TAMPA — As if fully cognizant of the Bright House Sports Network cameras surrounding them, the Jefferson Dragons chose to deliver an ensemble performance for their regional TV audience.
On a comfortable, cloudless night at Dr. Sam Horton Stadium, the only break the Dragons gave Land O'Lakes (9-2) were commercial ones. In arguably its best, most balanced effort of the year, Jefferson (9-1) amassed nearly 400 total yards in a 43-22 playoff triumph.
The victory sets up a Jefferson rematch against Class 3A, District 8 foe Lakewood at home in Friday's 3A region semifinals. Jefferson topped the Spartans 27-6 in October.
"We had a couple of busts, but overall we got the win," said junior quarterback Quentin Williams, who threw for 191 yards and three touchdowns. "Our motto is when the offense executes the score takes care of itself."
The Dragons' stars? There was a veritable constellation of them.
In addition to Williams, junior Demetrius Russell ran for 110 yards on only 14 carries; lanky wideout Andre "The Freak" Davis had seven catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns; and the offensive line kept Williams from sustaining little more than a grass stain.
Additionally, the Dragons had no turnovers, were whistled for only five penalties and converted two crucial short-field opportunities into touchdowns.
"I'll have to look at the film; I'm sure there are some little things here and there that we can get better at," coach Mike Fenton said. "I was satisfied with the tempo of it and our offensive line I think played one whale of a game."
Two critical Gators miscues resulted in a 14-point halftime deficit. On his first possession of the game, Gators coach Matt Kitchie opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 from inside his 45. Jefferson held, and LaDarius Moye scored from 4 yards out six plays later.
Then with less than a minute remaining before halftime, punter Gary Myrick mishandled a long snap in his own territory and was swarmed by Dragons defenders, giving Jefferson possession at the LOL 29. Four plays later, Williams scored from 6 yards to make it 23-9.
Land O'Lakes' first-half highlight: an apparently improvised Stevie Weatherford shovel pass to Alex Robinson on a broken play that resulted in a 22-yard touchdown to cut Jefferson's lead to 9-7. Such was the reason the hosts entered the game intent on keeping the ball from Weatherford.
"We wanted to help our defense out a little bit and try to control the clock a little bit … because we felt he was pretty dangerous," Fenton said.
Weatherford finished with 210 yards, three touchdowns and only one interception.
"You can't fault Weatherford for his game," Kitchie said. "We just made some crucial mistakes at the wrong time."