Central Valley edges Thomas Jefferson in WPIAL semifinals
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Much like its quarterback, Central Valley showed its best in the playoffs.
Junior quarterback John George, who became the starter two weeks before the playoffs, rushed for a touchdown, threw a 56-yarder and made a well-tossed lateral for another in Friday night's 23-13 semifinal victory over Thomas Jefferson in the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.
After consecutive losses in the semifinals the past two years, No. 3 Central Valley (11-1) advances to Heinz Field for the first time since its 2010 championship season. A rematch with Parkway Conference rival No. 1 West Allegheny (12-0) awaits Central Valley in the WPIAL championship game next Saturday.
George, who completed 9 of 12 passes for 146 yards, threw a 56-yard touchdown to B.J. Powell in the third quarter.
“I have faith in him with anything we do,” said junior Jordan Whitehead, whose 15-yard touchdown run gave Central Valley a 7-0 lead. “(Injured teammate) Nate (Climo) is a great quarterback, but I know what (George) can do.”
George also became the starter in last year's playoffs when Climo was sidelined with a neck injury. Climo has been out with a shoulder injury.
“Totally different team (when George plays),” Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak said. “That's the reason they're going on, I think. … He makes everything happen for them.”
This was the second time in four seasons that Central Valley eliminated higher-seeded Thomas Jefferson in the semifinals. In 2010, Central Valley won, 42-24, en route to winning the WPIAL title as a first-year program.
No. 2 Thomas Jefferson (11-1) was trying to reach its first championship since 2008. But the Jaguars, the highest-scoring team in Class AAA, crossed the 20-yard line of Central Valley four times but scored only twice. A missed 25-yard field goal ended one drive, and a failed fourth-and-four 10 yards from the end zone ended another.
TJ senior Chase Winovich rushed 32 times for 139 yards and a touchdown.
“Our defense won us this game,” George said. “They held a good TJ team to only 13 points. ... It was a really big team effort.”
With two quick first-quarter touchdowns, Central Valley controlled the first quarter much the way Thomas Jefferson often had this season. TJ had outscored its first 11 opponents, 133-7, in the first quarter.
Central Valley built a 14-0 lead with touchdown runs by Whitehead and George, who scored on consecutive first-quarter possessions. Excellent field position aided both scores. One drive covered 15 yards in one play, a long run by Whitehead. The other touchdown drive covered 30 yards in five plays, leading to George's 1-yard run.
A 25-yard punt return by Whitehead from the 40-yard line and a fumble by TJ quarterback Christian Breisinger provided CV with great field position. Breisinger was sacked by CV's Connar McKay and Cedric Askerneese recovered the fumble at TJ's 30-yard line.
“The key to the whole game was the field position in the first quarter and them getting two relatively easy scores,” Cherpak said.
With just 58 offensive yards, Central Valley held a two-touchdown lead. Thomas Jefferson's first three drives produced two punts, a fumble and just two first downs.
The Jaguars leaned heavily on Winovich, who carried on seven of their first 10 plays. His runs gained just 28 yards, but the Jaguars stuck with their Michigan-bound senior. He carried on 17 of their 24 first-half plays, including a 5-yard touchdown run with 1:57 left before halftime.
The 11-play, 58-yard touchdown drive included eight runs by Winovich. But it was the only first-half possession that reached the end zone.
Fullback Austin Boyd had a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth.
“They knew we weren't going to throw,” Cherpak said. “They knew we couldn't throw.”
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.
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: Bridgers star could be asset to Quips
- HS highlight reel: Central Catholic’s Joseph commits to PSU
- HS highlight reel: Bridgers star could be asset to Quips
- Statewide HSFB notebook: Jersey Shore wins on controversial finish
- Monessen’s Rullo tabbed Player of Week
- Previewing some of the top Week 5 matchups in Western Pennsylvania
- Butler football team showing improvement
- South Park grinds out win over East Allegheny
- ‘Miracle’ Highlands-Apollo Ridge game leaves lasting impression
- Highlands wins thriller over Apollo-Ridge
- Frazier routs Leechburg for 5th straight win