WPIAL football player of the week — Week 12

Sunday, November 17, 2019 | 10:19 PM

Thomas Jefferson running back Dylan Mallozzi was a freshman in 2016 when Quinton Hill put on a dominant display at Heinz Field.

Hill rushed for 248 yards and scored three touchdowns as the Jaguars stomped New Castle, 42-0, in the 2016 WPIAL Class 4A championship game.

Fast forward three years and Mallozzi, now a senior, had to wonder early on if he would get his chance to shine.

The first drive of the game for TJ featured a lot of quarterback Shane Stump passes and ended with a Stump scoring run as the Jaguars jumped to an early lead over Belle Vernon on Saturday at Heinz Field.

However the second time Thomas Jefferson possessed the ball, the Mallozzi show began.

“It definitely means a lot,” Mallozzi said after helping the Jaguars roll past rival Belle Vernon, 41-7, to win the school’s fourth WPIAL crown in the last five years. “Came here in eighth grade and watched us beat Central Valley and I thought I want to be a running back on the team when I’m a senior.

“I worked hard and five years later, here I am.”

Mallozzi rushed for 178 yards on 27 carries with four touchdowns.

“The line opened up a huge hole every time,” Mallozzi said. “It’s pretty easy to run through a ginormous hole every play.”

The senior scored his first touchdown with 8 seconds left in the opening quarter to put the Jaguars up 13-0.

Whatever suspense left in the game was wiped away when Mallozzi scored on touchdown runs of 4 and 16 yards as Thomas Jefferson led 35-0 at halftime.

“The thing he does for us is that we’re a physical team and he’s a physical runner, so he matches exactly what we do,” Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak said. “He’s a downhill runner that gets you those extra yards and then he can break one and take it the distance.”

That is exactly what Mallozzi did for the game’s final touchdown, a 39-yard fourth-quarter jaunt that was the exclamation point in the Jaguars’ 34-point title game victory.

Besides Hill, Mallozzi joins a long list of Thomas Jefferson running backs who enjoyed a big title game in leading the Jaguars to victory.

“He paid his dues, he worked hard and waited his turn,” Cherpak said. “A lot of kids don’t want to do that. They want instant gratification and want to be a starter their freshman year. He understood where he was and there were some players in front of him, but he never stopped working hard and never gave up.”

The victory was the ninth championship in school history and the eighth WPIAL title for Cherpak, tying him with Bob Palko at the top of the all-time coaching championship list.

Undefeated Thomas Jefferson (13-0) now faces PIAA nemesis Cathedral Prep in a state quarterfinals game set for Friday at Martorelli Stadium in West View.

The Jaguars have won two PIAA championships but it has been 11 years since they won their latest state title, in 2008.

Mallozzi and his teammates are ready for the challenge of the defending champion Ramblers and ready to strike more gold in 2019.

“Tradition never graduates, we say it every year.”

WPIAL Week Twelve Honorable Mentions:

Johnathan Opalko – Central Catholic

After seeing him in action, many high school football experts say Central Catholic senior punter and kicker Johnathan Opalko has a big leg, with punts and kicks booming off his right foot.

Now they can say he has a golden leg.

After booting eight field goals coming into the WPIAL Class 6A title game and 41 extra points, Opalko kicked a game-tying extra point in the third quarter, then booted what proved to be a game-winning 40-yard field goal with 4 minutes left to give the Vikings a hard-fought 10-7 win over Pine-Richland and the school’s seventh district championship.

Brendan Parsons – Clairton

Leading into the WPIAL Class A championship game at Heinz Field, Sto-Rox quarterback Eric Wilson had some mind-boggling statistics this season, ending up with over 8,000 yards passing in his career.

While the numbers advantage went to Wilson, the win and the district gold went to Clairton quarterback Brendan Parsons and his Bears teammates.

Parsons hit on 8 of 14 passes for 201 yards and four touchdowns, plus he pounded out 94 yards on the ground on 20 carries that helped open up the passing attack for Clairton in the Bears’ 41-19 triumph over the Vikings and a 14th WPIAL championship and the program’s 10th crown in the last 14 years.

Jax Miller – Avonworth

While all the players listed above came up large in a championship winning effort, Jax Miller continued his rushing dominance in a win that sends Avonworth to the Class 2A title game.

The senior running back rushed for 255 yards and scored touchdowns on runs of 39, 51, 12 and 70 yards as Avonworth knocked off Riverside, 41-14.

Miller has gained 1,938 yards on the season with 25 touchdowns as the Antelopes are a perfect 13-0 heading into the WPIAL Class 2A finals against unbeaten Washington. In three playoff wins, Miller has rushed for 618 yards and seven touchdowns.

2019 Trib HSSN football players of the week:

Week Eleven – Cole Spencer, Pine-Richland

Week Ten – Devari Robinson, McKeesport

Week Nine – Justin Huss, Derry

Week Eight – Alex Arledge, Burrell

Week Seven – Logan Shrubb, Keystone Oaks

Week Six – Naman Alemada, South Fayette

Week Five – Teddy Ruffner, Mars

Week Four – Ben Jackson, West Greene

Week Three – Ethan Dahlem, Upper St. Clair

Week Two – Matt Goodlin, Knoch

Week One – Eric Wilson, Sto-Rox

Week Zero – Ky’Ron Craggette, Connellsville

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