No. 1 Thomas Jefferson shows might in win at Greensburg Salem

Friday, October 18, 2019 | 10:05 PM

It’s a begrudgingly accepted fact in sports.

Sometimes, the other team is that much better.

Greensburg Salem tried its best to downplay top-ranked Thomas Jefferson’s reputation as the kingpin of Class 4A, but the Jaguars quickly reminded the Golden Lions of their propensity for dominance.

Perennial powers have a tendency to live up to the hype.

The Jaguars and senior quarterback Shane Stump started fast and cruised past Greensburg Salem, 42-0, in a Big Eight Conference game Friday night at Offutt Field in downtown Greensburg.

Thomas Jefferson (9-0, 6-0) clinched at least a share of a second straight conference title — their 20th in the last 25 years — while Greensburg Salem (4-5, 4-2) will look to win next week against Indiana to secure third place.

The Golden Lions will need two straight victories — the second would be a first-round playoff game — to get to 700 all-time wins. If not, the milestone will have to wait.

The Jaguars are really good at what they do. They knock you down, run past you and feed on opportunities. They have won three of the last four WPIAL titles — seven since 2004 — and were crisp and sound in their latest blowout.

“I think they threw one incomplete pass in the first half,” Greensburg Salem coach Dave Keefer said. “They’re just that good. I thought our kids competed, and we didn’t hand it to them. They’re just more skilled.”

Stump threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns on 11 of 16 passing, and senior tailback Dylan Mallozzi added two rushing scores — all in the first half — as Thomas Jefferson built a 35-0 lead to initiate the mercy rule.

The Jaguars scored on their first five drives and nearly made it 6 for 6 before they took a knee just before the half.

Mallozzi’s two early scores put the Jaguars ahead by 14, and 14- and 35-yard scoring throws by Stump to senior tight end James Martinis and junior Ian Hansen stretched the margin to 28-0.

“We have had some things we want to improve on, and one was spreading the ball around,” Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak said. “Shane threw the ball well. Last year, we just threw to one guy. When we spread it around, that creates another dimension in our offense.”

Junior Preston Zandier had three catches for 72 yards, and Hansen added three for 67. Senior Dan Deabner, whom Cherpak was referring to as last year’s go-to wideout, had two catches for 38 yards.

“It was nice to get some other guys involved,” Stump said. “Last year, it was all Deabner. We have been working on (more balance) the entire season.”

Greensburg Salem could not establish its running game, so it could not find any offensive rhythm, facing three-and-outs all night.

“That quarterback (senior Trent Patrick) is a big, strong kid,” Cherpak said. “And he throws it so hard, with such velocity. They had to pick how they wanted to defend us. We found some openings downfield.”

The Golden Lions were outgained, 468-44. They had 20 yards on the ground.

“They put so much pressure on you when you run,” Keefer said. “They make you throw the football. (Stump) threw it on spots. I am not disappointed with our kids’ effort.”

Senior Nathan Werderber also chipped in with a short rushing score for Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson even got a scoring throw from backup quarterback Jake Pugh, a junior, who found sophomore Conner Murga for six points in the third. The Jaguars played a number of backups, including two more QBs. Cherpak said his starters have only played two full games this season.

Stump said playing reserves is part of the Jaguars’ recipe for extended success.

“I remember when I was a freshman,” he said. “We got to play in a lot of games and experience that atmosphere. It gets you ready.”

Greensburg Salem, held to four first downs, also played backups in the second half, working them in gradually.

“We’ll regroup and work on the things to get better,” Keefer said. “Tip you hat to (TJ). They’re a great team.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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