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SHENANDOAH JUNCTION – With its 43-7 win over Hedgesville High School last Friday night, Jefferson High School’s football team all but clinched a berth in the WVSSAC’s Class AAA playoffs, which begin in two weeks.

But the Cougars want more.

Jefferson (8-1) is seeking home-field advantage for as much of the playoffs as possible. The Cougars were ranked fifth through Week 8 of the season and should move up a few notches when the next set of rankings come out this week.

Jefferson got some more good news not long after its win over Hedgesville (3-6). Spring Valley High School, ranked eighth in the Class AAA rankings, ruined top-ranked Martinsburg High’s bid for an undefeated regular season last Friday with a come-from-behind, 35-30, win at home over the Bulldogs (9-1).

Jefferson’s win, coupled with Martinsburg’s loss, means the Cougars could possibly climb into one of the top three spots in the playoff rankings. The top 16 teams in each classification qualify for the WVSSAC playoffs, meaning the top eight teams would have at least one home playoff game.

But before the Cougars can even think about a home playoff game in the first round, they have to get past one final obstacle, a 7 p.m. showdown on Friday, in their regular-season finale against county-rival Washington at Terry L. Marcus Stadium.

As far as Jefferson coach Craig Hunter is concerned, Friday’s game is a must-win situation.

“We have to win that game to ensure we get a home playoffs game,” he said. “I liked the way we bounced back after our loss at Martinsburg last week. Mentally, this was a big win for us, but there are still some things we need to work on, the little things that need tweaking.”

Jefferson wideout Spencer Powell, who caught a 61-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Sammy Roberts in last Friday’s win, said the team studied game films the morning after the Cougars’ loss at Martinsburg.

“We went right back at it after that game,” Powell said, noting the team wanted to see just where improvements needed to be made, and how to reduce the number of mistakes.

Jefferson will be facing a Washington team which got an unscheduled day off last Friday, when its game at Hampshire was canceled due to a COVID-19 pause involving some members of the team, at the Romney school. The Patriots received a forfeit from the Trojans, improving their record to 5-4, heading into Friday’s game.

“I think we really need to keep playing the way we’ve been playing, with a lot of intensity, trying to get into the playoffs,” Roberts said. “They’re going to be coming in, playing with a lot of intensity too.”

Roberts also said Friday’s game with Washington should prove to be an exciting matchup. “We can’t wait to play and compete with them,” he said. 

The Cougars led the entire game, striking first. Jefferson forced Hedgesville into a three-and-out on the game’s first possession. 

The Cougars took over at their own 48-yard line, going 52 yards on 11 plays. Roberts, who completed 11 of 20 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns, hit Caysen Lanza with a short, 12-yard TD toss with 6 minutes, 3 seconds left in the first quarter. The Eagles blocked Oren Humphries’ kick, but Jefferson led 6-0.

Jefferson closed out the first quarter with Roberts’ 61-yard TD bomb to Powell on a post pattern. Evan Tewell ran in a 2-point conversion and the Cougars, continuing to build momentum for the game, led 14-0.

Keyshawn Robinson once again showed his speed and ability to read blocks and let them open up running lanes in front of him. He returned a Hedgesville punt 55 yards for a touchdown with 10:48 left in the first half. Humphries kicked the extra point and the Cougars led 21-0.

Jefferson took a 21-0 led into halftime thanks to a 3-yard TD pass from Roberts to Tewell. 

Bryson Fleming had a pair of touchdowns for the Cougars in the second half. He scored on a 10-yard run three minutes into the second half, then scooped up a missed Hedgesville field goal attempt in the fourth quarter at his own 25-yard line, taking the ball the other way, 75 yards, for a score.

Heading into this Friday’s game against Washington, Fleming said Jefferson cannot  afford to take the Patriots for granted.

“We have to keep getting better at everything,” Fleming said. “Yes, we did bounce back after the Martinsburg game, but we’ve got to keep going, playing strong football.”

Hedgesville averted a shutout in the third quarter when Gage Creel scored on a pick-six, returning an interception 75 yards for a touchdown.

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