The night ended for Thomas Jefferson like it began, with a pounding running game and stout defense helping the Jaguars stave off a push by St. Martin’s to win, 24-12, on Friday night at Tony Porter Field.

After jumping out to a three-score lead on the churning legs of back Dante Sincere and a pair of fumbles, the Jaguars softened, giving up several long passes by St. Martin’s quarterback Desmond McGovern to set up scores.

A 54-yard pass on the last drive of the first half put McGovern in position to rush for a touchdown. In the third quarter, McGovern found Ethan Roberts over the middle for 25 yards, then chucked it 37 yards on the next play to Jack Brown, who was standing wide open in the end zone. Both tries, an extra point and a conversion, failed, forcing St. Martin’s to play for a touchdown.

St. Martin’s continued to threaten through the fourth quarter until McGovern made his first mistake of the game. He put the ball on the ground, allowing Jefferson to recover its third fumble of the game. Sincere bounced outside on the next play for 23 yards and put the game out of reach three plays later from 2 yards out.

“We started out nice, dominated, then we got to the middle of the game and had some problems,” Thomas Jefferson coach Kevin Kelly said. “They did a good job. … They throw the ball, and it tired out our defense. But we regrouped and came back in the fourth quarter. We got physical with them, and that’s what we want to do.”

St. Martin’s couldn’t get its defense off the field throughout the first half, having their hands full with Sincere and fellow junior back Antonio Castro. The Saints especially had a hard time stopping the 5-foot-9, 190-pound Sincere, who rarely went down after first contact as he banged between the tackles.

Sincere had three first downs on the Jaguars’ first offensive scoring drive in the first quarter, including a 20-yard rush to put them in the red zone. A few plays later, Castro scored on a handoff into the end zone from two yards out to double its lead to 14-0.

“(Sincere) is a tough runner,” Kelly said. “He loves running inside, so that’s what we do with him, and run the quick guy (Castro) outside.

“We like to pound Dante Sincere in between the tackles. We like that.”

Jefferson’s first touchdown came on the third play of the game, when cornerback Kevin Glenn picked up a fumble by running back Kevin Blackstone and ran 37 yards to the end zone. A Blackstone fumble recovered by defensive lineman Standish Dyson also killed St. Martin’s’ second drive, but the Saints’ defense turned it on and forced a failed 54-yard field goal attempt.

The Saints’ defense also came up big when a shanked punt and subsequent return put the ball on its own 25-yard line.

Even after a pass interference call on 3-and-17 gave the Jaguars another try for a short first, Sincere ran into a wall. Kicker Antonio Castro came on and made a 36-yarder to make it 17-0.

Kelly attributed he long pass plays that allowed the Saints to come back from that deficit to having to play two freshmen in the secondary, one in place of standout Tyler Butler.

“We were filling in the voids with some young guys and it showed, but they came up in the end,” Kelly said. “Hopefully, they’ll learn from it.”