HAGERSTOWN, Md. – Craig Hunter, longtime coach of Jefferson High School’s football team, said he knew several years ago he had experienced players coming through the middle school ranks. For that reason, he was confident the Cougars would eventually become a strong team.
It’s that kind of patience that has kept Hunter’s optimism up. Even though Jefferson struggled to finish 3-6 last year, there were glimmers of hope as the season wound down.
The patience and hope, as far as Hunter is concerned, were well worth it.
For the first time in five years, Jefferson is not looking at a losing season. The Cougars are 5-0, it’s most recent win being a 56-13 blowout over host North Hagerstown last Friday at Mike Callas Stadium.
Needless to say, the Cougars have come a long way since an 0-10 campaign in 2016.
“Some of these kids have been through a lot,” Hunter said. “We’re looking pretty good right now.”
Jefferson’s win over the Hubs made it a successful weekend for Jefferson County’s high school football teams. In Charles Town, host Washington rebounded from a loss to Independence High School with a 21-12 win over Sterling, Va.’s Park View High School.
Washington, which faces a severe test on the road at Martinsburg on Friday, improves to 2-3 at the halfway point of the season.
In last Friday’s win at North Hagerstown, Jefferson looked good in all aspects of its game. The Cougars generated 361 yards of total offense. Their defense converted two Hubs’ turnovers into scores.
Thanks to a 49-7 lead at halftime, Jefferson enjoyed a running clock the entire second half. When the game was over, the Cougars gave Hunter a surprise Gatorade bath on the field.
“They’re enjoying the moment,” he said afterward. “It feels good for them to get the success right now. They keep plugging away at it, being very aggressive in practice during the week.”
Jefferson took the opening kickoff and went 65 yards on 10 plays, with Christian Blowe scoring on a 3-yard run with 9 minutes, 27 seconds left in the first quarter. Oren Humphries’ kick gave the Cougars a 7-0 lead.
“That first touchdown got me fired, got the team fired up,” Blowe said. “We’ve got a lot of athletic people on this team.”
Quarterback Sammy Roberts, who completed 11 of 15 passes for 112 yards and four touchdowns last Friday, hit Keyshawn Robinson with a short, 8-yard TD strike with 4:09 left in the quarter. In the last three minutes of the first quarter, Roberts fired a 14-yard touchdown pass to Caysen Lanza.
Roberts would throw a 26-yard TD connection to Lanza 11 seconds into the second quarter. Another successful kick by Humphries, and the Cougars were leading, 28-0.
The rout was on.
“This team is just awesome,” Roberts said. “The team has great chemistry. Everybody’s got it together. The hard work over the years is paying off, and it’s really showing out on the field.”
Roberts’ fourth touchdown pass of the day went to wideout Spencer Powell in the second quarter, good for 20 yards. Roberts credits the blocking of the Cougars’ offensive line for allowing him extra time and protection in the pocket.
“My guys up front are doing a great job up front,” he said. “They’re all sharing in this success.”
Credit Jefferson’s defense for a pair of second-quarter touchdowns.
Robinson, easily one of the speedsters for the Cougars, picked off a Marc Buckley pass at the North Hagerstown 42. Thanks to key blocks from his teammates, Robinson raced his way into the end zone for a score with 10:48 to go in the half.
“We work on these situations all the time in practice,” he said. “If we get an interception, we are able to make that quick transition into blocking for the return.”
In the last two minutes of the first half, the Cougars forced a North Hagerstown fumble. Bryson Fleming scooped up the loose football at the Hubs’ 15-yard line and raced 15 yards for a score.
Evan Tewell rushed for 138 yards on 15 carries, with a touchdown, for Jefferson. He scored the Cougars’ final touchdown of the game on a 1-yard plunge.
While Jefferson is enjoying this moment in time, Roberts knows there is much work ahead of the Cougars. Jefferson has back-to-back home games with South Hagerstown on Friday, before going on to face Winchester’s James Wood High School on Friday, Oct. 8. Following a bye week, the Cougars go back on the road to face state football-power Martinsburg on Friday, Oct. 15, at Coburn Field in Martinsburg.
“We cannot afford to take anyone lightly,” Roberts said.
Washington, which went 5-5 last year and landed a spot in the state Class AAA playoffs, are led in rushing by Rodrigo Delgado (7.7 yards per carry, 88 yards per game). Quarterback Austin Sharp has a .467 completion percentage.
Martinsburg won last year’s game at home, 55-0.