PLEASANT HILLS – Thomas Jefferson scored on its last four possessions of the game to blow open a halftime tie to defeat Belle Vernon on Friday night, 34-7, in a key Class 4A Big Eight Conference game.
After the game, disappointed Belle Vernon coach Matt Humbert spoke about how the game got away from the Leopards.
“This game was a battle in the first half and was what this game was supposed to look like,” he said. “We had self-inflicting wounds in the second half and can’t give them the ball in the red zone.
“At the end of the day, we extended two of their drives (in the second half) and we can’t do that.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Thomas Jefferson (2-0, 3-0) opened the scoring on the first play of the second when Shane Stump hit Dan Deabner on a 36-yard touchdown pass.
Belle Vernon (0-1, 1-1) tied the score at 7-7 with 4:20 to go in the half when Hunter Ruokonen made a diving catch in the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown pass.
At the half, TJ had 136 yards on 30 plays while Belle Vernon had 130 yards on 34 plays.
Humbert was happy about how the Leopards played in the first half.
“I thought we played really well in the first half,” he said. “We prevented big splash plays in the first half but gave them big splash plays in the second half and we gave them the ball two times in the red zone (in the second half).”
Thomas Jefferson took a 14-7 lead with 3:28 to go in the third when Stump scored on a keeper from one yard and the Jaguars didn’t slow down.
It was during the third quarter that five different Leopards cramped up which caused the personnel to be in shambles.
“We had no flow,” Humbert said. “The third quarter was a debacle with shuffling people and we couldn’t get into a rhythm.
“It’s no ones fault, but it can’t happen after halftime.”
The Jaguars extended their lead when Stump scored from four yards on a naked bootleg with 11:07 to play in the game.
The Jaguars’ DeRon VanBibber scored twice in the last five minutes to put the game well out of reach.
Thomas Jefferson finished with 349 yards on 58 plays with VanBibber leading the way with 131 yards rushing on 20 carries.
Belle Vernon gained 151 yards on 54 plays with Larry Callaway leading the way with 68 rushing yards on 13 carries.
With the win, TJ improves to 66-1 in the last 12 years at home with the lone loss coming to Belle Vernon in 2015.