Conference title on the line in Thomas Jefferson-West Mifflin rivalry matchup
By Ray Fisher
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The annual season-ending clash between arch-rivals Thomas Jefferson and West Mifflin is here.
The Jaguars visit West Mifflin Stadium Friday for their Big Nine Conference finale. The opening kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
Thomas Jefferson (8-0, 7-0) cruised past Uniontown in a Big Nine Conference game last week, 49-6, while West Mifflin (8-0, 7-0)topped Trinity in conference action, 43-28.
Thomas Jefferson is the leading offensive team in Class AAA with a 44.1 ppg average. West Mifflin ranks third with a 42.1 ppg scoring average.
The Titans are led offensively by senior running back Jimmy Wheeler, the leading rusher in the WPIAL with 2,008 yards and 27 touchdowns.
“They are all about Wheeler,” Bill Cherpak, TJ's head coach, said. “We need to contain him and not allow big plays by anyone else, including the fullback, quarterback or (via) a long pass. We must tackle well on Wheeler.
“I also think special teams will be a big factor in this game. We have been pretty good on our coverages up to this point.”
West Mifflin's sophomore QB, Karlyn Garner, accounted for 350 yards in total offense versus the Hillers. Garner hit on 7 of 9 passes for 142 yards and one touchdown, and tacked on 208 yards on the ground.
Although both squads are explosive offensively, the game most likely will be won or lost on defense.
The Jaguars are allowing only 7 ppg on defense. West Mifflin is giving up 13 ppg.
Thomas Jefferson owns three shutouts this year, and limited three other teams to one touchdown. WM has two shutouts.
In a similar situation last year, Thomas Jefferson, sparked by then-junior linebacker Chase Winovich, held Wheeler to 131 yards and two scores en route to a stirring 28-14 triumph. The Jaguars limited Wheeler to 10 yards after halftime.
TJ advanced to the WPIAL semifinal round last season, where it fell to West Allegheny, 24-7, to finish 11-1 overall.
West Mifflin was the WPIAL runner-up a year ago. The Titans lost to West Allegheny in the finals, 34-8, to end up 11-2.
Thomas Jefferson has posted six undefeated regular seasons and won 15 conference titles since Cherpak took over as field boss in 1995.
BALDWIN at BETHEL PARK 7:30 p.m. Friday
Baldwin (4-4, 3-4) has won its past two games — averaging 56 ppg — while host Bethel Park (5-3, 5-2) has dropped its past two contests.
The Fighting Highlanders rolled past Canon-McMillan in a Quad Central Conference matchup last week, 49-6, while Bethel Park (5-3, 5-2) fell to Seneca Valley in a nonconference matchup, 39-3.
“Our team came out focused and made the most out of some early opportunities,” Pete Wagner, Baldwin's head coach, said.
“(Luke) Smorey's defensive touchdown to start the game allowed for a quick start, and things seemed to click from there. It was a solid group effort; we will be looking to build from it this week in practice.”
Baldwin needs a victory in its Quad Central Conference finale to qualify for the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.
The Fighting Highlanders, led by the passing-receiving combination of senior quarterback Doug Altavilla and senior wideout Luke Smorey, are averaging 30 ppg while allowing 29.5 ppg.
Altavilla has completed 105 of 203 tosses for 1,461 yards and 19 touchdowns. He is averaging 182.6 yards passing per game.
Smorey has ranked among the WPIAL's leading receivers all season. He has 49 catches for 978 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Bethel Park is scoring at a 20.9 ppg clip, and surrendering 15.9 ppg.
The Black Hawks have shut out three opponents — Plum (38-0), Canon-McMillan (31-0) and Peters Township (24-0).
“Bethel Park is an extremely well-coached team,” Wagner said. As always, our focus needs to stay with our week of preparation. We will get (the Baldwin players') best effort this week.”
SETON-LA SALLE at SOUTH PARK 7:30 p.m. Friday
The winner of this game will go to the WPIAL Class AA playoffs as the third-place team from the Century Conference.
The losing side will enter the playoffs as the fourth-place team.
Seton-La Salle (6-2, 5-2) defeated Mohawk by a 28-14 score in nonconference action last week.
South Park (5-3, 5-2), on the heels of five straight victories, was blanked by South Fayette in a conference matchup, 48-0.
“South Park is a big, physical team that seems to have righted the ship and is headed to the playoffs,” Greg Perry, the Rebels' head coach, said. “They run the ball right at you, and they have a big offensive line.
“We definitely need to be prepared to stop the run or it could be a long night.”
Seton-La Salle started out 4-0 and is 2-2 over the past four weeks. The Rebels defeated South Park last season, 19-7.
South Park competed in Class AAA in 2010 and 2011. Prior to that, Seton-La Salle won three of four games versus the Eagles including three in a row from 2006 to 08.
“We will be playing on grass for the first time this season, so I hope that doesn't create a problem,” Perry said. “It should be a fun night with playoff seeds up for grabs.”
The Rebels are averaging 30.3 ppg while allowing 16.5. The Eagles are scoring 21.3 ppg; their defensive average is 23.5.
BRENTWOOD at CALIFORNIA 7 p.m. Friday
Brentwood (5-4, 5-3) cruised past Bishop Canevin in a Black Hills Conference game last week, 42-6.
Meanwhile, California (4-4, 4-4) clipped Carlynton in conference action, 26-13, setting up this week's showdown.
On the line is a playoff berth in the WPIAL Class A playoffs. If Brentwood wins, the Spartans advance to the playoffs as the conference's fourth-place team.
“We're playing pretty good. It seems like we're playing much better,” Kevin Kissel, Brentwood's head coach, said. “We've finally got some kids back. Everyone's healthy but Justin (Vickless).”
Bill Madeja, a junior running back, accounted for three touchdowns for the Spartans last week, including a 72-yard interception return.
Senior wideout Jack Murano also scored on an 86-yard kickoff return to start the second half.
Brentwood has qualified for the playoffs five consecutive seasons, and in six of the past seven years.
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or email@example.com.
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