Jefferson High Dragons eye elusive state title

CARROLLWOOD — Jefferson's 2010 regular season has yielded plenty of fantastic results.

The Dragons went 10-0 — the program's first undefeated regular season since 1975. Jefferson maintained its playoff streak, reaching the postseason every season since 1999. And with its 63-21 win against Plant City last week, Jefferson tallied 530 points during its 10-game schedule, setting a new state record for regular season points scored.

But for Jefferson coach Mike Fenton and his team, anything short of the state title that has eluded the program would be considered a disappointment. Jefferson begins the 2010 playoff road tonight at home against Land O'Lakes.

As Jefferson begins its playoff pursuit, there are plenty of factors that could help the Dragons finally get over the hump and bring home a state title:

• Fenton has called this squad the most talented Jefferson team since the 2002 squad that lost in the state championship game. The 2004 Jefferson team also fell in the state title game.

• Record-setting senior quarterback Quentin Williams has been unstoppable this season, leading the bay area with 2,628 yards passing, 38 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

• The dynamic receiving duo of Chris Moore and Andre Davis combined for 72 receptions, 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns.

• The Jefferson defense has been solid as well, allowing more than 20 points only twice — both times to squads (Newsome and Plant City) that went on to make the playoffs.

Jefferson is not the only North Tampa-area team in the playoffs.

Sickles, playing in the postseason for the third time in the past four seasons, has a tough task in the opening round of the Class 4A postseason, playing at No. 1-ranked Armwood.

Alonso begins the Class 5A playoffs at Newsome. The Ravens opened last season's playoff round with an upset of Newsome, but the Wolves nipped the Ravens 17-14 in September.

Jesuit, Berkeley Prep and Tampa Catholic also have post-season challenges.

All kickoffs are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Land O'Lakes (9-1) at Jefferson (10-0) — Class 3A

Last Week: Jefferson defeated Plant City 63-21; Land O'Lakes defeated Hudson 42-10.

Last Year: Jefferson defeated Land O'Lakes 43-22 in the opening round of the 2009 playoffs.

The Skinny: A matchup of two of the top offenses in the area. Land O'Lakes is almost as potent as the Dragons, scoring 400 points this season, led by QB Stephen Weatherford's 2,137 yards passing and 30 touchdowns.

The Edge: Land O'Lakes was without head coach Mitch Kitchie and assistant Jason Hatcher last week due to unspecified suspensions. They are expected back tonight, but that likely won't be enough to make a difference. The Gators will score points, but Jefferson is on a mission.

Sickles (6-4) at Armwood (10-0) — Class 4A

Last Week: Sickles defeated Wharton 62-32; Armwood defeated Alonso 49-7.

Last Year: Armwood defeated Sickles 22-9 in the opening round of the 2009 playoffs.

The Skinny: Sickles was Jekyll and Hyde-like this season but played well enough at crunch time. The Gryphons will run RB Cary White (982 yards this season, 3,000-plus in his Sickles career) at a stout Hawks defense that gave up on average fewer than five points a game. Armwood, meanwhile, will counter with QB Josh Grady and RB Matt Jones.

The Edge: A potent offense and lock-down defense will keep Armwood undefeated and moving on to the next round.

Alonso (4-6) at Newsome (7-3) — Class 5A

Last Week: Alonso lost to Armwood 49-7; Newsome was off.

Last Year: Alonso defeated Newsome 47-37 in the opening round of the 2009 playoffs. Also, Newsome defeated Alonso 17-14 earlier this season.

The Skinny: Newsome, the Class 5A, District 6 champion, is all about the Powers — as in FB Conner Powers and his brother, RB Kellar Powers. Conner led Hillsborough County with 1,530 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns. All totaled, Newsome's rushing attack had five runners put up more than 200 yards with at least two touchdowns. Alonso's defense will try to slow down that attack, led by all-everything defensive end Anthony Chickillo.

The Edge: Newsome's offense averaged nearly five touchdowns a game. That may not be a good sign for an Alonso defense that gave up 52-, 34- and 49-point performances this season.

Hardee (3-7) at Jesuit (10-0) — Class 2A

LAST WEEK: Jesuit defeated Tampa Catholic 28-18; Hardee lost to Lakewood Ranch 23-16.

LAST YEAR: Hardee defeated Jesuit 49-21 in the opening round of the playoffs.

THE SKINNY: First-year Jesuit coach James Harrell guided the Tigers to their first undefeated regular season in nine years. Hardee lost its first six games of the season before winning three district games to earn a playoff spot.

THE EDGE: The undefeated Tigers should stay that way.

Berkeley Prep (8-2) at Jasper Hamilton Co. (7-3) — CLASS A

LAST WEEK: Berkeley Prep defeated Anclote 48-0; Hamilton County defeated Tallahassee Chiles 30-27.

LAST YEAR: Did not play.

THE SKINNY: Berkeley Prep's do-it-all player Nelson Agholor had 1,400 yards and 20 touchdowns rushing and receiving this season. Hamilton started slow but finished the regular season strong with seven straight victories.

THE EDGE: Berkeley is in for a tough game, but if the Trojans can't stop Agholor, Berkeley can move on to the next round.

Tampa Catholic (5-5) at Cape Coral Island Coast (9-1) — CLASS 2B

LAST WEEK: Tampa Catholic lost to Jesuit 28-18; Island Coast defeated LaBelle 48-10.

LAST YEAR: Did not play.

THE SKINNY: TC showed resiliency after an 0-4 season start. The Crusaders, who lost in the state title game a season ago, are in the postseason for the sixth straight year. Island Coast is an offensive force, evidenced by a 40-point-per-game average output.

THE EDGE: Tampa Catholic will need a stout defensive effort — better than in the season-ending loss to Jesuit.

Rod Gipson can be reached at hillsnews@sptimes.com.

Jefferson High Dragons eye elusive state title 11/18/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 18, 2010 3:31am]

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