Jefferson 2019 Preview: 7 Things to Know About the Dragons
There is much to like about this group, which went 8-3 a year ago in what was a first-round exit. This program expected more, and this year the goal doesn’t change for a region title and state championship. The offense returns 2,505 rushing yards combined, led by Colby Clark, Carter Stephenson, Kade McNally, Donsha Gaither, Paxton Corkery, and Jacob Thompson. Will Clark return to quarterback, or will that go to last year’s emerging star Stephenson?
With Sammy Elegreet, Zac Corbin, and Garmon Randolph all gone (834 receiving yards) leaving, that brings back only 122 receiving yards to a young receiving corp. The defense is partially intact from a year ago, as six key players on that side of the ball are gone. There’s enough skill though that they should reload just fine. Still, last year’s region runner-up finish and first round exit left a bad taste in these guy’s mouths. Look for a better 2019 as 25 seniors lead this team.
7 Things To Know About the Dragons
1. Underclassmen Will Surprise
Jefferson has a strong sophomore class with a number of those players who could contribute this upcoming season. Some of those players include: Malaki Starks (QB/RB/DB), Jordan Perry (RB/LB), Kadin Bailey (RB/LB), Spencer Neese (WR/LB), Dawson Crawley (WR/DB), Reese Johnson (FB/LB), Cole Patterson (OL/DL), Brian Habeck (OL/DL).
2. Strength is in Depth After Injury-Plagued 2018
The strength of this year’s Jefferson team should be in the depth of players who could contribute. A number of injuries in 2018 forced some players onto the field last season, and some of those players return with experience under their belt. Up to 20 returning players played regularly in 2018, and a strong underclass group could lend contributors as well.
3. Dragons MUST be Healthy
After a rash of injuries in 2018, the focus for 2019 will be keeping players healthy and on the field. Players have been working hard in the weight room and in speed and conditioning work to prepare their bodies for the upcoming season. With a number of young, talented players in the program, the team will also focus on finding the best roles for all those who can contribute on Friday nights.
4. Offense is a Year Smarter, Comfortable
Jefferson will continue to work out of the Flexbone offense they began implementing in 2018. With a year of experience under their belts, the players are much more comfortable in the scheme. Colby Clark returns to run it as a SR. Carter Stephenson, forced into the role last year (and had AMAZING success), also returns. Malaki Starks (SO) could also play some QB after missing last year with a leg injury.
Up to eight players could run the ball in 2019. These include FBs: Kade McNally (SR), Jacob Thompson (SR), Paxton Corkery (JR), Reese Johnson (SO) and Hyson Porter (SO). The RBs who could contribute this year include: Donsha Gaither (SR), Kolton Jones (JR), Hunter Blayton (JR), Malaki Starks (SO), Jordan Perry (SO), Levin Jones (SO) and Kadin Bailey (SO). The Dragons will need to replace two Division-I level WRs from the 2018 team. However, a very talented group of players is ready to step in. These WRs include: Josh Cochran (SR), Trey McEver (SR), Kam Robinson (JR), Nick Evans (JR), Dawson Crawley (SO) and Spencer Neese (SO).
5. Same Stellar Defense
Jefferson will continue to implement the multiple defensive looks that it has made it so successful on D the past decade. The Dragons will switch between Odd and Even fronts and will play a variety of coverages behind it. Some of the top returning defensive players for Jefferson this season include LBs: McNally, Corkery and Rem Maxwell (JR). Clark will also be a factor again on defense this year at either LB or DB. Nick Evans also returns after starting at DB last season.
6. O-Line, D-Line Largely Intact
Four players return who started games on the OL last season. Those players include: Mason Ware (SR), Hurst Young (SR), Colton Steele (JR) and Colton Dufrense (JR). Other players who are in the mix to play OL include: Gage Swilling (SR), Cole Patterson (SO), Brian Habeck (SO), Jamarcus Hill (SO) and Dylan Ryoul. Ware, Young and Dufresne could also contribute to the team’s DL. Other players who could play on the DL include: AJ Abbott (SR), Nathan Collins (SR), Terry Martin (SR) and Jaheim Hardy (JR).
7. It Starts With a Region Title
“The expectation for Jefferson football always is to compete for a region championship and to be a factor in the state playoffs,” says coach Gene Cathcart. It doesn’t get any clearer than that.