SOUTHLAKE — The first time Guyer receiver Ellis Jefferson was targeted Saturday against Birdville, he did something out of character.
It was a simple slant route. The pass may have been slightly behind Jefferson as he darted across the middle of the field, but it went off his hands and onto the turf at Dragon Stadium.
“I just dropped it,” Jefferson said.
It may have been the best thing to happen to Jefferson all game. He made amends for the transgression throughout the rest of Guyer’s 52-42 victory in the Class 4A Division I Region I final.
Jefferson said the initial drop affected him, but it ended up fueling him for the rest of the contest. The senior finished with six catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Two of his receptions were for more than 40 yards.
“Ellis was going to be big for us to win a state title, and he’s going to be a part of our deal,” Guyer coach John Walsh said. “I’m real proud of how he responded. He dropped the first ball, but a lot of wide receivers would’ve gone in the tank. He picked his head up and made some plays for us.”
In the third quarter, after Birdville’s knees were buckled early in the game by 14 straight Guyer points, the Hawks erased any notions of a blowout and were trailing by 10 points.
On one drive in the quarter, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound receiver showed why he’s earned the chance to go to Arizona State in the fall.
It was another slant route. Jefferson went across the middle of the field, and this time the pass from junior quarterback Jerrod Heard wasn’t behind him. Jefferson extended his long arms in stride, plucking the ball out of the air while continuing his run across the field.
He cut up the visitors’ sideline and sprinted down to the Birdville 6-yard line, putting Guyer (12-2) in excellent position.
“We knew we had him as a threat,” Heard said. “He makes those little catches into big catches and big runs. He’s a great threat to have.”
Jefferson finished what he started earlier in the drive and effortlessly hauled in a 6-yard touchdown on a simple route that had him run up the field and quickly dart out to his right. Heard found Jefferson for the score that put the Wildcats ahead of the Hawks (13-1) by 17 points.
Over the course of the playoffs, Jefferson’s role has increased as the Wildcats get closer to the state championship game. Last week against Amarillo, he had three catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. Jonathan Pershall had the only other catch for Guyer in the game.
At times Saturday, Jefferson said, he flashed a smile when he saw he was going to be defended by one person.
“I smile every time they put me in single coverage,” Jefferson said. “I just point at [the cornerback], and I tell our coaches.”
Throughout the season, the Wildcats have gotten accustomed to building big, early leads and depending on the three-pronged rushing attack of D.J. Breedlove, Richard Whitaker and Heard. Walsh said he knows he has Jefferson at his disposal, and he’s slowly expanding his role.
“He’s always been in that role,” Walsh said. “I’ve just never called that role for him to be explosive. I’m probably getting smart and cutting him loose now.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.