Thomas Jefferson runs into nemesis Cathedral Prep again

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019 | 5:36 PM


Round 4.

Thomas Jefferson has won WPIAL Class 4A titles at Heinz Field in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019.

Each postseason, the Jaguars were knocked out of the PIAA playoffs by Cathedral Prep in the first round.

TJ (13-0) and the District 10 champion Ramblers (11-2) again will clash in their PIAA lidlifter at 7 p.m. Friday at North Hills’ Martorelli Field.

“I anticipate this to be one of the most competitive games in the state this season,” Cathedral Prep coach Mike Mischler said. “Thomas Jefferson is a storied program. They are one of the best teams in the entire state year in and year out. They are extremely well-coached with tough, athletic, disciplined kids to complement the coaching.

“There is a reason why they have been as consistently successful as they have been under coach (Bill) Cherpak. I think it will come down to the line play on both sides of the ball.”

Cathedral Prep defeated the Jaguars 28-21 at Veterans Stadium in 2015, 30-13 at Baldwin in 2016, and 42-17 at Veterans Stadium in 2017. The Ramblers went on to PIAA titles all three years.

“Erie Prep is the same as they always are,” Cherpak said. “They have big, physical linemen and excellent skill players with a lot of speed. It will be a big challenge for our kids.

“We know them very well and understand how good they are. We will need to play well in all three facets of the game. They are capable of making big plays at any time on offense, defense and special teams.”

Thomas Jefferson and Cathedral Prep again are heavyweights with a multitude of skilled players and big, athletic linemen.

TJ scored at a 47.8 point-per-game clip this season and allowed just 3.6 ppg. The Jaguars have six shutouts and surrendered a touchdown or less in 12 consecutive contests.

Cathedral Prep also is explosive offensively, averaging 40.9 ppg. Prep’s defensive average stands at 18.8 ppg, but the Ramblers have held their last four opponents to 6.8 ppg.

“We certainly were disappointed with our two losses,” Mischler said, “but we learned a lot about ourselves from them. This has been one of the most difficult schedules we’ve had in recent memory. We are hoping that schedule has prepared us for the game this week.”

There will be key matchups on both sides of the ball, starting at the quarterback position.

Prep is sound at QB with junior Tamar Sample and senior Collin Johnson. Between them, Sample and Johnson have accounted for 2,062 yards and 25 touchdowns.

Sample has hit on 31 of 47 tosses for 625 yards and 12 TDs. Johnson’s thrown for 1,437 yards and 13 scores.

“Tamar has stepped in at QB and has done a great job,” Mischler said.

The Ramblers’ two leading receivers are seniors Jack Oedekoven, with 32 catches for 719 yards and 10 TDs, and Jaelen Carson, with 30 receptions, 815 yards and 13 scores. Both average over 20 yards per catch.

In the rushing department, seniors Luke Sittinger and Jaheim Howard have clicked for nearly 2,000 yards. Sittinger has rushed for 1,365 yards and 21 scores on 191 attempts, good for a 7.1 average.

Howard, who missed half the season with a shoulder injury, has logged 536 yards and six TDs on the ground and has caught nine passes for 142 yards.

Prep’s O-line is experienced and stout, manned by, from left to right, junior Jaheim Bassham (6-foot-2, 270 pounds), and seniors Ray Ferrito (5-9, 274), Trayshawn L’Amoureux (5-7, 237), James Janicki (5-10, 275) and Mitchell Sweeney (6-1, 270).

Defensively, the linebacking corps is driven by seniors Gianni Viglione and Mike Oblich and junior Jaheim Williams.

Seniors Mike Lupo (5-9, 220), Kareem Carson (5-6, 200), Dorian Crosby (6-1, 220) and junior Jaydon Smith (6-2, 233) anchor the defefensive line.

Thomas Jefferson counters with senior Shane Stump at quarterback.

A third-year starter, Stump has completed 107 of 191 passes for 2,271 yards in 2019. His touchdown-to-interception ratio — 31-1 — is impressive.

The past three seasons, Stump has thrown for 5,712 yards and 79 scores, connecting on 280 of 524 attempts.

His favorite target is senior WR Dan Deabner, with 41 catches for 918 yards and 17 TDs. Ian Hansen and Preston Zandier, both juniors, have clicked for 50 receptions, 1,062 yards and 11 TDs between them.

The Jaguars’ rushing attack is energized by senior Dylan Mallozzi with 1,382 yards and 23 scores on 149 carries (9.3 avg).

“Personnel-wise, they are similar to other teams we have seen from TJ in the past,” Mischler said, “but they have more experience at key positions. Shane Stump was only a sophomore when we last played them. He is now a polished QB who is being highly recruited not only for his abilities as a QB, but also for his ability in the secondary. He can cover and will deliver big hits as well.

“The Deabner kid is a very good wideout with some separation abilities, and he blocks well. It’s an excellent backfield with Mallozzi and (Nathan) Werderber clearing a path for him. Schematically, they are doing a bunch more than in the past. We have our hands full.”

Mallozzi runs behind a sturdy O-line consisting of senior tackles Michael Huber (6-0, 270) and Mac Duda (6-4, 275), junior guard Jacob Krawczyk (6-4, 260), senior guard Logan Danielson (6-1, 265) and junior center Nicholas Trainor (6-0, 210), with Werderber at fullback and senior TE James Martinis also in the mix.

“The line is typical — huge, tall, athletic and long,” Mischler said. “It’s obvious none of them skipped a day in the weight room in the offseason. The line has always been a (strength) of a Bill Cherpak team. They worry me most of all because they have talent behind them and on the edge.”

On defense, the Jaguars are spurred up front by Danielson and Huber at the tackle spots, and Martinis (6-2, 210) and junior Jack Konick (6-0, 200) at end.

Stump and junior Jake Pugh at safety, and the four linebackers — senior Bowen Dame, Werderber, Zandier and sophomore Isaac Eckley — rank among the team’s top tacklers.

“Danielson is a beast as is the rest of the D-line,” Mischler said. “They have good cover guys and a linebacking corps, especially Werderber, with a nose for the ball.”

Both sides have solid kicking specialists.

TJ senior Dylan Sullivan has been true on 53 PATs and one field goal. CP freshman Cole Constable has booted 34 PATs and three field goals.

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