Conference title on the line in Thomas Jefferson-West Mifflin rivalry matchup
TribLIVE Sports Videos
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.
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.
- HS highlight reel: Winter season set to tip off Dec. 4
- South Fayette, Aliquippa form unique traditions for Thanksgiving Day
- Ligonier Valley bows out of football playoffs
- Jeannette football prepare for Class A championship game
- Franklin Regional football team ends its season one win short of Heinz Field
- High school notebook: New classes put football finalists on the move next season
- Gorman: Look out for unsung hero
- Through the Years: Leechburg, Oakmont won WPIAL titles a half-century ago
- High school notebook: Knoch CF Bucko commits to Kent State
- No. 5 Central Catholic ‘returns’ to title game with win over Woodland Hills
- TJ-Central Valley football powers to clash at Heinz Field