This week, the Times’ high school staff reflects on the best high school game each writer covered during the 2010-11 school year. Eduardo A. Encina takes a look back at Jefferson’s 28-27 win over St. Augustine in the Class 3A state football semifinals.
Heading into that frigid Friday night in December, St. Augustine was hardly the opponent the Jefferson football team wanted.
Ever since the Dragons’ 2009 season ended seven hours — and one win from the state title game — away in Pensacola, Jefferson wanted its path to Orlando to go through the Tigers.
That bitter loss — and the hope of a rematch at home — drove these seniors during the countless offseason workouts and humid August two-a-days.
But St. Augustine squashed any hope for redemption by beating Pensacola in the region final, and Jefferson couldn’t sleep on the undefeated Yellow Jackets.
The Dragons entered the game 13-0 and No. 1 in Class 3A. Their record-setting offense, led by quarterback Quentin Williams and a dazzling passing attack, had made quick work of most teams to this point.
But on that Dec. 10 night, Jefferson quickly knew it was in for a dogfight with St. Augustine, which had allowed just 99 points all season.
The late-arriving Sam Horton Field crowd saw its team trailing 3-0, despite blocking two first-half field-goal attempts. Jefferson’s offense sputtered in the opening minutes, needing LaDarius Moye’s 50-yard fumble return for a score to ignite the Dragons. Williams then connected with Andre Holloway for a 62-yard touchdown with 29 seconds left in the first to give Jefferson a 14-3 lead.
That was usually the crack in the door Jefferson needed to blow a game open. But this was a back-and-forth affair. St. Augustine, led by 100-yard rushers Tarek Odom and Jerry Blount, scored 17 unanswered. The Dragons defense had few answers for Odom, a 250-pound downhill runner, who somehow returned to the field after hitting his head on a 40-yard gain through the middle and wobbling to the sideline.
Odom ran through the Jefferson defense for a 2-yard score that gave St. Augustine a 27-21 lead with 1:50 left in the third.
That’s when Williams put his helmet down and guided the Dragons to the state final. The senior converted a pair of third and longs, and needed a fourth-down conversion to win the game.
On a naked bootleg inside the 5, Williams stretched for the first-down marker along the Jefferson sideline but was one chain link short inside the 2.
With 6:24 left in the game — and St. Augustine more than able to eat up the remaining clock on a turnover on downs — Williams pedaled his feet forward a yard for the first down. One play later he fell into the end zone for the winning score.
Jefferson went on to win its first state title a week later at the Citrus Bowl, pouncing on an overwhelmed Miami Norland 44-34 in the title game.
That game may have been for a state championship, but the Dragons truly won the title a week before in West Tampa.
More games that almost made the cut
Girls soccer, Steinbrenner 2, Merritt Island 1 (Class 4A state final): Carly Keene headed in Lauren Laughlin’s somersault throw-in to give the Warriors their first state team title in overtime by beating the defending state champ.
Baseball, Alonso 7, Park Vista 5 (Class 6A state semifinal): The Cobras’ bats battered Alonso ace Jose Fernandez early, but the senior had the last laugh with a seventh-inning two-run homer that sent Alonso to the state title game.
Girls basketball, Tampa Catholic 48, North Broward Prep 37 (Class 3A state final): With her Crusader teammates shooting an icy 4-for-27 from the field, senior Meghan Keough put on a show, scoring 30 points to lead TC to its 25th straight win and back-to-back state titles.