Thomas Jefferson, Central Valley have Heinz Field in sight
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Both have developed reputations as football powerhouses in WPIAL Class AAA.
Thomas Jefferson (11-0), the No. 2 seed, has played in the semifinals 14 times in the past 15 seasons.
No. 3 Central Valley (10-1), a relative newcomer in Class AAA, has lost in the semifinals the past two years since winning the WPIAL title in 2010 — its initial season following the merger of Center and Monaca high schools.
The Big Nine Conference champion Jaguars and Parkway Conference runner-up Warriors will meet for just the second time at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Chartiers Valley.
“They're really good; they're so athletic. They're the best team I've seen on film this year,” Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak said. “All of their skill players — their receivers, their running backs, their quarterback, their defensive backs — are really good and super athletic and super fast. They just do everything well.”
At stake Friday is a berth in the WPIAL finals at Heinz Field against the winner of the semifinal matchup between No. 1 West Allegheny (11-0) and No. 4 Franklin Regional (10-1).
“TJ wants to impose its will on other teams,” Central Valley coach Mark Lyons said. “We've got to stand 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 rallied for a 23-14 quarterfinal win over a gritty Highlands squad last week. Senior multipurpose athlete Chase Winovich willed the Jaguars to their 22nd victory in their past 23 games.
Winovich, a Michigan linebacker recruit, rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Winovich has run for 842 yards, averaging 10.1 yards per carry, and passed for 212 yards.
“Defensively, we've got to make Winovich earn his yards,” Lyons said. “I'm not so sure he's had to grind out a full game.”
Thomas Jefferson owns the No. 1 offense (40.9 ppg) and defense (6.4 ppg) in Class AAA.
The Jaguars have outscored the opposition 450-70 and have posted five shutouts, including a 39-0 victory over Hampton in a WPIAL first- round game.
“Their defense does a good job of creating negative plays,” Lyons said. “I can live with the 2-yard or 3-yard runs, but you can't have minus-6 or minus-8. That puts you behind the sticks too much. We've got to sustain drives.”
Central Valley defeated Mars, 35-21, last week behind junior Jordan Whitehead, a 6-foot, 180-pound running back who rushed for 100 yards and three touchdowns.
Whitehead, a Division I recruit, caught a 6-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter, took the second half's opening kickoff 92 yards for a score and sprinted 74 yards for another touchdown in the third quarter.
“He's phenomenal. He's the best player I've seen this year,” Cherpak said.
Whitehead, with 622 yards, 10 scores and a 9.4 rushing average, and senior running back JaQuan Pennington (5-8, 155), with 685 yards, seven scores and 7.1 rushing average, are the Warriors' main impact players.
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.