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Winder opens with loss

There were Dragons

POSTED: August 30, 2014 10:00 a.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Winder-Barrow welcomes back players from the 2003 Bulldogg football team, the last year that Winder had a team in the state playoffs.

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With the star-studded duo of TJ Skelton and Evan Shirreffs on the field for Jefferson, a productive and powerful offense was expected. What was not expected was how the Dragons utilized almost everybody but Skelton on their way to a 41-7 win over the Winder-Barrow Bulldoggs at W. Clair Harris Stadium in Winder.

“We threw the ball around early, but the way things were going and with the flow of the game, we felt like establishing the ground game was in our best interest,” second-year Jefferson head coach Ben Hall said Friday night. 

The Dragons (2-0) cranked out 348 yards on the ground, with the princely sum largely split between Sammy Williams and Colby Wood. Williams utilized 22 carries for 176 yards and two touchdowns while Wood carried the ball 16 times for 165 yards and two touchdowns.

Shirreffs had his share of the glory, though, as he threw for 200 yards and a score in his first game back from a season-ending injury in 2013. The senior quarterback threw just two interceptions all of last season, and he continued that impressive accuracy Friday night as he racked up 14 completions on 20 attempts without a single interception.

The Jefferson offense ultimately had their way against the Winder (0-1) defense, but they did so with only minimal impact from senior receiver Skelton. The returning All-State athlete only picked up 44 yards receiving with just four catches. On the other hand, Dalton Hill caught the ball six times for 113 yards. 

“Our receivers, when we’re in our pro personnel, we’re balanced on either side. We’ve got two great receivers…who are interchangeable. I’m sure there’ll be games where TJ out produces Dalton. These guys aren’t selfish. They understand that,” Hall elaborated.

Jefferson used a big second half to spoil the party Friday night as Winder-Barrow welcomed back the 1993 and 2003 Bulldoggs, two of the most successful programs in school history, and introduced first-year head coach Heath Webb. After all of the program’s excitement coming into this season and after all of the enthusiasm Webb and his staff built up preparing for Friday night, the blow-out loss is, at the very least, deflating.

“We’re hurting,” Winder-Barrow head football coach Heath Webb admitted while finding a positive spin to the struggle. “We’re hurting, and I think that’s a good sign. We had some guys who were upset because they lost, and that’s a good sign for the program.”

Winder-Barrow is coming off of a 3-37 stretch in the last four seasons under former head coach David Wagner, and the feeling leading up to Friday night was that it would be Webb’s coming out party with a brand new team. The billing failed to live up, though, as the Doggs fell hard against a Class AAA power and state ranked opponent like Jefferson. 

The Bulldoggs had a couple of good chances to make the game interesting early as two drives stalled in the red zone, one of those being a late second quarter drive that could have made the score a more manageable 13-7 at the half. Instead, a missed field goal from the Jefferson 12-yard line wasted a 75-yard, six play drive with 3 seconds on the clock. 

Shireffs found Hill for a 47-yard completion at the close of the first quarter for Jefferson’s first touchdown, but a missed extra-point attempt kept the score 6-0. The Dragons would go up 13-0 when Trent Sorrells found the end zone on a 3-yard plunge and Gage Lawson rectified his earlier miss by nailing the PAT.

The Bulldoggs would finally score late in the third quarter when Noah Chapman tossed a lateral to receiver Brandon Hayes. Hayes, who took snaps at quarterback in the Bulldoggs’ spring game, found a wide open Bradyn Randall a yard deep in the end zone for a high, lobbing pass. 

Randall would get rocked as he caught the ball, but he came out of the pile with the ball in hand and Winder’s first and only score of the night.

The touchdown was set up by a Jefferson fumble deep in their own territory as Williams coughed up the carry and Winder’s Drezdin Williams jumped on it at the 12. 

“That seemed like a moment where the game could turn in our favor, but we just couldn’t finish,” Webb acknowledged.

Chapman and Ryan Evans traded off quarterback duties throughout the night, though neither one would find the end zone. Chapman, who went 7-for-13 and threw for 90 yards, came the closest with several attempts in the late second-quarter red zone possession. One such pass nearly found Hayes open in the corner, but he failed to stay in bounds on the lofty pass. 

Evans would finish the night 10-or-16 with 43 yards through the air. 

“I don’t think that’s a knock against either quarterback. The difference was that we couldn’t win up front,” Webb said. “That’s the biggest issue.”

Defensively, Winder struggled mightily to hold Jefferson’s potent offense in the second half. The Doggs would make it 20-7 on Hayes’ touchdown pass, but the Dragons opened up their own offense with three fourth quarter touchdowns, including one with just about a minute to go as Wood trotted 89-yards on a simple end-around.

Wood only got the chance because another Winder-Barrow drive stalled deep in the red zone late in the fourth quarter with the score still 34-7. Though the points would have been purely academic, the Doggs attempted to pad the score a little when Chapman’s 13-yard gain to running back CeCe Green was aided by a personal foul penalty against Jefferson and moved Winder-Barrow from the Dragons’ 42-yard line all the way down to the 14. 

“We had to start getting creative with ways to get him the ball,” Webb said, indicating Winder’s reliance on the screen pass to Green. “He’s obviously very good with the ball, but because they were winning the battle up front, we had to go different routes to get him the ball. Luckily, he was able to make a few plays and do some good things for us.”

Unfortunately for them, the screen play to Green, which had been immensely effective for the Doggs, ran out of steam in the red zone. 

Green has been pegged as the workhorse of this new Winder-Barrow offense as a fearsome running back, but most all of his offensive production Friday night came through the air. The junior had 71 yards receiving, the most out of anyone on Winder’s roster, and just 3 yards on the ground with 8 attempts.

Jefferson’s senior-heavy defense had a lot to do with that, though, as Hall pointed out.

“When you have a talent like CeCe Green, it’s hard not to key on that guy,” Hall commented.

“We should be good on defense. We had nine returning starters off last year’s team,” Hall noted. “We’re senior laden and we have great leaders over there.” 

Green had more than 280 yards for Winder-Barrow in the spring game and had more than 100 yards in the scrimmage against South Forsyth two weeks ago, but he was unable to get it going on the ground against Jefferson.

The Winder-Barrow defense gave up an enormous number of yards to Jefferson, but Jeremy Ramsey’s 10 tackles for the Doggs stood out as a defensive gem. He was joined at the top by Nathan Millwood’s eight tackles while Jamaul Cox and Joey Junius each had six. 

“Our effort was great all night long. I never felt like there was a moment where we didn’t play hard or that we gave up. It was one of those deals where, at this moment, Jefferson was just better than us,” Webb admitted. 

“We have to work here to raise the bar, and that’s what we’re doing,” Webb added. “The positive here is effort. There are things here we need to fix, but the positive is effort.”

Both Winder-Barrow and Jefferson need to forget Friday’s landslide quickly as they move on to crucial early season matchups. The Dragons visit North Hall, a team they lost to 41-34 last season.

Winder-Barrow, on the other hand, gets their Region 8-AAAAA schedule started in just their second game by hosting cross-county rival Apalachee. 

“We’ve got to jump into the region schedule, so there’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves,” Webb explained. “We’ve got to go to work on Monday, and that’s what we’ll do.”

The Doggs pulled out last season’s Battle of Barrow with some late heroics by Green for their last region game of the 2013 season, and they hope to get their first region win of this season in much the same fashion.

 

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