It was a storybook season for the Warriors (7-4; 2-2), who brought in a new head coach in Tim Cokely and completely turned the program around after a rough 2016 season. White County gave Jefferson a scare at Memorial Stadium in the opening round of the GHSA 4A State Playoffs, but the Dragons and Colby Wood marched to a 29-13 win.
The Warriors struck first with on the game’s first play, an 83-yard touchdown by Kaleb Crane, who had an incredible senior season as one of the state’s top rushers. The Dragons responded with a lengthy drive, capped by a 9-yard score by Justin Cole. Jefferson (9-2) decided to go for two, as Wood, also one of the state’s top rushers, bulldozed his way in for the 8-7 lead.
In the second quarter, Jefferson quarterback Bryce Moore found a wide open Wood for a 21-yard touchdown pass, giving the home team a 15-7 lead. Controversy arose as the Warriors marched down in the final seconds of the half to the one-yard line. Quarterback J. Ben Haynes spiked the ball to stop the clock, but since he was in the shotgun formation and not under center, the referees ruled intentional grounding, with the penalty including a 10-second runoff of the clock. That left the score 15-7 in favor of Jefferson, and an upset White County coaching staff.
The Dragons had deferred for the second half kickoff, but didn’t foresee Brett Bardenwerper’s onside kick coming. The Warriors recovered, but two plays later, Haynes threw a rare interception inside the five-yard line. Addison Clay returned it about 30 yards before Haynes brought him down. The Dragons capitalized with another Colby Wood score from 8-yards out to go up 22-7.
It appeared as though Jefferson was pulling away, but the Warriors orchestrated a drive with both timely passing by Haynes and solid runs by Crane. Crane, in the “Wild Warrior” formation, powered in for a five-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 22-13 to begin the fourth quarter.
However, Jefferson was the recipient of a bit of luck, as a Bryce Moore pass was deflected by a diving Warrior, but the ball ricocheted into the hands of a waiting Sammy Elegreet, who took it another 20 yards. On the next play, Wood put the game away with a 20-yard touchdown run to seal the 29-13 win for the Dragons.
The season is now complete for the Warriors, while the Dragons move on to the 4A Sweet 16.