WPIAL Class AAA semifinal preview: Central Valley vs. Thomas Jefferson
class AAA Semifinals
Central Valley (10-1) vs. Thomas Jefferson (11-0)
7:30 p.m. Friday at Chartiers Valley
Thomas Jefferson has tested the notion that games aren't won in the first quarter, despite what coaches like to say. Only one first-quarter touchdown has been allowed all season by the Jaguars, who've outscored opponents, 133-7, in those first 12 minutes.
“TJ wants to impose its will on other teams,” said Central Valley coach Mark Lyons. “We've got to withstand that initial surge, settle into what we do and let them know this isn't going to be a pushover like they're used to.”
Thomas Jefferson has the highest-scoring offense (40.9 ppg) and the stingiest defense (6.4 ppg) in Class AAA. But Central Valley, the Parkway runner-up, believes it's the best all-around team the Big 9 champ has met.
“They're the best team I've seen on film this year,” TJ coach Bill Cherpak said. “We have to control the ball to keep their offense off the field.”
The semifinals aren't new to either team. Thomas Jefferson has reached the final four in 14 of the past 15 seasons. Central Valley lost in the semifinals the past two seasons since winning the WPIAL title in 2010.
“The last couple years, losing at the end maybe toughened us up a little more,” Lyons said.
Both teams have a Division I recruit who starts both ways. Central Valley is led by junior Jordan Whitehead, a slotback and cornerback. TJ has leaned on its offensive line and senior Chase Winovich, a Michigan linebacker recruit who also plays quarterback.
Winovich rushed for 200 yards and three TDs in last week's 23-14 quarterfinal victory over Highlands.
A week ago, Whitehead scored on a 92-yard kickoff return, a 74-yard run and a 6-yard pass.
— Chris Harlan