| Sports

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

West Mifflin tries to end Thomas Jefferson win streak at home

TribLIVE Sports Videos

Top high school sports
Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, 11:02 p.m.

Don't blame Jimmy Wheeler and his teammates if they don't remember the last time West Mifflin won a football game at Thomas Jefferson's stadium.

They have good reason.

Few had been born in 1994 when West Mifflin last beat its nearby rival in Jefferson Hills, an 18-year span the Titans will try to end Friday night. The Big 9 champion will be decided when No. 3 West Mifflin (8-0, 7-0) visits No. 2 Thomas Jefferson (8-0, 7-0) at Jaguars Stadium.

As the only undefeated teams left in Class AAA, the winner almost certainly also will receive the WPIAL's No. 1 seed when playoff pairings are decided Monday.

“I told my kids that this is what it's all about; being in games like this,” Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak said. “This is why you play high school football.”

The last time both rivals were undefeated entering their final-week matchup was 2005, and West Mifflin won, 28-15, at West Mifflin.

However, this time it's at TJ, and West Mifflin isn't the only visitor to find the Jaguars' stadium unwelcoming. Thomas Jefferson has won 44 consecutive games on its home field.

The Jaguars' last loss there was a 2004 nonconference game against Gateway.

Since then, Thomas Jefferson has won 36 regular-season games and eight first-round playoff matchups at its stadium. That streak isn't due to the setting, West Mifflin coach Ray Braszo said, but rather the home team playing there.

West Mifflin visited four times during that stretch, losing 17-7 in 2004, 52-7 in 2006, 42-7 in 2008 and 31-12 in 2010.

“I don't think the stadium had a lot to do with it,” Braszo said. “They've just always had good teams.”

West Mifflin arrives this year with its own confidence. The Titans won 27-14 a year ago when they met undefeated Thomas Jefferson in Week 9. Because West Mifflin already had a loss, the two finished tied atop the Big 9 with 6-1 records.

The Titans also arrive with Wheeler second in the WPIAL in rushing. The junior has 1,543 yards and 19 touchdowns on 163 carries. Wheeler and quarterback Derrick Fulmore lead an offense that averages 40.8 points. Fulmore rushed for three touchdowns in last week's 35-7 victory over Trinity, and Wheeler scored twice.

“(Wheeler) hits the hole going as fast or faster than any back I can remember,” Cherpak said of the 5-foot-9 first-year starter. “You want to try to contain him, so he can't get that head of steam.”

Thomas Jefferson quarterback Joe Carroll leads the WPIAL with 31 touchdown passes, including 20 to wideout Zach Schademan. The seniors, who connected twice in last week's 49-8 victory over Uniontown, have rarely played beyond halftime. But Cherpak said the running game will be important against West Mifflin.

“You can't be one-dimensional,” he said. “If you are they'll shut it down.”

Only Thomas Jefferson (44.8) has averaged more points this season than West Mifflin in Class AAA. The Jaguars have outscored opponents 358-74, slightly better than West Mifflin's 326-82 edge.

“It's important that our defense plays really well and try to keep them off the field,” Braszo said. “I don't think we can get into a shooting match with them.”

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at




Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Pirates, Worley edge Brewers, 1-0, move to cusp of playoffs
  2. Pirates notebook: Bucs set single-season attendance record
  3. Machine operator avoids serious injuries in accident in North Huntingdon
  4. York man, 21, accused of assaulting Indiana Borough police officer
  5. Rescuers carry injured person up hillside near Phipps Conservatory
  6. Person rescued from McKees Rocks fire
  7. Hospitals turn to technology to tear down language barriers with patients
  8. Police say rifle carried by suspect in state trooper ambush found
  9. Pirates find a bridge at end of baseball world in Holdzkom
  10. Gas industry remedies ‘brain drain’ in Western Pennsylvania
  11. Water service restored to CMU campus
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.