No. 2 Thomas Jefferson routs No. 3 Titans behind Winovich
West Mifflin coach Ray Braszo is notorious for having a skinny playbook. And if one play is working, look out, he will run it time and time again.
Being part of the Braszo coaching tree during his days at Steel Valley, Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak must have had the philosophy rub off on him.
With the Big Nine championship on the line along with one of the top seeds in the upcoming WPIAL Class AAA playoffs, Cherpak took a page out of Braszo's book.
Forget that, he stole the entire thing.
Cherpak called senior quarterback Chase Winovich's number to the tune of 246 yards and four touchdowns as the Jaguars won their 14th consecutive conference title and gave Cherpak his 200th career win in a 35-0 whitewash of West Mifflin (8-1, 7-1) in front of a standing-room-only crowd of more than 6,000 at Titans Stadium.
No. 2 Thomas Jefferson (9-0, 8-0) has won 12 of the past 14 meetings against West Mifflin. Cherpak is 16-5 all-time against the No. 3 Titans.
“We figured that he's back there so let's just make him the tailback,” said Cherpak on using Winovich as wildcat-like quarterback. “He just makes plays. We just wanted to get him in space because we knew he breaks so many tackles.”
Winovich, a Michigan linebacker recruit, came into the game with only 335 yards rushing this season.
“It was nothing fancy,” Winovich said. “It is just good old-fashioned Western Pennsylvania football. It's smash-mouth football, and we basically said that our 11 is better than your 11.”
“They weren't doing anything fancy,” Braszo said. “They did what they do. We knew it. And we couldn't stop it.”
Typically, that is what Braszo does with tailback Jimmy Wheeler — feed him the ball non-stop.
Wheeler came into the game needing 142 yards to pass Steel Valley's Delrece Williams' WPIAL regular-season rushing record of record of 2,149 yards but was limited to 13 yards on 11 carries. Wheeler had minus-6 yards rushing until the final play of the first half.
“Their line beat us up front,” Braszo said. “They were just too big for us.”
TJ's line on both sides of the ball was dominant.
While Wheeler was finding holes hard to come by, Winovich wasn't.
Nothing was more indicative of that than on the opening drive of the second half.
With TJ already leading 14-0 on a pair of Winovich touchdown runs, Cherpak went to his Braszo-like play calling in the third.
TJ went on a 16-play, 75-yard drive that ate up 9:24 of the clock. On the drive, Winovich rushed 13 times for all 75 yards, including converting a pair of fourth downs.
TJ followed that up with another long drive that resulted in a 7-yard touchdown run by Winovich and a 28-0 lead.
Out of the first 23 plays TJ called in the second half, 16 were quarterback keeps that resulted in 120 yards.
“We found a weakness in their defense,” Winovich said, “and took advantage of it.”