By CHARLIE CHITWOOD
Last week’s Class 3A-Division I Area Playoff against Malakoff marked the end of Jefferson’s football season, 31-21. The Dawgs’ defeat was an honorable one and remarkably similar to the previous two second-round playoff losses with Jefferson falling to a bulkier, stronger team that could control both the line of scrimmage and the pace of the game. Howe did it in 2016. Whitesboro last year. Now Malakoff’s Tigers.
Keevie Rose – the previously unheralded running back for Malakoff – personally assured Tiger fans that Jefferson would not get many opportunities to handle the ball on offense. The junior carried the rock an astounding 38 times in the process of gaining 141 yards. Each one of those assignments earned Malakoff 3.71 yards – just more than enough to keep moving the chains – all the while burning precious time off the scoreboard clock that Jefferson would need and could not get back.
Those 38 carries by Rose turned out to be five more plays than Jefferson would run all afternoon. The Dawgs were down 7-0 before even getting the ball with just 3:25 left in the first quarter and after a quick three-and-out, slowly backed up the field where Malakoff made it 14-0 with just 3:35 remaining in the half. The black-and-gold Tigers ground up 14 first downs in those two scoring drives.
Jefferson cutting the lead in half on the very next play – a K’Von Smith 48-yard end-around that was fumbled but scooped up by Dee Black at the Malakoff 30 and walked home to make it a 14-7 game. The Tigers used up every bit of the remaining 3:20 to get into position for a 19-yard field goal and a 17-7 lead.
The Dawgs created a little momentum for themselves when they scored just 90 seconds into the third quarter. Suddenly, it was 17-14 and Jefferson’s overtime-working defense forced Malakoff to punt for the only time. Jefferson made its way upfield before the drive stalled in Malakoff territory, and when the Tigers scored with 3:19 to go in the quarter, their 24-14 lead looked pretty safe and ultimately was.
Jefferson’s defense played with heart but couldn’t come up with key stops in the first half. Malakoff wasn’t trying to run away from anybody – the Tigers were happy to get 3-5 yards running the ball and then finding a tight end outside when they needed a little more. Tip your cap to Malakoff – the Tigers executed their game-plan to a fare-thee-well and milked as much time off the clock in between plays as the game allows.
While the Tiger offense was grinding out more yardage against the Bulldog defense than anyone else this season (378 total yards), Malakoff’s well-rested defense hung in against Jefferson’s second-half rally and limited the Dawgs to a season-low 242 yards offense.
Malakoff’s blunt fist was that larger front-five in the trenches. That Jefferson couldn’t get the ball in the first half spoke to the truth of the matter – we’ve been out-sized again. Head coach Antwain Jimmerson practically stole offensive line coach Stephen Barnes from the Hughes Springs program and the Bulldog line learned to play above its size. It wouldn’t hurt if we had enough of the big un’s to go around year in and year out, but that’s a genetics thing, not a coaching thing.
So Kudos to the Bulldogs! Antwain Jimmerson’s 2018 squad had some great talent aboard and a locker room full of hard workers. The senior class has produced some players we’ll watch on coming Saturdays while others have made their last walk onto the gridiron. It was sure fun to watch ‘em play again. Get ‘em next year and Go Bulldogs!
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