Central Valley, Thomas Jefferson rekindle rivalry from their Class AAA days

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Thursday, October 3, 2019 | 3:08 PM


It wasn’t long ago that Thomas Jefferson and Central Valley were linked in a budding rivalry.

The WPIAL contenders met three times in the Class AAA playoffs between 2010 and 2015. Central Valley won the first two and Thomas Jefferson won the third. That short-lived rivalry included two semifinals and a hard-fought contest in the 2015 WPIAL championship.

But then came six classifications. Like many WPIAL rivalries, theirs quickly ended.

“Times have changed and that’s just the way it is,” TJ coach Bill Cherpak said. “What are you going to do about it?”

Under the PIAA’s six-class expansion, Thomas Jefferson moved to Class 4A and Central Valley stayed in 3A. But for the second year in a row, these two championship programs will meet in a nonconference game. Thomas Jefferson (6-0) visits Central Valley (6-0) at 7 p.m. Friday.

The game doesn’t carry the weight of those earlier battles, but it should be a good test for two undefeated teams.

“We seemed to face one another often early on in the playoffs,” CV coach Mark Lyons said. “I think both teams respect one another. I know our guys respect what they do. We’re excited and anxious for the challenge this brings.

“It’s funny that (the WPIAL) crossed us over.”

TJ won 45-6 last season, but this year’s matchup should feel a little more like the old days. The Jaguars are ranked first in WPIAL Class 4A and the Warriors are second in 3A.

The difference from last year is Central Valley’s maturity. The Warriors used an inexperienced lineup a year ago, lost their first four games and were outscored 94-27.

This year, Central Valley outscored those same four opponents 143-35.

“It’s going to be like the old TJ-Central Valley games, I think,” Cherpak said. “They had lost some games last year and had a bad vibe coming in. They were young. Now all of their kids have grown up. They’re seasoned kids now. And obviously they’re winning — that changes everything.”

Central Valley had three touchdowns of 47 yards or longer in last week’s 42-6 victory at Waynesburg. Myles Walker returned a punt 55 yards, Jaylen Guy scored on a 47-yard run and Jawon Hall caught a 53-yard touchdown from quarterback Ameer Dudley.

The Warriors scored all 42 points in the first half.

“I’m confident in saying they’re definitely as good as any team we’ve played,” Cherpak said. “They’ve got some incredible athletes and some size on their line. They’ve got the right combination.”

Thomas Jefferson is coming off a 61-7 victory over Connellsville.

Jaguars quarterback Shane Stump threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as the team scored 48 first-half points. Wide receiver Dan Deabner and running back Dylan Mallozzi scored two touchdowns each.

Only once this season, against Belle Vernon, did the first-team offense play after halftime, Cherpak said.

“They could have a different color on and I’d recognize TJ just on the things that they do well,” Lyons said. “The good teams, the good programs, they don’t beat themselves. You’ve got to beat them to earn it.”

As a nonconference matchup, this game doesn’t carry any playoff implications. Both coaches said they’d have preferred it earlier in the schedule and won’t take any chances with injured players.

“If a kid gets banged up or nicked up at all, he’s out,” Cherpak said. “There’s not even a question.”

But both said they’ll play to win.

“Even if I didn’t want to go into this game all out, the kids would have anyway,” Cherpak said. “They don’t look at it any different than any of the other games we’ve played. They want to win and do whatever it takes to win.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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