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Alabama football commit Amari Jefferson comes up short in Baylor's DII-AAA state title loss

CHATTANOOGA — Baylor wide receiver Amari Jefferson popped up off the artificial turf at Finley Stadium and pointed the ball forward, thinking he had a crucial first-down catch on a fourth-and-12 late in the game.

Instead, Jefferson watched in disbelief when the official spotted the ball one yard short, allowing McCallie to take over and end the game in a 34-28 victory in the TSSAA BlueCross Bowl Division II-AAA championship Thursday night.

The Alabama commit squatted on the Baylor sideline as tears began to stream down his face, staring at a jubilant McCallie team, whose players rushed the field in pure joy. It was McCallie's fourth state title in five seasons.

"This one hurts," said Jefferson, who caught eight passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns. "I thought I had that first down. I can't really explain it. Coming up one yard short is going to be tough to deal with in the next few days."

The next few days will include Jefferson planning a trip to Atlanta to watch his Crimson Tide face Georgia in the SEC Championship game at 3 p.m. CT Saturday.

"I'm going to try to go down there," Jefferson said. "I know this game (against McCallie) will still be on my mind, but we're going to try to go down."

Jefferson's teammate, quarterback Whit Muschamp — a Vanderbilt commit — was outside the Baylor locker room after the game with his father, Georgia defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.

Jefferson, a Mr. Football finalist, said he'll finish out the academic year at Baylor and arrive in Tuscaloosa in the summer, ahead of the start of the 2024 season.

"We tried to get the ball to (Amari) a lot," Whit Muschamp said. "He’s a (heck of a) player. He always makes plays."

Baylor’s Amari Jefferson (7) and Caleb Hampton (34) celebrate after Jefferson scored a touchdown in the BlueCross Bowl Division DII-AAA Championship game at Finley Stadium, in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022.
Baylor’s Amari Jefferson (7) and Caleb Hampton (34) celebrate after Jefferson scored a touchdown in the BlueCross Bowl Division DII-AAA Championship game at Finley Stadium, in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022.

His 210 receiving yards were just two yards shy of tying a state record for most yards in a championship game, held by Giles County's Zach Bailey in 2009. Trailing 34-21, It was Jefferson's 63-yard touchdown catch and run that gave Baylor life with 6:39 left.

But McCallie's defense pushed Baylor's offense to the limit, forcing the Red Raiders (10-3) to pick up first downs on third-and-long situations for much of the fourth quarter. They also played most of the final quarter without tight end and Ohio State commit Max LeBlanc, who injured his leg early in the fourth, and sat on the sideline in a boot for the final 10 minutes of the game.

"You have a talent like him on the bench, that hurts your offense," Jefferson said. "He would have been a difference maker for sure. But I'm just proud of my teammates for fighting through and gutting through it. We just came up short."

Reach sports writer George Robinson at georgerobinson@theleafchronicle.com and on the X platform (formerly Twitter) @Cville_Sports.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: TSSAA football: Amari Jefferson, Baylor fall in DII-AAA title loss