TAMPA — The sophomore quarterback was in tears, falling into the arms of a family member.
The senior receiver, who missed three days of practice while at the funeral of his grandfather, escaped a difficult week with three hours between the sidelines, making two of the most important plays of the game.
And another wide receiver masquerading at a placekicker made the winning score with his foot, not his hands.
The young Jefferson Dragons grew up Friday night. Jefferson overcame three turnovers, scoring 10 points in the final quarter — including Jose Rodriguez's 25-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining — to earn a 17-14 victory over Gaither.
"It's a new beginning," said sophomore quarterback Quentin Williams as tears poured down his face. "It's a new era for Jefferson football."
With the score tied, Williams — who threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns — drove the Dragons into field-goal range from midfield in the final minute, connecting with receiver Devion Falconer for 39 yards on the first play of the drive.
"When we're down we know how to keep our team going and we know how to motivate each other on the right track," Falconer said. "Nobody had their head down. Everybody kept saying we're going to win this game."
Falconer, who caught a 45-yard touchdown pass earlier in the game, returned to practice Thursday after missing three days to attend the funeral of his grandfather, Nate Lofton, in Mississippi.
"It made me feel happy," he said.
Jefferson's offense wouldn't have had the chance to win the game in regulation if not for a defensive stand in the final minutes. The Dragons (2-1) stopped Gaither (1-3) on a fourth-and-3 with 1:02 left, stopping Cowboys star running back Jarvis Giles for no gain.
"Just heartbreaking," said Giles, who ran for a game-high 168 yards on 21 carries in his first game back after missing the season's first three games with an adductor muscle injury.
Meanwhile, the Dragons celebrated their win, a huge confidence boost as Jefferson prepares for a date with Armwood in a week.
"They know what it's like to play in a big game and win a close one at the very end," Jefferson coach Mike Fenton said. "I think it did a world of things for our young guys."