TAMPA — He looked hobbled and battered, and he was missing some of the magic he’s accustomed to showing. Jefferson’s Deiondre Porter wasn’t himself against Chamberlain — until the final drive.
His team trailing by two with less than two minutes to go, Dragons coach Jeremy Earle looked into the eyes of his star quarterback — clearly limping after taking two vicious hits on running plays — and knew he wanted to pass.
On the next play, Porter stood tall in the pocket while being hit by Chamberlain’s Robert Mosley and threw a perfect in-stride ball to Ventell Bryant for the winning 22-yard touchdown, as the host Dragons (7-1, 6-1 Class 6A-District 8) prevailed 28-24 to clinch a playoff berth.
“He had that look like he was going to win this game,” Earle said of Porter, who had 96 of his 103 rushing yards and two of his three touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) in the second half. “He’s been in close games like this and he knows what to do.”
Until Porter’s heroics, Chamberlain (4-5, 4-3) was on its way to scrambling the 6A-8 playoff picture, as a Chiefs win would have left Chamberlain, Jefferson and Hillsborough in a three-way tie with 5-2 records.
Chamberlain’s punishing running game and blitzing defense kept Jefferson’s offense on the sideline for most of the first three quarters. Quarterback Josh Bennett had 28 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown pass, while Nick McNeal had a 73-yard touchdown run in the first half and finished with 96 yards.
But the Chiefs’ biggest plays in the second half came from defense and special teams. D.J. Daniels’ 24-yard fumble return for a touchdown off a high snap over Porter’s head gave Chamberlain a 21-15 lead entering the fourth.
Then after Porter scored a 1-yard rushing TD on the ensuing drive, Chiefs kicker Will Shidler converted an unlikely 50-yard field goal that gave Chamberlain a 24-22 lead with 3:49 remaining.
During Jefferson’s game-winning drive, Porter was 5-for-5 passing, including a fourth-down conversion to Bryant, who finished with 46 receiving yards.
“I wouldn’t have done anything differently on the last drive. They have great athletes. We couldn’t have played much better,” said Chamberlain coach Cam Jones, whose team has lost its past three district games by a total of six points. “We’re used to this hurt. … I’m tired of this hurt. But I’m proud of what we’re doing and we’re putting a good product out there.”
Chamberlain 0 15 6 3 — 24
Jefferson 0 15 0 13 — 28
J–Wilson 6 pass from Porter (Pena kick)
C–Martin 13 pass from Bennett (Bennett run)
C–McNeal 73 run (Shidler kick)
J–Lofton 11 run (Porter run)
C–Daniels 24 fumble return (kick failed)
J–Porter 1 run (Pena kick)
C–FG Shidler 50
J–Bryant 22 pass from Porter (kick failed)