ROSTRAVER TWP., Pa. — A matchup between two unbeatens is usually a close affair and the battle between the Thomas Jefferson Jaguars (3-0, 1-0 4A) and the Belle Vernon Area Leopards (3-0, 0-0 3A) was no different. While the Leopards led for the majority of the game, the battle at “The Beach” was a highly contested one as the Jaguars came from behind and defeated the Leopards 24-19.
The Leopards jumped out to a two-score lead quickly after Braden Laux found Anthony Crews for a 13-yard touchdown on the first drive of the game. On that initial strike, Crews rose up and hauled it in with one hand over a Jaguars’ defender. Two drives later, Kole Doppelheuer exploded for a 93-yard touchdown run that made it a 12-0 lead for Belle Vernon.
The Jaguars responded midway through the second quarter with a 26-yard field goal by Samuel Wessel. After the Jaguars forced a quick three-and-out on the ensuing Leopards’ drive, Michael Banda scored the first touchdown of the game for Thomas Jefferson on a 5-yard run which cut the Leopards’ lead down to 12-10.
Just when the Jaguars were finding some momentum, the Leopards forced a turnover near midfield with less than a minute left in the half. The Leopards rallied down the field and scored a touchdown as time expired in the half as Laux found Quinton Martin in the corner of the endzone for a 20-yard touchdown.
To start the second half, the Leopards’ defense forced a missed field goal, a punt, and an interception after three long drives ended in their own territory. On the Jaguars’ fourth chance of the second half, Luke Kosko hit Jason Salman for a 38-yard gain and Elias Lippincott finished the drive off with a 1-yard touchdown to bring the score back to one possession.
With just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars got the play that they needed all game as they blocked the Leopards punt which set them up in plus-territory with a chance to take the lead. Moments later, Kosko hit Salman for a 40-yard touchdown strike which gave the Jaguars their first lead all game.
The Jaguars shut the Leopards down the rest of the way and claimed their fifth victory of the season in dramatic fashion.
Next week, the Jaguars will head home to host Laurel Highlands as the Leopards will travel to take on South Allegheny.