No one picked the Jefferson Dragons to win the 2012 Class AA football title — not even the Dragons themselves.
“If you asked anyone in our program if we were expecting to win the state championship, we would have looked at you like you were crazy,” said Ben Hall, who is entering his first season as head coach after four seasons as an assistant. “We had a magical season. We came together and went on an incredible run.”
Jefferson’s season started unassumingly with the Dragons falling to Commerce, 22-7, on the road. But that would be their only loss of the season as they would reel off 14 consecutive victories, culminating in a convincing 31-14 win over perennial power Calhoun in the state championship. It was the program’s first state championship in school history.
But that was last year. The 2013 Jefferson Dragons’ identity is drastically different. Gone is head coach T. McFerrin, who spent four of his 40 coaching seasons at Jefferson, compiling a 39-9 record with the Dragons. McFerrin was the 2012 AJC Class AA coach of the year. Gone is quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, pegged by the AJC as the Class AA offensive player of the year. And gone are staples of the defense, linebackers Wesley Simonton and Kody McDonald — Simonton was the AJC Class AA defensive player of the year and McDonald an honorable mention.
Shirreffs’ younger brother, junior Evan, will take over at quarterback.
“We’ll have to grow offensively around the strengths of our quarterback,” Hall said.
Hall, who played and eventually coached at Furman University, entered the high school coaching ranks with Flowery Branch in 2008 before McFerrin recruited Hall to join the Dragons’ staff the following season. Hall was the Dragons’ offensive coordinator in 2012. Now he’ll face the pressure of leading the follow-up to the best season in program history.
An encore won’t be easy. Jefferson’s first six games are against 2012 state playoff teams, starting with rival Commerce at home Aug. 30.
Adam Krohn covers all things Class AA football. Have a question or tip? Want to see more coverage of your team? Want to drop a line to compliment how awesome the Class AA beat coverage is? Send Adam a message on Twitter @AdamKrohnAJC and follow him for the latest in Class AA coverage.