ORLANDO — Quentin Williams envisioned this moment since the seventh grade, when he spent afternoons playing back-lot football with some future high school teammates at a Carver City rec center, just steps away from Jefferson’s campus. It was then they first talked about all wearing blue Dragons helmets and leading Jefferson to that elusive first state title.
Despite a proud football tradition, Jefferson had been to the state final twice before Friday’s Class 3A title game against Miami Norland, and went home empty-handed both times. But if there was any question that these Dragons were ready for their time in the spotlight, they answered quickly.
Soon enough, coach Mike Fenton, a rookie state final head coach in his 33rd year in the business, was being doused with ice water. Williams, the starting quarterback who at halftime was anointed the top high school player in the state, was smiling into the stands and pointing at his right ring finger.
“It’s bigger than anything,” Williams said. “I love them boys over there. We’ve been through so much.”
From the 2007 shooting death of linebacker C.J. Mills — a mentor to many of this year’s seniors — to the defection of several starters the following year that led to many of these seniors playing as sophomores, the Dragons took their share of lumps for two seasons.
But they ended their high school careers with an undefeated season and gold medals around their necks.
The Dragons completed a perfect season, scoring touchdowns on their first five possessions on their way to a dominating 44-34 win. Jefferson (15-0) ran out to a quick 30-point lead midway through the first quarter, taking advantage of Norland’s early-game jitters.
Williams, who became the third bay area player to be named Florida Mr. Football at halftime, accounted for five touchdowns — three passing and two rushing — completing a senior season in which he rewrote the state’s single-season and career passing record books.
“He just willed his team on,” said Fenton, who was an offensive coordinator on Jefferson’s state finalist teams in 2002 and ’04. “I hoped three was the lucky charm. I tried not to get too obsessed and stay on an even keel. All the pieces needed to come together, and they really did today. Everything came together, and it’s a win for the entire school.”
The 5-foot-11 Williams, who finished the season with a record 4,451 yards and 56 touchdowns (as well as state career records of 109 touchdowns and 10,384 yards), led the state’s most prolific offense into the Citrus Bowl on a mission. It was an emotional year, with some of their biggest wins ending with tears. But surprisingly, there were nothing but dry eyes on Friday.
“They grew up together, a lot of them did, and to accomplish this together as a group — we talk about family — is amazing,” Fenton said. “It’s something they dreamed of even before they became players at Jefferson. For it to come true, words can’t describe how I feel.”
Norland (13-2) struggled from its first snap — the Vikings’ first three plays ended in two fumbles and an interception — netting zero yards on its first three possessions.
Jefferson, meanwhile, took advantage of man defense, needing just 11 offensive plays to take a 22-0 lead 10 minutes into the game — Williams ran for one score and hit Chris Moore (who missed the second half with a broken collarbone) and Christian Calle for touchdowns. That allowed Jefferson’s line to open holes for the Dragons’ rushing game — tailback Demetrius Russell ran for 132 yards and a touchdown.
“Anytime someone comes out and plays us man-to-man, our eyes light up,” offensive coordinator Jeremy Earle said.
And the Dragons’ defense kept the Vikings out of synch all day. Linebackers Ramik Wilson and Calle (two sacks each) harassed Norland quarterback Benji Phillippe all day and free safety Rodney Mills picked off two Phillippe passes.
After the game, reporters crowded around Williams with questions. How is it possible that Williams, with his gaudy stats and sensational state title performance, was “only” going to Division I-AA Bethune-Cookman University? And would he be open to playing college ball at a bigger school?
His answer: No.
For the Dragons, there was another question. Was there any doubt that Williams would lead Jefferson to the school’s first state title?
“Not at all,” said wide receiver Andre Davis. “That’s not in his repertoire. People talk about his height, but with his heart, he can play on any college football team.”
Q calls it a career
A by-the-numbers look at Jefferson quarterback Quentin Williams’ high school career, the most prolific of any quarterback in Florida history (the first four numbers are state records):
10,384 Career passing yardage
4,451 Passing yardage this season
913 Rushing yards this season
224 Total yards amassed in state title game
109 Career touchdown passes
56 TD passes this season
5 Touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) in state final