Opportunistic Thomas Jefferson rips Belle Vernon
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Sure, Thomas Jefferson never was threatened by Belle Vernon. The Jaguars scored on their first three possessions and never looked back in a 35-0 Big Nine Conference victory over Belle Vernon.
But all Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak could think about afterward was how the Belle Vernon offensive line powered his team off the line of scrimmage for sophomore tailback Luke Durigon to gain big chunks of yardage.
Cherpak's reason: Jimmy Wheeler and the run-happy West Mifflin Titans are the only ones standing in the path of Thomas Jefferson's 13th consecutive conference title two weeks from now.
“We are going to have to be able to defend that kind of play because Wheeler likes to run it up in there,” said Cherpak, who raised his career record to 198-37. “We have to be better than we were today. I am not happy with this at all. They ran the ball right up the gut on us, and we have to find a way to sure that up.”
Durigon finished with 132 yards, including three runs over 25 yards, but they were inconsequential in the outcome of the game because of the quick-strike ability of the Jaguars' offense.
TJ, which ran its dominance over its Route 51 rival to 13 consecutive wins, scored three touchdowns on its first 14 plays to open a 21-0 first-quarter lead. After that, the Jaguars cruised to their 49th consecutive home win.
“We couldn't let them get out early, and that's what we did,” Belle Vernon coach Aaron Krepps said.
Thomas Jefferson (7-0, 6-0) got a balanced attack from five running backs who gained at least 35 yards: Ricky Daley (53), Chase Winovich (46), Braden Pahanish (45), Ryan Scanlon (41) and Austin Kemp (35).
Christian Breisinger completed 7 of 10 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown, while Dalton Dietrich caught six passes for 107 yards and a score. Thomas Jefferson outgained Belle Vernon, 396-156.
“When you have as many injuries as they have, your options are limited,” Cherpak said. “Their line was good, and that kind ran nice for them, but they got in a hole early. We made some big plays early and kind of got up on them and took them out of the game.”
Belle Vernon (2-6, 2-5) was playing without quarterback Travis Snyder and running back Anthony Levis.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a lot of times offensively, and you can't do that against a team like them,” Krepps said. “Then we blew a couple assignments defensively, and three of them were on touchdowns. We had to play our ‘A' game, and we didn't do that.”
While Belle Vernon couldn't catch a break, Thomas Jefferson couldn't seem to miss one.
Leading 21-0 midway through the first quarter on touchdowns by Kemp, Dietrich and Russell Siess, the Jaguars picked up their first break when Winovich missed a handoff to Kemp.
Winovich pulled the ball down and raced around the right end untouched for a 46 yard score.
The breaks continued late in the first when Breisinger fired the ball up into the end zone while trying to avoid pressure. It turned out to be a perfect strike to Frankie Langan in the back of the end zone for a 35-0 lead just before halftime.
“It turned out well but that's one he needs to hold onto,” Cherpak said. “We just didn't play well at all but it is tough for them because they were just outmanned. Still, I am not happy with it at all. We have to be better than this.”
Thomas Jefferson now leads the all-time series 29-18.
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.
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