CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. – Ninth-ranked Thomas More gained 522 total yards and jumped out to a 35-0 lead en route to posting a 51-21 win over 15th-ranked Washington and Lee in the first round of the NCAA Division III Football Championship on Saturday afternoon at BB&T Field.
The Generals drove the ball well early on, but committed two first quarter turnovers and missed a field goal early in the second quarter as the Saints (11-0) raced out to a 28-0 lead midway through the second period.
Thomas More took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 74 yards on 12 plays as senior quarterback Jensen Gebhardt hit senior wide receiver Michael Bernecker with a 15-yard touchdown pass that made it 35-0.
W&L erased its first half woes by producing an 8-play, 74-yard drive on its first possession of the second half, with junior quarterback Charlie Nelson (Redding, Conn. / St. Luke's) scoring on an 11-yard touchdown run. Despite surrendering another touchdown to the Saints, the Generals marched right down the field on their next drive as junior running back Connor Chess (Fairfax, Va. / Flint Hill) scored on a 7-yard scamper with 0:17 left in the third period to make it a 42-14 game.
The Saints tacked on a touchdown and a field goal, while sophomore running back Walker Brand (Roanoke, Va. / Hidden Valley) capped the scoring on the day with an 8-yard touchdown run with 58 seconds left.
The W&L offense finished with 332 total yards, including 323 rushing yards. Nelson led the way with 138 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. He also was 2-of-10 passing for nine yards with one interception. Brand amassed 60 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries, and Chess posted 54 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. Sophomore linebacker Max Garrett (Fairfield, Conn. / Choate Rosemary Hall) produced a game-high 15 tackles, while sophomore safety Michael Shields (Charlotte, N.C. / Charlotte Country Day) compiled 11 stops and a forced fumble.
Gebhardt completed 15-of-26 passes for 163 yards and four touchdowns, while sophomore quarterback Brenan Kuntz went 2-for-2 for 53 yards and two more passing scores. Sophomore running back C.T. Tarrant rushed 26 times for 145 yards and one touchdown, while Cohorn caught six passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Junior linebacker Austin Copeland notched seven tackles and one interception.
Washington and Lee ends its season with a school-record 10 wins (10-1). Thomas More will play Wabash next Saturday in the second round.