No. 1 Thomas Jefferson blanks Blackhawk, advances to 5th straight WPIAL title game

Friday, November 8, 2019 | 11:09 PM

The ketchup tastes just as delicious each time around.

Top-ranked Thomas Jefferson will make its fifth consecutive trip to Heinz Field for the WPIAL Class 4A championship game, this time, after a convincing, 49-0 trouncing of last year’s semifinal opponent Blackhawk in Friday’s semifinals at Chartiers Valley High School Stadium.

Jaguars’ senior quarterback Shane Stump passed for 166 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 66 yards and a touchdown. Senior wideout Dan Deabner caught three touchdowns for 116 yards and returned a 50-yard punt for a score.

A scoreless first quarter gave way for the Stump and Deabner Show in the second. Just the way coach Bill Cherpak has come to expect.

“They’re our leaders. We expect them to make plays and they do. That’s part of the reason we’re as good as we are. Everybody out there is making plays, our defense, our lineman, just everyone did their jobs and played well. Makes it a lot easier to coach,” Cherpak said.

Zeroes remained on the scoreboard with 7 minutes, 50 seconds to play in the first half, when Stump unleashed a 61-yard pass to Deabner, who went streaking in for the score and a 7-0 lead.

A three-and-out and three plays later, the Jaguars were back in the end zone to take a 14-0 lead with the combination of Stump and Deabner at it again. This time, Stump rolled right and used a quick strike to his primary target for the 6-yard touchdown.

It didn’t take long for the Jaguars to put another one on the scoreboard. Just 2:24 later, Stump broke through the strong play of the Jaguars offensive line and used a burst of speed to go 47 yards for the rushing touchdown and put Thomas Jefferson up 21-0.

After forcing a Blackhawk punt just 41 seconds later, Deabner received the kick at the 49-yard line and cut his way through tacklers to the end zone for his third score of the night to make it 28-0.

The third quarter started rocky for the Jaguars, with back-to-back Dylan Mallozzi touchdowns taken off the board because of holding penalties. Then, the Cougars knocked the ball out of Preston Zandier’s hands at the goal line and it was ruled a touchback.

But after forcing another Blackhawk three and out, Thomas Jefferson hopped back in the driver’s seat and marched down the field. Once again, it was Stump finding Deabner for the touchdown, starting the running clock as the Jaguars nabbed the 35-0 advantage with 7:14 to play in the third.

Mallozzi got his turn in the end zone, hustling 6 yards to cap a 10-play, 71-yard drive in the fourth quarter to put the Jaguars up 42-0. Sophomore Isaac Eckley took his first carry of the night 61 yards to ice the 49-0 victory over Blackhawk.

The Cougars made their biggest stride toward a touchdown with just a few seconds on the clock, but the Jaguars second-string defense made a shutout-saving tackle. Defense and the play of both the offensive and defensive lineman in particular could easily be overshadowed by stellar individual numbers from skill position players, but not for Cherpak’s squad.

“If you can control the line of scrimmage, you have a chance to win every game. That’s been the calling card all year for us,” Cherpak said.

“They don’t get as much credit as they deserve. They’re the biggest part of our offense because without them, we couldn’t put up any of these numbers that we do. We appreciate them so much,” said Deabner of the Jaguars offensive line.

The potential for a rematch of the 2018 WPIAL title game was there for Thomas Jefferson, as South Fayette battled Belle Vernon in the other semifinal, but the Leopards were victorious, giving the Jaguars one last bout with their rivals.

“Cherp always says, we’ll play anybody, anytime, anywhere. I’d like to play both of them, honestly, I hate both of them,” Stump said. “Back-to-back or same time, 22-on-11.”

No worries for Jaguars fans, it’s just 11-on-11 with Belle Vernon at Heinz Field for the WPIAL crown.

“We played them early so we all weren’t as developed as we are now. I think it’ll be a really good game,” Deabner said.

“They’re better than when we played them the first time. We’re better than when we played them the first time,” Cherpak said.

“Last year is still on everyone’s minds, it always will be. We’re coming with a different attitude this year,” said the senior, Stump, who will play in his fourth and final WPIAL title game.

“It’s our last ride. I definitely don’t want to go out not being on top,” Deabner said. “I’m working as much as I can to help us get this WPIAL championship and then we’re going on to the state playoffs.”

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