Senior class lauded for success by Thomas Jefferson football coach Cherpak

Friday, March 8, 2019 | 7:33 PM

The 60th annual Thomas Jefferson football banquet took place Feb. 24 at Georgetown Centre.

The Jaguars’ success over the past four years was duly noted, as coach Bill Cherpak started off the post-dinner program by lauding the efforts of the senior class on and off the field.

Over the past four years, TJ went 45-7 overall, 33-3 in regular-season games, 29-3 in conference play and 12-1 in the WPIAL playoffs.

The Jaguars advanced to the WPIAL finals four times, winning three titles and reeled in two conference championships.

Last season, Thomas Jefferson posted an 11-1 record, won a conference title and finished as the WPIAL Class 4A runner-up.

“It was a bittersweet year. It was disappointing,” Cherpak said. “But it was one of the most fun years as coaches we’ve ever had. The kids enjoyed it. It was such a fun year, and that says a lot about the seniors and their leadership. There weren’t that many of them, but they really did an awesome job leading the team.

“Leadership is a huge thing in football. It’s important that you prove yourself and lead by example. It’s what you do and not what you say. We had some good leadership from the older guys for the younger guys. Character is what you do when no one’s looking. The seniors policed themselves and took care of the team.”

There were 10 seniors on the team: Max Shaw, Alex Territ, Gabe Dominick, Darius Barrett, Jacob Puckey, Austin Sobeck, Dom Serapiglia, Mike Janosko, A.J. Meshanko and Sean Barrett.

Serapiglia will continue his football career at Tulsa. Shaw has committed to North Carolina for wrestling. Darius Barrett and Territ will play at Clarion and Washington & Jefferson, respectively, and Meshanko has committed to Cal (Pa.) for soccer.

It was announced that Dominick was this year’s recipient of the coveted Breisinger Award.

Dominick, a 6-foot, 170-pound tight end/defensive end, was humbled to receive the award, which is voted on by the TJ football players.

“For the past four years, I’ve looked forward to this moment,” he said. “I was honored to have been chosen by my teammates as it is such a prestigious award. To me, this is the best award I could receive as it was more a reflection of character than talent. I wasn’t always the most talented on the field, but I made sure to put in the time and work to be the best I could be.

“To be given the award named after such a heroic human being is one of the greatest honors I can imagine.”

Most of the juniors saw time in the starting lineup last season. Several will be third-year starters in 2019.

The junior class was represented on the team by Shane Stump, Bowen Dame, Dan Deabner, Dylan Mallozzi, James Martinis, Nate Werderber, Chris Samolovitch, Mike Huber, Brendan Sluk, Logan Danielson and Mac Duda.

“Most of the juniors have played or started one or two years. The expectations are even higher as seniors,” Cherpak said. “Our expectations never change. The expectations we have always go with you. The things that you learn playing this sport or any sport help you become successful in your later life.”

The veteran coach offered a message for the younger athletes in the program.

“Usually the biggest jump you take is from a sophomore to junior,” Cherpak said. “And being a freshman is tough. We don’t have many freshmen who get (varsity) playing time.

“As you go through a season, things change. You never know when you number’s going to be called. You gotta put in the work and do the things on the field. You gotta prove yourself. Make us put you on the field.”

There were 17 sophomores and 22 freshmen on the 2018 squad.

There also were nine assistant coaches, led by coordinators Jack Giran (offense) and Frank Brettschneider (defense); along with Pat Oster (OL/DL), Zach Bonatesta (RB/LB), T.J. Srsic (OL), Tony Battaglini (QB), Chris Drager (TE/DE), Jon Drager (RB) and Trevor Wildman (WR/DB).

Cherpak took time to proudly announce and point out the team’s performance in the classroom. He said 54 of the 61 players in the program held GPAs of 3.0 or higher.

“It’s all about working together and being a family,” Cherpak said. “It’s not just what you do on the field. It’s what you do off the field, as well.

After opening the 2018 season with a 62-0 rout of Ringgold, the Jaguars defeated rival Belle Vernon, 36-14, in their first road test.

“That game showed us as a staff that we had a lot of guys we could count on,” Cherpak said. “We did not have guys who thought about themselves first and the team second. The team was always first.”

TJ breezed through the regular season.

After a 49-16 and 47-7 playoff wins against New Castle and Blackahawk, the Jaguars were upset by South Fayette, 31-24, in the WPIAL finals at Heinz Field.

“We’ll learn from that (championship) game,” Cherpak said. “We dominated the stats but lost the game. There were about 10 plays that if one goes the other way, we win that game. Winning’s always better than losing.”


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