TAMPA — The game was sealed. And then it wasn't.
Then, it was sealed all over again.
All in less than a minute.
Thanks to late heroics, trust and flat-out guts, Jefferson held on for a 28-23 win over Hillsborough in a pivotal Class 6A-District 8 game on Friday night.
The drama started with 1:55 left in the fourth quarter, when Jefferson stood 8 yards from the end zone facing fourth-and-long.
Senior quarterback Deiondre Porter dropped back, noticed senior wideout Ventell Bryant in the corner of the end zone, and let it fly. Bryant separated from his defender at the last second, leaped for a two-handed grab, and held on as a defender tried to strip the bal.
Porter ran for a two-point conversion, giving Jefferson a 22-15 lead with 1:49 left to play.
“That play was called nothing,” said Porter, still trying to digest the win. “It was called trust your gut.”
Celebration ensued in the end zone, prompting an unsportsmanlike penalty to be assessed on the kickoff. Hillsborough returned the short kickoff for 15 yards and, two plays later, was standing on the 25-yard line with enough time for four tries to the end zone.
However, Jefferson's Chavez Pownell anticipated a pass toward the Hillsborough sideline to stop the clock and jumped in front of the receiver, intercepted the ball and returned it for an 80-yard touchdown. The extra point failed, the Dragons had a two-touchdown cushion, but could not expect what happened next.
Jefferson kicked the ball out of bounds on the kickoff, allowing the Terriers to start from 55 yards out. On the first play, Hillsborough's Dwyane Lawson threw a Hail Mary to the end zone, despite a flock of Jefferson defenders waiting. The ball was tipped by Jefferson but fell into the hands of Michael Hampton, who rolled into the end zone for a score. Lawson would convert a two-point conversion, cutting the lead to 28-23.
With seven seconds left, Hillsborough would try an onside kick, twice, only to see it roll out of bounds. Jefferson took a knee to seal the victory.
Porter finished with 239 passing yards and two touchdowns. Lawson led Hillsborough with 246 passing yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 101 yards and two TDs.
“The ball didn't bounce our way, but we made errors,” Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia said. “In the second half, you can't make errors against a team like Jefferson and expect to come out ahead.”
Hillsborough 0 8 0 15 — 23
Jefferson 0 0 14 14 — 28
H — Safety
H — Lawson 1 run (kick failed)
J — Wilson 53 pass from Porter (Porter run)
J — Porter 1 run (pass failed)
H — Lawson 1 run (Rohl kick)
J – Bryant 8 pass from Porter (Porter run)
J — Pownell 80-yard interception return (kick failed)
H — Hampton 53 pass from Lawson (Lawson run).