Jeff defense makes Wilson pay
Suffocating. Vicious. Explosive. The Jefferson High defense was all of that Friday night on at Wilson High on a field that was wet, but not overly slippery.
The Democrats returned two fumbles for touchdowns, set up a TD with another fumble recovery and shut out Wilson 18-0.
'Wow, they were good,' Jefferson coach Anthony Stoudamire said, of the defense. 'They accepted the challenge and just stepped up and played well.'
Jefferson improved to 3-3 (3-0 in the Portland Interscholastic League 5A standings). The league victory over Wilson (2-4, 1-1) has the Demos poised to again win the PIL 5A championship. The Demos play at Franklin on Thursday, then have a nonleague game against Grant on Oct. 21 and their PIL 5A finale at Madison on October 28.
'It feels good,' Stoudamire said. 'But what feels even better is we're getting better every week. We had some bumps earlier in the season, but we're starting to get better. We're starting to come together as a team. Eventually, we're going to be a pretty decent football team.'
Jefferson scored the only touchdown of Friday's first half on Wilson's first drive. As the Trojans tried a sweep, 5-10, 170-pound defensive back Tony Unga scooped up a fumble and made a 59-yard return for a touchdown.
'I saw the running back didn't really have the ball secure,' Unga said. 'He fumbled it, and I saw it on the ground, picked it up and just took it to the house.'
Wilson threatened to score twice in the first half. The Trojans had a drive stall on the Jefferson 12-yard line and missed a 24-yard field goal late in the second quarter.
The score remained 6-0 until the fourth quarter. With the ball on its 49 midway through the period, Wilson elected to punt. The Trojans tried to kick the ball out of bounds to avoid the Demos' dangerous return game. The punt went only six yards, and Jefferson took over at its 45.
On the next play, the Demos fumbled and the Trojans recovered. But Wilson gave the ball right back a play later. A miscommunication between Wilson's quarterback and running back led to a fumble, and Unga fell on the ball.
'It looked like a misread with the quarterback and the running back,' Unga said. 'The ball just dropped right in front of me, luckily, and I just picked it up.'
On the strength of a 35-yard run by Richard Ramsey, the Demos drove for the only offensive touchdown of the game.
With 7:14 remaining, Demos quarterback Deven Jackson dropped back and saw that tight end Jamartae Brown's cover man had slipped. Jackson tossed the ball to Brown, who took it in for an 17-yard TD to put Jeff up 12-0.
'I just ran my route hard and hoped that the quarterback was looking at me,' Brown said. 'I ran hard, and he looked at me, and I was in the end zone.'
The Demos finished the scoring with 4:02 left.
Wilson moved to Jeff's 22, but when Trojans quarterback Michael Reid tried to throw a backward swing pass, the running back couldn't hold on to the ball. Jefferson linebacker Kasseem McClendon picked it up and ran 77 yards for a score.
'The running back got scared because he saw me coming,' McClendon said.
Jefferson fullback and linebacker Sam Barron, a 225-pound senior who had to sit out the first four games because of transfer eligibility issues, added force to the Demos ground game and strength to the defense.
Although Jefferson's offense is not what it has been in years past, if defense can continue to play as it did on Friday, Barron thinks the Demos are capable of having a special season.
'I told them that it's not too late to get a championship,' Barron said, of his teammates. 'I ask them all the time, 'Who got my back?,' and they say they got my back. That's all I need.'