TJ, Franklin Regional to showcase high-scoring offenses
TribLIVE Sports Videos
The longtime king of Class AAA football, Thomas Jefferson, is the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL playoffs but was done no favors by the seeding committee.
Finally somewhat healthy, the Franklin Regional team that was a preseason favorite to win Class AAA will be waiting for the Jaguars at Elizabeth Forward on Friday night.
It seems this showdown would be better fit for Heinz Field in two weeks than for the quarterfinals.
“No kidding,” TJ coach Bill Cherpak said. “I don't know. It's kind of strange the way everything is working out. I mean, you've got us and the team that was everyone's favorite before the season playing in the quarterfinals. Then you've got Montour and West Allegheny also playing on our side of the draw. Pretty tough.”
Cherpak isn't making excuses. His team has won four WPIAL and three PIAA championships during the past decade and thrives when facing these kinds of challenges.
“We're confident just like we always are,” Cherpak said.
Both coaches in this showdown are impressed with the opposition.
Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta marvels at Cherpak's offense.
“It's probably the most elaborate and sophisticated high school offense that you'll ever see,” Botta said. “They have a great quarterback and four great receivers. They aren't good. They're great. And it's not like they can't run the ball. Just a great team.”
This game could develop into a shootout. These are two of the WPIAL's finest offenses, and both units frequently deploy a no-huddle approach that can produce points in bushels.
Look for TJ to work through the air while Franklin Regional will rely heavily on star tailback Dane Brown. The Cornell recruit has produced more than 4,000 yards in his high school career.
“He's just an awesome football player,” Cherpak said. “He was banged up earlier this year, and that's exactly why they're on the No. 8 seed. They'd be much higher if they had him healthy all season. We know how good he is.”
The Jaguars have stars of their own, but Cherpak also has serious health concerns. TJ's top wideout, Zach Schademan, did not play last week and is iffy for Friday's game. Schademan is quarterback Joe Carroll's favorite target and produced two five-touchdown games this season.
Starting safety Zach Talley and starting defensive end Corey Payne, both of whom were injured in last week's 63-19 victory over Hollidaysburg in the first round of the playoffs, also are out this week.
Botta, though, remains plenty wary of TJ, regardless of its injury issues.
“They're just so great every year,” he said. “I have such respect for that program and for Cherp.”
Many teams are intimidated by TJ before opening kickoff, but Franklin Regional has never fallen into that category. The Panthers defeated TJ in the 2005 WPIAL championship game at Heinz Field and have played a number of competitive games with Cherpak's squad in recent years.
“We're not in awe of anybody,” Botta said. “We're not in awe of TJ. We have incredible respect for them. But we've always coached this team to believe it's about us, not the opponent.”
Botta wants Brown to have a terrific game, but instead of hitting home runs, he wouldn't mind if his star running back engineered time-consuming drives to keep TJ's offense off the field.
“Of course I do laugh about that,” Botta said. “We're usually in a hurry to score ourselves. But some long drives this game would be nice.”
Even if Schademan can't play, TJ will attack Franklin Regional through the air. Carroll has thrown for 1,850 yards, 34 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
“There is only so much you can do to stop that team,” Botta said. “We have our hands full, and we know it. But it's going to be a fun football game.”
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Not to be left behind, speedy Steelers are on the fast track in NFL
- The IRS scandal: Do the Lois Lerner emails still exist?
- Rossi: Steelers will make small strides this season
- Customers anxious for details about Highmark transition plan for W. Pa.
- Steelers have plenty of new faces at wide receiver
- In last preseason game, a final audition for some Steelers
- Jury deliberating sex assault charges against ice cream shop owner
- Annual Rib Festival at Heinz Field promises plentiful good food, music
- McKeesport Area teacher fired amid sex scandal returns to school
- Starkey: Bucs still battlin’
- Penguins GM insists new coach Johnston was no afterthought