Things are a little different around Jefferson this spring.
Gone is veteran coach T. McFerrin, who retired (again) after leading the Dragons to the Class AA title, the first in school history. In his place is trusted assistant Ben Hall, who has been charged with keeping the program among the best in the state.
“Our kids are still humble,” Hall said. “Nobody has said a word about repeating or anything like that. Our focus is on Game 1 against Commerce. We didn’t do that last year and we got beat.”
Jefferson has seven players back on each side of the ball, but the losses were substantial. Gone are all-state quarterback Bryant Shirreffs (2,404 yards passing, 18 TDs; 1,383 yards rushing, 21 TDs), all-state linebackers Kody McDonald and Wesley Simonton, three-year starting tackle Collin Anthony and Chandler Schlutow, who made 62 extra points and four field goals.
“Linebackers and quarterback are our main areas of concern this spring,” Hall said. “We’ve got some good kids in the secondary and some of them may move up to linebacker.”
The quarterback will most likely be Evan Shirreffs (6-4, 175), who is more of a traditional passer than his older brother. He’ll be helped by the return of fullback Tristen Jackson, a three-year starter who rushed for 1,000 yards last year, and tailback Sammy Williams, a junior with plenty of quickness.
The offensive line is led by center Jordan Tyler (6-3, 225), who is considered an all-state caliber player.
The defense features lineman Tyler Bowen (6-0, 200), defensive back Micah Carpenter (5-10, 180) and Trent Sorrells.
“We’ve got some good talent,” Hall said. “It’s just a matter of identifying the best fit for what we want to do.” Hall will take a different approach to spring drills. The first two days will be limited to freshman and first-year players, which will give the staff a chance to see who may be ready to help and where they might be use. After taking three days off so the school can host the state track meet, the Dragons will gather all players for eight additional days of workouts.
Hall was chosen to succeed McFerrin, the veteran coach who came out of retirement four years ago and led the school to its first state championship. It was the second state championship for McFerrin, who also won one at Elbert County
The administration turned to Hall, who had been the offensive coordinator for four seasons and came with McFerrin’s stamp of approval. Hall was an all-state lineman at Franklin County who played football at Furman. He came to Jefferson from Flowery Branch High. His father, Bill Hall, was the coach at Rabun County from 1983-86.
“I told the players when we recognized coach McFerrin that anybody who had the chance to play for him or work with him is an honor,” Hall said. “It means a lot to me to know he recommended me.”
2012 record: 14-1, 7-0 in Region 8-AA, beat Calhoun 31-14 in the Class AA championship game.
Starters returning: 7 offense, 7 defense
Key players lost: QB Bryant Shirreffs, LB Kody McDonald, LB Wesley Simonton, K Chandler Schlutow
Key players returning: FB TristenJackson, DB Micah Carpenter, DL Tyler Bowen
Spring practice dates:April 30 through May 10
Schedule: Aug. 30 Commerce, Sept. 6 at Jackson County, Sept. 13 North Hall, Sept. 28 Green County, Oct. 4 at Washington-Wilkes, Oct. 11 Rabun County, Oct. 18 at Oglethorpe County, Oct. 25 Social Circle, Nov. 1 at Riverside Military, Nov. 8 at Union County
Outlook: Although the Dragons lost some big pieces on both sides of the ball, they will likely be the favorite again to win the region. Don’t expect a transition malfunction from the retired T. McFerrin to new coach Ben Hall. Looks like Jefferson will just re-tool a few spots and pick up where it left