Fast start leads Thomas Jefferson to PIAA semifinal victory over Lampeter-Strasburg

Friday, November 29, 2019 | 3:14 PM

HOLLIDAYSBURG — After an 11-year wait, Thomas Jefferson is finally headed back to Hershey, but there wasn’t much suspense in the victory that made it happen.

Thomas Jefferson scored on its first three possessions and later added three more touchdowns in the third quarter to rout Lampeter-Strasburg, 44-2, Friday afternoon in the PIAA Class 4A semifinals. The Jaguars wanted a fast start against a ball-control opponent, and the first 12 minutes were some of their strongest of the season.

They led 22-0 after the first quarter.

“That’s what we wanted to do, get up on them early,” TJ coach Bill Cherpak said, “because their offense isn’t designed to come back.”

TJ quarterback Shane Stump threw three touchdowns, Dylan Mallozzi and Daniel Deabner scored twice each and the Jaguars defense delivered a shutout with four interceptions. Ian Hansen made two of those interceptions and also caught a touchdown.

Nathan Werderber scored TJ’s sixth touchdown.

The mercy rule took effect in the third quarter and the clock ran continuously for the final 20 minutes. Lampeter-Strasburg (11-4) overcame a 20-point deficit last week in the District 3 championship but couldn’t repeat that rally against TJ’s dominant defense.

“You don’t want that against a team like this,” Lampeter-Strasburg coach John Manion said.

Thomas Jefferson (15-0) will play District 2 champion Dallas (15-0) at 7 p.m. Thursday in the PIAA final at Hersheypark Stadium. The Jaguars once were regulars in Hershey, winning three state titles in five years from 2004-08.

“You never know when you’re going to get back or if you’re going to get back,” Cherpak said, “so being 11 years or however long it was, you appreciate it a little more.”

“It’s awesome growing up as a kid around here, just seeing all the other teams come up and win championships,” said Stump, who completed 7 of 10 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns. “You start as a freshman, and you’re playing with guys like Zane Zandier and Devin Danielson — and these guys are really good. Then you get to be a senior, and you’re getting farther than they did. It’s something special.”

Lampeter-Strasburg’s only points came on a second-quarter safety.

Mallozzi had 169 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries for the Jaguars, including a 9-yard touchdown on the opening drive. The senior had six runs of 11 yards or longer, including a 40-yarder on the first play after halftime.

His second touchdown was a 12-yard run later in the third.

“He ran well,” Cherpak said. “He did what we needed him to do. He’s been doing it all year.”

Thomas Jefferson scored the game’s first 22 points on Mallozzi’s 9-yard run and two touchdown catches by Deabner. The first was a 54-yarder on a one-play, 7-second touchdown drive. Deabner’s second TD covered 35 yards to lead 22-0.

Stump said it might have been the team’s best first quarter all season.

“Quite possibly, just because of how big this game was and just knowing what was on the line,” Stump said. “That was a really big start for us. That was huge.”

Manion called it the worst-case scenario for his team.

“We like to mix in the pass, not live and die by it,” Manion said. “In the second quarter, we came out throwing the ball, but that’s not what we’re built on.”

Lampeter-Strasburg’s offense showed life in the second quarter and drove into TJ territory three times. Each time TJ’s defense stepped up. Two possessions ended with red zone interceptions by Hansen, one at the 4-yard line and another at the 3.

The other ended with a failed fourth-down pass.

“They kept us out of the end zone when we got near it,” Manion said. “Unfortunately, you need to score every opportunity you get against TJ.”

The L-S drives didn’t reach the end zone but they did pin Thomas Jefferson deep. Facing third-and-long from his own 3, Stump was sacked in the end zone for a safety. The Jaguars also were flagged five times in a lackluster second quarter.

“The reason we were struggling was a lack of focus,” Stump said. “That’s all it was. A couple of the guys were out of it, and it was throwing everyone off. We just needed to get together, regroup and refocus. That halftime was what we needed.”

Thomas Jefferson started the second half much like the first with touchdowns on three consecutive third-quarter possessions. Hansen caught a 33-yard touchdown, Mallozzi had a 12-yard touchdown run and Werderber scored on a 22-yard run to guarantee the team’s fourth trip to Hershey.

“It’s been a while,” Cherpak said. “It’s definitely been a while. But we’ve got one thing on our minds going there, and that’s to win a football game.”

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


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