Thomas Jefferson stops Aliquippa in final in WP Tribute HSSN


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Saturday, November 14, 2020 | 4:40 pm


If there was any late-game uncertainty on the edge of Thomas Jefferson, it was about the rules of overtime.

No one on the roster had experienced this before. Jaguars coach Bill Cherpak could not remember the last time he was involved in an overtime game.

“I was like, ‘If they score do they win?” “Senior Preston Zandier said with a shrug.

Turns out, it didn’t make any difference.

Thomas Jefferson surrendered a two-touchdown lead on Saturday in the fourth quarter, but its defense was strong enough to defeat newcomer Aliquippa 35-28 in the WPIAL Class 4A Championship at North Allegheny.

The game matched WPIAL’s two marquee events, and it lived up to the hype.

In overtime, TJ quarterback Jake Pugh scored on a 2-yard touchdown run and then teammate McClain Flynn intercepted a third-down pass to Aliquippa in the end zone to retain the Jaguars as King of 4A.

Unfortunately for Quips, they already knew the overtime rules very well. It was the second year in a row that he lost the title of WPIAL in overtime.

“I knew our linemen were going to get a good push and my running back always pushed us backwards,” Pugh said. “With the WPIAL Championship on the line, I knew I was going to get into it. Thank God I scored.”

A first-year starter, Pugh threw for two touchdowns and rushed for two others.

WPIAL was second in the title line and fifth in six years for No. 2 seed Thomas Jefferson (8-1). It was also the ninth for Cherpack, which ranked him the most in WPIAL football history.

Aliquippa (9-1), a newcomer to Class 4A, was trying to add his record to a total of 17. The Quips trailed 28-14 before scoring twice in the final 6 minutes of the fourth quarter.

A 14-yard touchdown run by Vernon Red of Aliquippa with 1:54 left in regular overtime.

“Seniors were very sad to see all this and just came up a little bit,” said Mike Warfield, coach of the Aliquippa. “Although it’s part of the game. We’ve got it.”

Aliquippa won the coin toss before overtime and was selected to start on defense. The high school uses an overtime format similar to college, where teams have optional assets and four downs to score.

Cherpak admitted he had little connection with the winning touchdown. Facing a third and goal from 2, Pugh ran into the quarterback sneak and followed his center into the end zone.

“He changed the play and called it,” Cherk said. “He said, ‘There was no way I wasn’t getting it.” He tells you enough about him. “

This is a play that was seen by Shane Stump a year ago when the Jaguars won the WPIAL and PIAA titles. Pugh backup was waiting for its turn, the story of several players on this year’s roster share.

Only three starts from 2019.

“Stop talking about Shane.” This is Pugh’s turn. It’s Pugh’s turn, “said Xandier with a laugh. “He is a big leader, and we need it. We needed to step up, and without question, he stepped up.”

Youngstown State recruit Xandier caught one of Pugh’s two touchdown passes. His 42-yard run in the second quarter led 7-7 during halftime. Flynn gave TJ a 14-7 lead from 20-yards from Pugh in the third quarter.

Cherpak said, “When you win big games like this, you can never know who the move will be for.” “We had a lot of other people who did plays.”

Aliquippa quarterback Vaughn Morris scored twice on a 1-yard touchdown run, once in the second quarter and then in the third to tie it 14-14.

TJ took the lead in the fourth with short touchdown runs from Pugh (2 yards) and Deran Onebiber (3 yards). With 6 minutes left in the fourth, Thomas Jefferson led 28–14.

Aliquippa’s comeback began with a long kickoff return by Cyr Clark to the 31-yard line of TJ. After two plays, Morris connected with Tazier Thurston on a 27-yard touchdown.

Clarke provided another spark when he left Pugh with a four-and-a-half minute gap, setting up Aliquippa for a game-tying touchdown drive. The Quips ran for 76 yards in nine plays, assisted by two costly TJ penalties, allowing the Reds’ 14-yard touchdown run to just under two minutes.

Thomas Jefferson now advances to the PIAA Class 4A semifinals, where it will host District 10 champion Oil City next Friday or Saturday.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at email [email protected] or via Twitter .

Tags: Aliquippa, Thomas Jefferson

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