Thomas Jefferson notebook: Seniors lead Jaguars on both sides of ball

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Saturday, December 7, 2019 | 10:25 AM


The Thomas Jefferson football program keeps reloading.

There were eight senior starters on offense and seven on defense in the WPIAL Class 4A championship game Nov. 16 at Heinz Field.

Shane Stump (QB/S), Dan Deabner (WR/CB), James Martinis (TE/DE), Nathan Werderber (FB/ILB), Logan Danielson (RG/DT) and Mike Huber (LT/DT) started both ways.

The Jaguars belted Big 8 Conference rival Belle Vernon, 41-7, in the WPIAL Class 4A final to improve to 13-0 and gain a berth in the PIAA playoffs, which they eventually won.

“I thought the team played great,” Martinis said after the game. “Our defense held them to one score, and our offense pushed them back 5 yards almost every play. I think this was definitely our best game of the season on the biggest stage, and it couldn’t really get any better than that.

“I think we have been playing awesome this season, especially on defense. I think the experience we had coming into this year is definitely a factor on why we’ve improved so much.”

Others in the starting lineup were running back Dylan Mallozzi, right tackle Mac Duda and kicking specialist Dylan Sullivan on offense, and outside linebacker Bowen Dame on defense. Stump also handled the punting chores.

“I thought we had a great team effort all around against Belle Vernon,” said Duda, a Princeton recruit. “The defense was awesome, and they put our offense in great positions all night long.

“Offensively, we knew we wanted to pound the ball and impose our will, and I think we did a good job of that. It was great to get back on top after our disappointing end to last season.”

TJ’s upperclassmen were joined in the starting lineup by six juniors and one sophomore.

Ian Hansen (WR/CB) and Preston Zandier (WR/OLB), both juniors, went both ways and were joined by four other junior starters — left guard Jake Krawczyk, center Nick Trainor, safety Jake Pugh and defensive end Jack Konick.

Isaac Eckley, a sophomore inside linebacker, rounded out the starting lineup.

Stump honored

Stump was lauded as the offensive player of the year in the Class 4A Big 8 Conference.

During the regular season and WPIAL playoffs, Stump completed 107 of 191 passes for 2,271 yards. His touchdown-to-interception ratio was 31-1.

A three-year starter and four-year letterman, Stump had thrown for 5,712 yards and 79 touchdowns, connecting on 280 of 524 passes, in his career (prior to the start of the state playoffs).

Stump has shattered two team records — career passing yards, formerly held by Pete Winovich at 4,421, and career touchdown passes, which was shared by Winovich and Tyler Wehner at 44.

Stump led a host of TJ players honored as conference all-stars this season, as the Jaguars won the league championship with a 7-0 record.

Stump, Danielson (OG/DL) and Deabner (WR/DB) were named first team at two spots.

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

Eight TJ players were voted to the second team.

Along with Werderber (RB), they were Huber (OT/DL), Martinis (TE/DL), Trainor (C), Krawczyk (OG), Hansen (WR), Mallozzi (RB) and Dame (LB).

Junior Jack Konick was an honorable mention selection on the defensive line.

The Jaguars posted five shutouts and didn’t allow a point in league play after winning their first two conference games early in the season.

TJ averaged 48.4 ppg offensively and allowed a miniscule 1.9 ppg defensively in Big 8 contests.

School spirit soars

Another WPIAL title won by the TJ football team isn’t the only reason for the dazzling school spirit displayed on campus this year.

“I strongly believe being in that new building really gave life to our student body and made coming to school a little easier every morning,” Stump said. “The old school can’t even come close to providing the opportunities we have here at the new building.”

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