Trib HSSN football team of the week for 2023 Week 4

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Sunday, September 24, 2023 | 8:25 PM


There was a lot of excitement this week in the WPIAL with so many big high school football games.

However it was a week of mixed emotions for one of the most successful coaches in WPIAL history.

On Tuesday, Regis Cherpak, the father of Bill Cherpak, died at the age of 82.

On Friday, Cherpak was on the sidelines coaching Thomas Jefferson to a victory over rival Belle Vernon in one of three No. 1 vs. No. 2 contests in the WPIAL.

The Jaguars blanked the Leopards in the second half and won 24-19.

“The thing in the back of my mind was that my Dad would never, ever, ever allow me to miss anything,” Cherpak said of his father. “We have the funeral (Monday), and that’s the way he would have wanted it. He watched every game and was a big sports junkie. He struggled recently, but now he’s with my Mom. I’m not relieved, but there is some relief in that he’s not suffering.”

TJ suffered through a rough first quarter as it fell behind Belle Vernon, 12-0.

After pulling to within two points late in the first half, the Jaguars turned the ball over near midfield, and the Leopards extended their lead when Braden Laux hit Quinton Martin with a 20-yard scoring pass that gave BVA the halftime lead at 19-10.

“I was concerned going into halftime about how that was going to affect us,” Cherpak said. “It was a motivating factor. If we could just eliminate our mistakes and stop screwing up, we’ll be in pretty good shape. The touchdown to Martin was an incredible pattern. As coaches, we did not put our kids in a good situation there. The kids came out after halftime confident.”

After a scoreless third quarter, Thomas Jefferson responded with 14 unanswered points in the fourth on a 1-yard scoring run by Elias Lippincott and a 49-yard touchdown pass from Luke Kosko to Jason Salman.

During all the success Thomas Jefferson has had over the decades, they have had some pretty good quarterbacks.

The 2023 Jaguars are doing something different with a platoon system under center, and it appears to be working.

Against Belle Vernon, Luke Kosko threw for 196 yards and a touchdown, and Brody Evans had 129 yards passing.

“I’ve changed my opinion of how this could work,” Cherpak said. “Throughout camp and the first few games, we were looking for that guy who was going to be the one. They are very similar in what they do in throwing the ball, and they’ve challenged each other and that has made our team better. I let them decide in how they want to rotate, and they chose every two series.”

Another thing past Thomas Jefferson offenses have had is a bell cow at running back. However, like quarterback, there is no one ball carrier who is doing the heavy lifting for the Jaguars to the midway point of the season with Michael Banda, Lippencott and Aiden Whalen sharing most of the touches.

While the Jaguars offense is averaging nearly 37 points per game, their defense again has been stout, allowing just over 11 points per game in their five contests.

“I feel pretty good defensively,” Cherpak said. “We haven’t given up as many big plays as we did last year at this time. Our special teams have also been good, so I’m pleased with where we are.”

The win over Belle Vernon improved Thomas Jefferson to 5-0. The Jaguars are 1-0 in the 4A Big Seven Conference and will finish the season with five straight conference games, including a Week 5 date against Laurel Highlands.

“Our goal was to get through this five-game stretch at the beginning healthy and either be undefeated, or, if we dropped one, that was fine,” Cherpak said. “Get through healthy and we have for the most part. Now our focus is on the conference.”

WPIAL Week 4 Honorable Mentions

Peters Township

The Indians didn’t just win their Week 4 showdown in the Allegheny 6 Conference. They proved why they might be hanging out as the king of the Class 5A hill for a while. Top-ranked Peters Township rolled big over No. 2 Upper St. Clair in a battle of 4-0 teams, winning 31-0. Sophomore quarterback Nolan DiLucia hit on 21 of 28 passes for 257 yards for PT as it knocked off its Route 19 neighbor for only the third time in 19 previous meetings.

West Mifflin

It is easy to fly under the radar when you lose your first three games, no matter where you are in the preseason rankings. However, after losing to highly ranked McKeesport, Elizabeth Forward and Thomas Jefferson, these Titans are still pretty good. West Mifflin won its second straight and raised some eyebrows when senior DelRon White rushed for 249 yards as West Mifflin won its 3A Western Hills Conference opener by knocking off previously undefeated Beaver, 28-16.

Mohawk

Mohawk lost a heartbreaker in Week Zero to defending Class A champion Union by three points. Since then, the Warriors have been running wild in the 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference and other nonconference foes with four straight wins. In the last four games, Mohawk has outscored their opponents 157-20. On Friday, senior quarterback Jay Wrona threw for 149 yards, and the Warriors cruised past New Brighton, 42-6.

2023 HSSN Teams of the Week

Week 3: Knoch

Week 2: Waynesburg Central

Week 1: Aliquippa

Week Zero: Mt. Lebanon

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