By CHARLIE CHITWOOD
You’ll forgive the local Bulldog lifers if they’ve an incessant grin and walk around pretty light on their toes this week, basking in the revelry that is Jefferson 56, Atlanta 21 on the local gridiron. The resounding victory over their parents’ and grandparents’ arch-rivals was impressive as the score indicates without being as close. The Bulldogs broke away from a 7-7 tie at the end of the first to lead 28-7 at the half, then scored three more unanswered touchdowns to go up 49-7 before the Rabbits scored twice in mop-up time.
Jefferson (8-0, 4-0) has to take care of business on the road at Hooks this week, then again at home on Senior Night next week against Redwater to claim the District 7-3A crown. They’ll be working in that direction under the brighter glow of the spotlight – the Dawgs broke into the Associated Press Top 10 for the first time this season, taking over the 10th spot while 8th-ranked Gladewater remains the only Region II rival on the list.
Were the AP Poll to break out the larger D-I 3A schools from the D-II teams, Jefferson would be sitting fifth, ranked there behind Goliad, Brock, Gladewater and Franklin. PigskinPrep.com does separate the two divisions and has the Top Five listed (in order) as Franklin, Goliad, Gladewater, Jefferson and Grandview. In Pigskin’s regional rankings, Gladewater is listed ahead of Jefferson at one and two, but the algorithm-defined separation between the two is so minute that anyone trying to pick the game would go with whoever had homefield advantage.
But all of that and a nickel will get you a cup of coffee at the General Store. You’re apt to find folks talking Bulldogs just about everywhere in town.
There are likely a few coffee-drinkers in Mineola and Liberty City talking about Jefferson, each wondering who finishes fourth in District 8-3A and probably draws an undefeated Bulldog squad in Bi-District. Tatum has been the surprise there, leading early favorites Gladewater and West Rusk. Mineola and Sabine are both 2-2 in district play, tied for the fourth playoff spot with likely losses this week (to Tatum and Gladewater, respectively). Mineola’s ‘Jackets end the season at home against Winnsboro while Sabine has a tough road “get” at White Oak – don’t even ask yet about tiebreakers.
Jefferson’s defense gets an extra nod for the way it dominated Atlanta the other evening. The Rabbits left town with a few extra bumps and bruises that you get when gang-tackled by Bulldogs. Defensive Coordinator Steven Young (who savored the victory as much as anyone) had 10 different players rack up 10 or more tackles and blunted a potent Atlanta running game. I think most figured that Jefferson would score its points but would the Rabbits keep pace? This Dawg-gone defense made certain the answer was emphatically “no.”
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