Thomas More Continues to Roll, Now 5-0 After Win Over Washington & Jefferson
In four games this season, Thomas More has barely been challenged, putting up huge point totals and not even trailing at all this season.
That was not the case in Crestview Hills on Saturday against Washington & Jefferson, as the game featured two top-15 teams and made for a close contest for most of the time.
In the end, though, it was Thomas More’s ability to force turnovers and chew clock in the running game that allowed the Saints to secure their fifth win of the season, as they outworked W&J, 38-20.
“That was awesome. They were preseason number four or five in the nation. They were picked ahead of us and it is a great win for us and our program, and I’m just proud of the kids. It’s about them,” Thomas More head coach Regis Scafe said after game.
It was clear from the get go that the Presidents were a formidable challenge for the Saints as they came out and put up the first score of the game, giving TMC its first deficit of the season when Ted Ford kicked a 25-yard first quarter field goal to go up 3-0.
That deficit did not last long, though, as Saints senior quarterback Jensen Gebhardt, who threw a pick on the game’s opening possession, bounced back to hit Goose Cohorn on a 25-yard strike to put the Saints up 7-3.
What would be a theme to the first half, though, W&J evaporated that lead as well, when blown defensive coverage by TMC allowed for W&J wide receiver Jesse Zubik to run wide open behind the defense for an easy 28-yard touchdown catch.
The blown assignment in the Saints' secondary was an anomaly for the defensive back group, which consistently rose to the challenge against a pass-happy W&J offense. Quarterback Pete Coughlin threw the ball 58 times against the Saints and had the one touchdown, but also threw four interceptions and 24 incompletions.
Cornerback Trey Wells had a pick and played an excellent game in coverage, but perhaps the MVP of the bunch was freshman Brandon Neal who not only had a pick of his own, but also showed some tough tackling ability on the perimeter, dropping the Presidents behind the line for a loss.
“(The secondary) did a great job. We knew they were going to challenge us and try to hit some shots one-on-one and some shots over the top, but the kids did a really good job. I’m proud of the way they hung in there. We didn’t give up a lot of big plays and that was the key to the game: Make them earn everything. They had some long drives, but they didn’t get a lot of points out of it and that was the key to the game for us,” Scafe said.
With the two teams split 5-5 in their all-time head-to-head matchups, the fact that the score was separated by only a point with the first half winding down, surprised no one. The Saints took over the ball, up 14-13 with under a minute to play in the half, after the Presidents had to settle for a field goal on a 17-play drive. Thomas More then benefited by two 15-yard penalties on W&J that put them beyond midfield. Then, with under ten seconds left in the half, Gebhardt moved out of the pocket and on the run, hit wide out Daylin Garland near the sidelines on the two, where he was able to leap into the endzone for critical score before halftime with the Saints up 21-13.
In the second half, Thomas More was dealt a blow when starting quarterback Gebhardt was forced from the game with an apparent head injury. It happened on a nice throw and catch to senior Goose Cohorn inside the 10-yard line near the sideline. Cohorn had another good game for TMC with two touchdown catches. Sophomore Brenan Kuntz entered the game and wasn’t able to get his team in the endzone, but played steady the rest of the way for the Saints.
“Brenan plays every day. We feel that we have two quarterbacks. We don’t have to change our offense. They do things a little bit different, but they both run the offense, and it was great. He did a good job when he came in,” Scafe said of Kuntz.
After the field goal, Thomas More went up 24-13.
The Presidents came back with a strong drive of their own on 12 plays capped off by a short run into the endzone by running back Ryan Ruffing. That put W&J over the 20 point mark, the first team to score that many against the Saints defense, but that would be all they would score. From there, the Presidents would be only be able to throw interceptions and be forced to punt.
On the other side, the Thomas More coaching staff looked to chew the clock and hand the ball to their big back, CT Tarrant, who has done all he can this season to replace the legend of Dominique Hayden. Tarrant had a heavy work load, especially after halftime, carrying it 37 times in the game for 193 yards. His ability to smash ahead and get good yardage up the middle took its toll on the Presidents defense which seemed uninterested in continuing to bring down number 31.
“Tarrant is such a power back and we have good offensive linemen. We try to wear teams down and I think you saw that. The whole fourth quarter we ran the ball really effective and ate up a lot of the clock. That’s a part of what we do,” Scafe said.
Tarrant ran it in twice in the fourth quarter for touchdowns and blew the lead up from a four-point margin to an 18-point lead as the time ticked away. In five games, Tarrant averages 112 yards.
The win is easily the most meaningful in terms of standings so far in Regis Scafe’s tenure with Thomas More and could help push the Saints into the top-10 in next week’s national rankings. The season is shaping up to be one of true National Championship aspirations as the Thomas More talent and depth has been too much for the opposition to overcome
“I’m so proud of where we are. We have things we have to get better at. I’m a coach and we will get back at it Monday, but this was such a win and a special game that we’ve been pointing at all year, and to come away a winner is such a great feeling,” Scafe said.
The Saints host Geneva (2-2) on Saturday, October 10 at 1 p.m.
Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor