Thomas Jefferson dominates Dallas, celebrates 4th PIAA title

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Thursday, December 5, 2019 | 9:20 PM


HERSHEY — Thomas Jefferson’s Bill Cherpak had coached 24 seasons, won seven WPIAL titles and celebrated three state championships before this year.

Needless to say, Cherpak has some fond memories.

But as TJ marched toward Hershey, he insisted for weeks that this season was the most fun he’d ever had as coach. The Jaguars were all smiles again Thursday night as they capped an undefeated season with a dominant 46-7 victory over District 2 champion Dallas in the PIAA Class 4A championship at Hersheypark Stadium.

In the postgame celebration, Daniel Deabner offered teammates bites of a comically large Hershey’s chocolate bar, Shane Stump insisted Cherpak’s hair would soon be dyed blond to match the players and their teammates posed for endless photos with the trophy.

“It’s been an easy group to coach,” Cherpak said. “They just wanted to be so good; there was never a day in practice where you had to push them. They just loved everything about it — all of them.”

For that reason alone, Cherpak said, he wanted to see them celebrate together in Hershey.

“I wanted them to experience this,” he said. “That makes me feel good as a coach to let them experience this. I was telling them this all year. I think they understood what I was talking about tonight.”

The PIAA title was Thomas Jefferson’s fourth overall but its first in more than a decade. The Jaguars add this trophy to state championships won in 2004, ‘07 and ‘08. They tied Central Catholic and Clairton as WPIAL teams with four PIAA titles.

“I was 6 years old the last time they were in it,” said Stump, the team’s quarterback. “All the players would walk through the elementary schools and give high-fives to all the little kids, which was me. I was the little kid. Since then, I wanted to be one of those (state champions). Now I am. It really is a dream come true.”

Dallas (15-1) wanted to play power-running football, but Thomas Jefferson (16-0) controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

Stump scored four rushing touchdowns and running back Dylan Mallozzi ran for 215 yards and a score as the Jaguars built a 46-0 lead behind a dominant offensive line. The mercy rule was enacted late in the third quarter and the clock ran continuously for the final 15 minutes.

Stump scored on runs of 14, 6, 1 and 1 yard and also threw a 28-yard touchdown to Deabner. Mallozzi scored on a 2-yard run and Ian Hansen returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown.

Dallas’ only points came late in the fourth quarter.

Mountaineers senior Lenny Kelley, a 2,600-yard rusher, was held to 34 yards on 14 carries. Dallas couldn’t solve a TJ defense led by tackles Logan Danielson and Michael Hubner.

“We couldn’t move them,” Dallas coach Rich Mannello said. “I coach the offensive line and you can figure out every way to block every angle of every guy, but it all comes down to either you can move them or you can’t. And those two cats inside, we couldn’t budge them.”

Dallas rushed for 60 yards and passed for 59.

Stymied on the ground, Dallas tried to pass, but the Mountaineers faced into a strong wind in both the second and third quarters. Thomas Jefferson intercepted three passes, two by Hansen and one by Bowen Dame.

“I think our defense definitely wanted to make a statement,” Cherpak said. “What they did all season was amazing. It was just everybody doing their part.”

After a scoreless first quarter, Thomas Jefferson capitalized on great field position to score three times in the second. The short scoring drives covered 28, 40 and 54 yards — and the longest was just seven plays.

The Jaguars’ first was on a one-play scoring drive as Stump found Deabner wide open for a 28-yard catch. Stump added a 14-yard touchdown run on the next possession and Mallozzi later scored on a 2-yarder to lead 20-0 at halftime.

Mallozzi lost a fumble on TJ’s opening possession but bounced back quickly. He averaged 9 yards per carry on his 24 attempts with a 52-yarder included.

“It’s just unbelievable,” Mallozzi said. “Me and my brothers have been dreaming this since we were in youth football. We’ve been grinding since we were 5 or 6 years old. This was our dream. I can’t believe it came true.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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