Thomas More Outlasts W&J 35-32
WASHINGTON, Pa.. – Eighth-ranked Thomas More built a 14-0 lead nine minutes into the game and held on for a wild 35-32 Presidents’ Athletic Conference football victory over Washington and Jefferson Saturday at Cameron Stadium.
The Presidents (2-2, 1-1 PAC) outgained the Saints (3-0, 2-0 PAC) by a 524-395 margin and held a 31-24 edge in first downs, but two turnovers proved costly. The final turnover, an interception by Zach Autenreib at the TMC 34 yard line with 1:41 remaining sealed the Saints’ fourth-straight win over the Presidents. In those four wins, TMC has forced 10 turnovers, while only committing a pair.
Robert Kues opened the scoring midway through the first quarter with a 10-yard touchdown strike to Austin Studer, capping a 14-play, 85-yard drive. W&J fumbled on the second play of its ensuing drive and Thomas More capitalized with Domonique Hayden’s 23-yard scoring run just 47 seconds after its opening score.
W&J regrouped and sliced the lead in half at the 10:24 mark of the second quarter on junior running back Tim McNerney’s (Butler, Pa./Knoch) 1-yard touchdown run. McNerney has now scored a touchdown in 10 consecutive games.
The Presidents’ defense forced a quick punt and the offense covered 54 yards in seven plays to tie the game on a strange play. Sophomore quarterback Matt Bliss (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) ran nine yards to the TMC 1, but fumbled which was eventually recovered in the end zone for a touchdown by W&J sophomore tackle Zach Wildey (Connellsville, Pa./Connellsville).
TMC answered with a Kues to Adam Rauch 3-yard scoring pass with just under two minutes left in the first half, but W&J narrowed the gap to 21-17 at halftime on sophomore Eric Eberle’s (Mifflintown, Pa./Juniata) 19-yard field goal. The field goal was set up by four Bliss completions.
Thomas More scored on its first possession of the second half as Kues rushed three yards for a touchdown and a 28-17 lead. The Presidents again sliced the deficit to four points with a 35-yard touchdown strike from Bliss to sophomore wideout Alex Baroffio (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Saints came right back with a 14-play, 76-yard drive to go ahead 35-24. Hayden carried 12 yards for the final TMC touchdown.
W&J drove to the TMC 5 on its next possession, but turned the ball over on downs. TMC punted after just three plays and junior wide receiver Hunter Creel (Industry, Pa./Western Beaver) caught a screen pass from Bliss and dashed 18 yards for a touchdown with 3:34 left in regulation.
The defense held Thomas More again and the Presidents took over at their own 38-yard line; however, Autenreib picked off a Bliss pass on the third play and the Saints ran out the clock.
Kues passed for 227 yards and two scores, while rushing for 48. Hayden had 77 yards on 15 attempts, while Shaquille Jinks paced the defense with 12 tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. Although the Saints were outgained by over 100 yards, TMC owned a slight advantage in time of possession (32:07-27:53).
Bliss completed 30-of-50 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Presidents, who rushed for 206 yards as a team. He also gained 77 yards on the ground. McNerney complied 93 yards on 21 rushing attempts and Baroffio caught seven passes for 115 yards. Creel added seven receptions for 86 yards.
Defensively, juniors linebacker Ian Hennessy (Gibsonia, Pa./Pine Richland) and cornerback Nathan Melhorn (Salineville, Ohio/Southern Local) both racked up a game-high 13 tackles. Melhorn had 1.5 stops for a loss, while Hennessy added a pass breakup.
W&J travels to New Wilmington, Pa., to take on Westminster next Saturday at 1:00 pm.