Thomas Jefferson football program honors accomplished senior class

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Friday, March 20, 2020 | 9:29 PM


The senior class racked up astonishing numbers in the Thomas Jefferson football program.

Over the past four years, the Jaguars won 50 games with just four losses, posting a 29-1 record in conference play and winning three championships. They lost just one regular season game, going 36-1 and tacking on a 14-3 record in postseason action.

The seniors did not lose at home, going 24-0 at TJ Stadium over the past four years.

The senior class was the main attraction March 1 at the annual TJ football banquet held at Georgetown Centre in Pleasant Hills.

TJ captured the WPIAL and PIAA crowns in Class 4A with a 16-0 record.

“It’s probably the funnest year I’ve ever had coaching,” TJ coach Bill Cherpak said at the banquet. “It was enjoyable, a great year. This senior class is second to none. Fifty wins, 36 regular-season wins — that’s incredible. These guys put an enormous amount of work in. They were so prepared to lead this team and you saw the fruits of their labor. All these guys, they never rested on what they had done. We’re so proud of them.

“Football is such a team sport. You need everyone to help. We want everyone to have that drive to be your best. That’s what this senior class did. They were great role models and had great leadership.”

The senior class is a small group, consisting of Bowen Dame, Logan Danielson, Dan Deabner, Mac Duda, Mike Huber, Dylan Mallozzi, James Martinis, Logan Pazin, Brendan Sluk, Shane Stump, Dylan Sullivan and Nathan Werderber.

“Quality over quantity,” said Cherpak, who was named Class 4A Coach of the Year by the Pennsylvania Football Writers.

The Jaguars won the PIAA Class 4A title Dec. 5 with a 46-7 victory over Dallas at Hersheypark Stadium, capping their perfect season.

The TJ gridders also were WPIAL champs, defeating rival Belle Vernon, 41-7, in the championship game at Heinz Field.

The Jaguars amassed 739 points (46.2 ppg) while allowing 69 (4.3 ppg). TJ outscored the oppostiion 339-13 in its seven conference games, averaging 48.4 ppg offensively and a miniscule 1.9 ppg defensively.

The Jaguars attained a 257-36 scoring advantage in their six playoff games, and in the WPIAL playoffs, TJ won by scores of 49-7, 49-0 and 41-7.

On the season, eight opponents were held to three points or less. Indiana (62-0), Trinity (40-0), Laurel Highlands (60-0), Greensburg Salem (42-0), West Mifflin (53-0) and Blackhawk (49-0) were shut out.

“Offensively and defensively, they were two of the most prolific years we’ve ever had,” Cherpak said. “So few high school kids get to experience what (TJ) did. It didn’t come easy.

“But the expectations never change. We never want to lose that. You always want to have the highest expectations for yourself. It’s tough. It’s designed to be tough. You push each other, and as a team, you work together. You can never let another team outwork you.”

Stump was lauded as the offensive player of the year in the Big 8 Conference. A three-year starter and four-year letterman, he completed 130 of 223 passes for 2,664 yards and 36 touchdowns in 2019.

Stump threw just one interception, in the season opener at Canon-McMillan. Over the next 15 games, the TJ signal caller attempted 200 consecutive passes without tossing an interception.

For his career, Stump completed 303 of 556 passes for 6,105 yards and 84 touchdowns.

He broke team records for yards passing in a season (2,664), career passing yards (6,105) and career touchdown passes (84). Based on available records, he is believed to have broken three others: career pass completions (303), career pass attempts (556) and fewest interceptions in a season (1).

Stump, Danielson and Deabner were named first team all-conference at two positions.

Werderber was a first-team pick at linebacker and second team at running back. Duda was voted to the first team at offensive tackle.

Werderber, Huber, Martinis, Mallozzi, Dame, and juniors Nick Trainor, Jake Krawczyk and Ian Hansen were voted to the second team. Another junior, Jack Konick, landed honorable mention status on the defensive line.

Stump, Mallozzi, Deabner and Danielson also were honored as Class 4A all-state selections.

Mallozzi rushed for a team-high 1,760 yards and 28 scores on 219 carries. In the postseason, he ran for 966 yards and 11 scores on 126 attempts.

“The seniors knew we didn’t want to have our last game end with a loss,” Mallozzi said. “This year was definitely a special one I’ll never forget.”

Danielson and Duda were among 10 WPIAL players selected for the Big 33 Football Classic set for May 25 at Landis Field in Harrisburg.

Danielson was named as the first recipient of the Bill Fralic Memorial Award, given to the WPIAL’s top lineman.

“It was amazing to finally accomplish our goal of winning the state,” Danielson said. “It was a goal of ours since we were young. I am sad that my TJ football career has come to an end, but I have no regrets. We have had a great team all four years.”

Werderber, who enlisted Dec. 30 with the U.S. Marines Corps and will leave Sept. 14 for basic training at Parris Island in South Carolina, was the recipient of the coveted Breisinger Award.

Four other senior team members, Duda (Princeton), Stump (Duquesne), Danielson (IUP), Deabner (IUP), plan to continue their careers in college.

One of the most memorable wins of the season for the Jaguars came against playoff nemesis Cathedral Prep in the PIAA quarterfinal round at North Hills. TJ won, 28-13.

“It was the most intense game,” Cherpak said, “and one of the most enjoyable games. When we came out for the second half, that place was electric, just the whole atmosphere.”

A key regular-season victory was a 28-3 decision against Central Valley, which finished as the WPIAL Class 3A champion and PIAA runner-up in 2019.

Cherpak opened the banquet by lauding the TJ coaching staff, led by offensive coordinator Frank Brettschneider and defensive coordinator Jack Giran. Others on the staff include Pat Oster, T.J. Srsic, Tony Battaglini, Zach Bonatesta, Braden Pahanish, Jon Drager, Trevor Wildman and Zack DeCicco.

“These guys have been here for a while,” Cherpak said. “It creates a stable environment. The coaches put players in a position to perform well.

“We only know one way to do it. We work as hard as we can.”

Representatives from Pleasant Hills and Jefferson Hills councils read proclamations lauding the TJ football program.

The banquet’s final hour was dedicted to the 2019 TJ football highlight video, produced by Scott Breisinger and Steve Colditz and entitled, “A TJ Christmas Story.” The video fittingly featured the Jaguars’ sensational championship season and playoff run.

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