SIOUX CITY — With the offense sputtering, Thomas Jefferson needed a spark if it was going to start the season 2-0 for the first time since 2012. Senior Qu’ran Owens provided the needed spark with a 40-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the third quarter to ultimately lead the Jackets to a 43-19 victory over Sioux City North at Olsen field Thursday night.
“We needed something like that just to loosen things up,” T.J. coach Brant Anderson said of Owens’ punt return, “because they had our number a little there to start that third quarter.”
After a blistering start that saw the Jackets capitalize on two early interceptions to score on their first two possessions and jump out to a 13-0 lead, they struggled heading into the half. North was able to put two touchdowns on the board in the second quarter as they found a little rhythm in the passing game.
The Jackets received the second half kickoff and found themselves punting after a quick three-and-out. In a sign of things to come, the Jacket defense made a stand leading to the punt return for a touchdown.
“The defense really just needed to tighten up a few things, sure up a few things, and just keep playing hard,” Anderson said. “The pressure we were able to get on them was big.”
The defense was dominant in a third quarter that saw the Jackets hold North to minus-eight yards. Thomas Jefferson took advantage of great field position, scoring touchdowns on consecutive possessions.
The first score was a 60-yard strike through the air from Austin Schubert to Hunter Jones down the right sideline. Then, it was Jermaine Green with a punishing 13-yard touchdown run which pushed the Jacket lead to 33-13.
“That’s the way our offense runs, you know,” Green said of the punishing running style. “Not just me, but all of our backs have that mentality that if we keep running, they’re going to get tired eventually.”
As the North defense continued to tire, the Jackets continued with repeated body blows. Green finished off the scoring with his third touchdown, this time 46 yards right up the middle. He finished with 14 carries for 107 yards to go with his three scores.
Early in the contest the Jacket defense, which has been opportunistic through the first two games, gave the offense life. Freshman Devon Bovee snatched an interception on North’s first possession, and sophomore Austin Schubert snagged an interception on the second possession. Bovee added another interception in the fourth quarter, and Green picked up a fumble recovery as T.J. forced four turnovers.
Offensively, the Jackets also got 108 yards on the ground from sophomore JJ Johans, who scored on a 96-yard run on T.J.’s second possession. That was the longest touchdown run since a 96-yard Cameron Baker effort in 2017 against Sioux City West.
Anderson was also pleased the defensive play of Hunter Jones who had three sacks on the night in addition to hauling in a touchdown pass. Anderson also mentioned the play of Cameron Hastie defensively.
Thomas Jefferson is back in action next Friday as it plays its home opener against Denison-Schleswig, a team that beat the Jackets 17-12 a year ago.
“It’s the same message as last week, just taking the next step,” Anderson said. “We expect Denison to be a real physical team, they always are. We expect them to be solid and disciplined and play well.
“We are going to have to play better, with a lot less mistakes if we want to stay with them and compete next week.”
TJ (2-0) 13 0 20 10 — 43
SCN (0-2) 0 13 0 6 — 19
TJ: Jermaine Green 10 run (Carter Harold kick good)
TJ: JJ Johanns 96 run (Kick no good)
SCN: Pierson 32 pass from Lovrien (Kick no good)
SCN: Hansen 5 pass from Lovrien (Kick good)
TJ: Qu’ran Owens 40 punt return (Kick good
TJ: Hunter Jones 60 pass from Schubert (Kick good)
TJ: Green 13 run (Kick no good)
TJ: Harold 25 kick
SCN: Helvig 65 pass from Lovrien (Kick no good)
TJ: Green 46 run (Arynna Nastase kick good)