Thomas Jefferson’s dreams of the program’s first district championship were snatched away last year by a special teams gaffe on an extra point in the team’s final game of the regular season.
They spent all offseason making sure those mistakes won’t come back to bite them again.
On Saturday night, the Jaguars utilized two special teams plays to jump out to a 27-0 lead before lightning in the area caused both coaches to end the game with 7:20 left in the second quarter, giving Thomas Jefferson the win over St. Martin’s at Hoss Memtsas Stadium.
“Last week, we were just bad on special teams,” Thomas Jefferson coach Kevin Kelly said. “So it was big for our confidence to come out this week and make those big plays.
“I think our guys came out with a great mindset tonight and played really hard for the short amount of time we were out there.”
The Jaguars (1-0) got their first score of the night on a 46-yard punt return for a touchdown by wide receiver Antonio Castro. Thomas Jefferson surprised the Saints (0-1) on the ensuing kickoff with an onside kick which the Jaguars recovered.
Four plays later, running back Donte Sincere burst through the middle for a 13-yard touchdown to increase the lead to 13-0.
Sincere finished with six carries for 50 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Tyler Butler, who was playing in his first game since tearing his ACL in last season’s first-round playoff loss, tallied 141 yards from scrimmage and two total touchdowns.
“That first drive, my whole focus was just getting over that mental hurdle and putting that long process behind me,” said Butler, who moved over to quarterback after playing tight end last season.
“After those first few hits, I felt really good and I knew I could get back to doing some of the things I’m used to doing on the field.”
Once Butler got back into the groove, he made big plays for the Thomas Jefferson offense and put things out of reach for St. Martin’s.
After only accounting for 7 yards during the Jaguars’ first two possessions, Butler broke a 19-yard run on a read-option play that set him up for a 5-yard touchdown plunge three plays later. He followed that by tossing a 23-yard TD to wide receiver Ermond Williams on the next possession that increased the lead to 27-0.
“I’m happy for (Butler) because he was able to come out and play well, but he was as anxious as anybody to get back out there during the lightning delay,” Kelly said. “He’s been waiting for 10 months for this, and I thought he did a good job leading our offense.”
With this win, the Jaguars also know that they have a major test waiting for them next week when they play St. Charles Catholic, who made it to the semifinals of the Division II playoffs last season.
“We just have to stay disciplined, stay focused and pick up where we left off tonight,” Butler said.