’s second fumble recovery. Junior WR @JamariGassett18 makes the catch and runs in for a 5-yard TD. 2-pt conversion good.3Q - 10:10Jefferson 22Pahokee 3@JBOYS_FOOTBALL @TBHomeTeam pic.twitter.com/zlRvrE1jUb— ᴊᴀᴋᴇ ᴘᴇʀᴘᴇʀ (@JakePerper) August 17, 2019
The final 22 points of the game came in the fourth quarter with Pahokee recording a safety midway through the quarter. Then, on a 7-yard touchdown grab by senior Kenarvis Bowles and two minutes later on a 6-yard run by junior back Geoffrey McKelton.
Following the Bowles score, Jefferson senior athlete Charles Williams flew down the left sideline for a 75-yard kickoff return touchdown.
On defense, juniors Nasir Beckham and Carson Moore each had a sack while senior safety Tyrik Thomas tallied three pass breakups.
Jefferson hosts Gaither in its home opener next Friday night and Midulla had a simple message for his group: “Be the best version of ourselves and not make any mistakes.”