WPIAL Football Team of the Week: Week 15

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Monday, December 9, 2019 | 5:37 PM


One of the most successful football programs in the WPIAL the last three decades enjoyed another golden moment last week.

Thomas Jefferson rolled past previously unbeaten Dallas, 46-7, to win the 2019 PIAA Class 4A championship.

The title ties TJ with Central Catholic and Clairton for most state football titles from the WPIAL with four. This goes along with the program’s ninth district championship last month.

“I feel like the best attribute of a successful program is consistency,” Thomas Jefferson football coach and athletic director Bill Cherpak said. “We have been able to do that over the course of the years we have been here. It is very satisfying to watch the younger kids learn what it takes from the older kids, just as they did from the players who came before them. “

Going against a stiff wind in the opening quarter at Hersheypark Stadium, Thomas Jefferson and Dallas were scoreless.

But with the wind to their back in quarters two and three, the Jaguars dominated, outscoring the Mountaineers 39-0 thanks to another strong effort by senior running back Dylan Mallozzi.

“Dylan has been great all year,” Cherpak said. “He has his own style of running, hitting the holes running downhill and very physical. That is who we are.”

Mallozzi rushed for 215 yards and a touchdown. He ended up just 25 yards shy of 2,000 for the season.

Senior quarterback Shane Stump, this week’s HSSN Player of the Week, also enjoyed success through the air and on the ground. He threw for 104 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 51 yards and four scores.

“I thought we could move the ball and score on them because we had so many weapons and our line was playing so well,” Cherpak said of his team’s dominance of 15-0 Dallas. “As far as stopping them, I knew if we got a lead and made them throw the ball, that would be uncomfortable for them.

“Our defensive line puts so much pressure on offenses. If you don’t double-team our tackles, they will kill you. If you do, our linebackers will run free and make plays.”

This marks the second time in school history that Cherpak has guided TJ to a perfect 16-0 record. They accomplished it 12 years ago when they finished undefeated in 2007.

Great talent helps, but there is another reason why Thomas Jefferson would not be denied here in 2019.

“Great leadership,” Cherpak said. “This team was easy to coach in that they understood what it took. They were focused from the very first game and willing to set individual goals aside for the team.

“They set the bar high for themselves in setting their goals and they weren’t shy in talking about them. It was undefeated conference champs, WPIAL champs and PIAA state champs. They all are great friends and were happy for each other’s success. That is very rare these days.”

Looking ahead to next season and the start of a new decade, Cherpak knows there will be a lot of big shoes to fill.

“We lose many impactful seniors who have played a lot of games for us. It will be time for some new players to step up in 2020 just as these kids did when it was their turn to play.”

However, before next season comes, there is plenty of time for Cherpak, his staff and his players to enjoy this golden season.

“I am extremely happy to see these seniors and the rest of the team enjoy the experience of playing in a state championship game,” Cherpak said. “Sometimes you don’t appreciate it when you are there. I wanted to make sure they did and that they had a great experience.

“These seniors have been such a huge part of our program. Most started as sophomores. It has been very bittersweet to watch the season end, knowing that they won’t be wearing the TJ uniform again.”

2019 Trib HSSN football teams of the week:

Week Fourteen – Avonworth

Week Thirteen – Gateway

Week Twelve – Clairton

Week Eleven – Belle Vernon

Week Ten – South Park

Week Nine – Shaler

Week Eight – Cornell

Week Seven – Pine-Richland

Week Six – Baldwin

Week Five – McGuffey

Week Four – Canon-McMillan

Week Three – Freedom

Week Two – Central Valley

Week One – Moon

Week Zero – New Castle

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