Spectrum Sports Top 20: No. 15 Jefferson Dragons

By Mike Cairns, Spectrum Sports
Last Updated: Friday, August 04, 2017, 5:30 PM EDT

No. 15 - JEFFERSON DRAGONS

2016: 7-4, lost in 5A Regional Semifinal

Head Coach: Jeremy Earle, 57-25 in eight seasons

Key Returners: WR/DB Jermaine Eskridge (39 receptions, 668 yards, 6 TD), Dontavious Smith WR (34 receptions, 734 yards, 4 TD), WR/DB BJ Williams (22 receptions, 494 yards, 3 TD), RB Nico Duffey (950 rush yards, 9 TD), Jacques Jean-Baptiste (64 tackles, 2 sacks).

The Scoop: The Dragons high-flying offense graduated quarterback Cade Weldon, but scoring will not be a problem for Jefferson this season. The team is loaded with play makers all over the place on offense led by a bevy of very big and fast wide receivers. Senior Jermaine Eskridge at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. He led the team in receptions and touchdowns last year and he is joined by Dontavious Smith, BJ Williams and Jylen Striker all guys who can stretch opposing defenses. Talented junior running back Nico Duffey returns after a one-thousand yard season in his sophomore campaign.

Head Coach Jeremy Earle turns over the reins at quarterback to Matt Gaffney who did see some playing time last year as a junior. Gaffney at 6-foot-6, 200 pounds is one of the biggest quarterbacks in the Bay area and he has the big arm to go along with his size. Earle, a former quarterback himself, has always had the ability to tailor his offenses around his quarterbacks and this year won't be any different.

On defense, the Dragons are led by Jacques Jean-Baptiste, who will play both offensive and defensive line for Jefferson, opening up holes for Duffey and terrorizing quarterbacks and stuffing the run on defense. It's easy to overlook the Dragons defense with the way they can light up a scoreboard on offense, but this year's squad returns 10 of 11 starters on that side of the ball and have the potential to be one of the best defenses the school has seen in a long time.

Player to Watch: Jermaine Eskridge is the guy that everybody wants to talk about and why not, with more than 50 Division I offers he is always a key for opposing defenses, that's why I will go in a different direction. Nico Duffey is poised for a monster year, not only can he kill you with his speed out of the backfield, but he poses a dual threat catching the ball as well, an area that Earle hopes to exploit with his rising junior this season.

Quotable: "The community and this school expects you to win a state championship every year and that good pressure that you have really never lets you get complacent or slow down in your preparation or anything". - Jeremy Earle

 

2017 Schedule

8/25 @ Plant City

9/1 @ Steinbrenner

9/8 vs Brandon

9/15 vs Jesuit

9/22 vs Armwood

9/28 @ Middleton

10/6 vs Hillsborough

10/13 @ Wharton

10/20 vs Spoto

10/27 @ Robinson

Motivation comes in many different forms, for the Jefferson Dragons it's last years playoff loss to Jesuit in the regionals for the second year in a row.

Heading into this season, the Dragons have reloaded. Gone is senior quarterback Cade Weldon who accounted for 30 touchdowns last year, but Jefferson has multiple weapons at wide receiver led by last years leading receiver Jermaine Eskridge.

"The main key is we're going to sling it" said Eskridge, we got all the receivers, we got all the running backs and we got all the tools, we're going to sling it"

Wide Receiver Dontavius Smith agrees, "Five of our receivers put up over 500 yards, we love to go deep, we love to have fun"

Add in versatile running back Niko Duffey who ran for 1000 yards and nine touchdowns last year and the Dragons offense won't skip a beat. Defensively the Dragons return 10 of 11 starters on defense led by Jacques Jean-Baptiste. Last years youth has Jefferson thinking big things for the season.

"The community and this school expects you to win a state championship says Dragons head coach Jeremy Earle and that good pressure that you have, really never lets you get complacent or slow down in your preparation or anything".

The 2010 State Championship sign sits beyond the end zone at Jefferson High School, for each Dragons football class it acts as a motivator but also a reminder for the schools expectations at the beginning of every football season.

"you know I always wanted to be like the 2010 football team says Dragons two- way lineman Jacques Jean-Baptiste, I always wanted to have a ring on my finger and all that, celebrate with my boys"