TAMPA — After squandering 21-point leads each of the last two weeks, Jefferson unintentionally altered its modus operandi on its homecoming night.
Instead of drawing blood early, the Dragons (2-4, 1-2) smelled it late.
Trailing 8-6 with barely two minutes to play in the third quarter, the Dragons abruptly transformed their grudge match with King into a mismatch. Three Lions turnovers in a 31/2-minute span all were converted into Jefferson TDs as the hosts kept their playoff pulse steady with a 41-8 romp.
“Here at Jefferson, when the guys smell blood they go,” said Dragons coach Jeremy Earle, whose team managed 78 first-half yards. “It’s such a frustrating thing, but it sure is nice when they finally get it and finally go.”
Accounting for 18 of the 35 unanswered points was the passing tandem of quarterback Deiondre Porter and senior Jonathan Moore, who finished with eight catches for 242 yards.
One play after a Lions fumble near the Dragons 30, Porter (12-for-19, 253 yards) threw over the middle to Moore, who bounced off a Lions defender and raced 63 yards for the touchdown. Porter’s two-point pass to Ventell Bryant gave Jefferson a 14-8 lead with 2:12 to go in the third.
To that point, the Lions (2-5, 2-2) had essentially stuffed Jefferson’s run game and moved inside the Dragons’ 35-yard line three times, coming up empty with two blocked field goals.
They took an 8-6 lead, however, when Javontee Brice scooped up the second-half kickoff near his 15 and raced down the right sideline for a TD. On the ensuing PAT, holder Dominick Kelly took the snap, hopped up and raced to his right for the conversion.
“We came into the game kind of big-headed, thinking they were a downgraded team and they weren’t,” Moore said.
Following Porter’s go-ahead TD to Moore, King fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Four plays later, senior captain Shaquille Speights ran virtually untouched up the middle for an 11-yard TD. Two plays after that, senior Junior Lewis picked off an Alex Frederick pass and dashed for a 40-yard TD to make it 27-8.
Then, the Porter-Moore highlight film commenced. With Moore in single coverage, the 6-foot-1 junior quarterback found him on a hitch-and-go pattern down the right side for a 65-yard TD. Noah Pena’s PAT made it 34-8.
On Jefferson’s next possession, Moore again got behind his single coverage for a 63-yard scoring catch on a post pattern. It was his fourth TD of the night, including a 4-yard TD catch in the first quarter.
“Very clutch,” Earle said. “In a situation where everybody was kind of looking at each other with that stare, it was a time where they made plays finally. That was a good feeling.”