Thomas Jefferson relies on dominant defense
Thomas Jefferson's football team, which defeated Mars, 34-6, on Oct. 6, has outscored the opposition 199-7 in the first half of its games this season.
The Jaguars' first-string defensive unit has not surrendered a point all year.
“The defense has been getting better every week and playing great as a unit,” TJ coach Bill Cherpak said. “The defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs have all been very consistent and complement each other. They play very fast. Both the run and pass defense has been great.”
Defensive catalysts consist of Devin Danielson, Noah Palmer, Logan Burnsworth, Dom Serapiglia, Logan Danielson and Mike Huber on the line; Sean Bell, Jack Mich, Max Shaw and James Martinis at linebacker; with Garret Fairman, Dan Deabner, Jared Collington and Nick Urbanowicz in the secondary.
Devin Danielson, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound senior, and Palmer, a 6-4, 225-pound senior, are Pitt recruits.
“The season is going the way we expected,” Palmer said, “but we haven't even scraped the surface of our potential. We just need to perfect the little things on both sides of the ball to play an almost error-free game.
“Our expectations are still the same — to dominate the line of scrimmage and eat up blocks so the backers can make plays. Also, another big goal is not to let anyone score on our first-team defense.”
Thomas Jefferson (6-0, 5-0) has won two consecutive WPIAL championships. Jack Giran, as defensive coordinator, oversees the Jaguars' defense.
The numbers racked up by the TJ defense this year are staggering.
The Jaguars have allowed only 113 yards rushing and 203 yards passing all season, and have posted three shutouts.
Opponents are averaging only 19 yards rushing and 34 yards passing per game. And just 3.3 points per game.
“The key to our dominance is our coaches, plain and simple,” Fairman said.
Meanwhile, offensively, TJ has outscored the opposition 297-20 this season, and is averaging 49.5 points and close to 400 total yards per game.
The Jaguars average 267 yards rushing per game, led by senior running back Justin Vigna.
The 5-9, 165-pound Vigna has rambled for 917 yards and a team-leading 13 touchdowns on 103 carries.
Sophomore QB Shane Stump has passed for 773 yards and 13 touchdowns. His two favorite targets are Fairman (16-438) and Urbanowicz (9-113), who have 25 catches for 551 yards and seven touchdowns between them in the receiving department.
A.J. Meshanko has been successful on 39 point-after touchdown kicks.
Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.