Thomas Jefferson quarterback-receiver combo set for one last game together

Sunday, March 7, 2021 | 10:01 AM

Thomas Jefferson’s Jake Pugh and Ian Hansen proved to be a near-unstoppable aerial combination last fall.

Pugh, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound senior quarterback, connected with senior wideout Hansen (5-8, 170) 42 times for 785 yards and seven touchdowns.

And they aren’t finished making an impact on the football field just yet.

Pugh and Hansen, both Class 4A all-state selections in 2020, are two of 20 WPIAL players chosen to participate in the East-West all-star football game, hosted by the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association.

“Playing (football) with Jake one more time means a lot to me,” Hansen said. “I’m not ready to give up our connection. We have one more time to show everyone what we can do. It’s gonna be a blast, without a doubt.”

Pugh also is looking forward to the opportunity.

“Ian is one of my best friends, and it’s a dream come true to get one last game with him,” Pugh said. “He is one of the best playmakers I have ever seen on the field, and I know giving us one more shot to play together is gonna be something to tune in for.

“We’re just going to go out and show everything we’ve learned over the years and do our best to represent the black and gold.”

The all-star game featuring players from Class 4A, 5A and 6A will take place at 4 p.m. May 30 at Central Dauphin’s Landis Field as the second part of a doubleheader. The first game will be played at noon with players from Class A, 2A and 3A.

“We are extremely proud for both of them to represent our program at the East-West game,” TJ coach Bill Cherpak said. “It is a huge honor, and I know that both are excited to play one more high school football game.

“They have been leaders on and off the field and a catalyst for our success. Like the rest of our team, they are both winners and understand what it takes to achieve success in life.”

Pugh and Hansen helped spark the Jaguars to a 10-1 record and PIAA Class 4A championship last fall. TJ defeated Jersey Shore, 21-14, in the state championship game at Hersheypark Stadium, their second title in as many years.

“Our season is something I’ll never forget, finishing with a state championship for the second year in a row,” Pugh said. “And the group of guys is the whole reason why we won; they were amazing.

“I am really grateful to be selected to the East-West game. It is a huge honor, and I cannot wait to be out on the field one last time as a high school athlete.”

Pugh is a candidate for the inaugural Willie Thrower Memorial Award, which will be presented by the Willie Thrower Memorial Foundation to the top quarterback in the WPIAL and City League from the 2020 season.

The five finalists — Jeannette freshman Brad Birch, Upper St. Clair senior Ethan Dahlem, Central Valley senior Ameer Dudley, Pine-Richland senior Cole Spencer and Pugh — will be honored at a luncheon and ceremony April 10 at the Northern Westmoreland Career & Technology Center, not far from Valley High Memorial Stadium where a statue of Thrower has stood since 2006.

Pugh, who has hopes of becoming a coach after college, completed 113 of 192 passes for 1,881 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2020, including 216 yards and two scores plus two rushing touchdowns in a WPIAL title game overtime win over Aliquippa.

He eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark in the passing department for his career as TJ won its 10th WPIAL title and a record-setting fifth PIAA championship. He passed for 2,065 yards and 29 scores as a three-year letterman, and has narrowed his list of colleges to three finalists — Washington & Jefferson, John Carroll and Ohio Wesleyan.

Hansen, also a three-year letterman, averaged 18.7 yards per catch in 2020, and was named first team all-conference on both offense and defense. He ranked among the team leaders in tackles from his defensive back position in the Jaguars’ secondary.

“I’m very honored to be selected for this game and can’t wait,” Hansen said. “I want to thank my coaches, parents and teammates for always making me better on and off the field.”

Hansen, nicknamed “E,” fought off a few injuries to emerge as one of the team’s leading offensive threats the last two seasons. For his career, he reeled in 83 passes for 1,564 yards and scored 16 times.

“They are both planning on playing college football,” Cherpak said. “Ian has signed with California University of Pennsylvania, and Jake has several options but has not decided yet.”

Pugh and Hansen also are standout basketball players in the TJ backcourt. They helped lead the Jaguars to an 18-4 regular-season record and the No. 7 seed in the WPIAL Class 5A tournament.


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