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When West Mifflin takes on Thomas Jefferson, it does not matter what sport, or what the records are, it is going to be a hard fought game. However, while you typically would throw out the records in what should be a great matchup between the two football programs, there is a lot on the line in the standings as both teams close out the regular season with conference seeding still on the line.
West Mifflin enters this Friday’s game at 5-4. However, in the conference, they sit at 5-1, right in the thick of things. They were battle tested out of conference and come in fresh off of a 53-0 victory. Still, no battle will be tougher than the Thomas Jefferson Jaguars, who enter the game undefeated, with a chance to put a bow on a perfect regular season and conference championship.
However, with TJ sitting at 6-0 in the conference, West Mifflin has the chance to play spoiler in more ways than one. They can beat their rival, break the undefeated season and tie up the conference standings while grabbing the tiebreaker in the process. There is a lot more on the line than your old school rivalry.
“Our goal coming into the year was to move through the season unblemished,” stated Thomas Jefferson head coach Bill Cherpak. “Regardless of the conference, the rivalry all of that stuff, that was our number one goal. Now we have the chance, and we know what we need to do to get it.”
Thomas Jefferson has shown that clear mindset all season and has not let anyone get in their way yet. They are not just beating teams; they are thrashing their opponents. This season they have outscored their opponents 414-69. That comes out to an average score of 52-9. That number may be a little inflated based on a 70 point performance on offense, but the performance came just last week. This group is clicking and scoring at will.
However, they know that West Mifflin has ripped through a host of similar opponents and have an offense that can contend in their own right. In conference games, they have outscored their opponent 34-10 on average.
Cherpak knows that it is going to be a grind to slow down the Titans offense, and put the final touches on the undefeated year.
“They throw the ball more than they ever have and they always have an excellent running back like they do this year,” noted Cherpak. “You have to contain them. It is one of those games where you have to attack them to make sure you keep the ball away from them by keeping your offense on the field. You have to limit their ability to make plays by keeping them off the field.”
Cherpak also sees special teams being a big factor in this game. For as much as the Thomas Jefferson offense can hang on the field, they still have to kick it back at some point. This is where the Jaguars have to make sure the Titans do not answer on the ensuing kick.
“One of the big keys is going to be special teams,” Cherpak added. They have a strong return game so any chance they get to return we need to be on top of it.”
It will undoubtedly be an interesting test, and a perfect situation for the Jaguars to check some boxes off of their preseason list with a win against a formidable rival to cap off an undefeated regular season.
Top Recruit Spotlight
Dominic Serapiglia C, (Duquesne offer)
The Thomas Jefferson offensive firepower starts in the trenches with a power blocking group. The leader of the unit is center Dominic Serapiglia, who is receiving Division One attention. He is an impressive mover for a center which is a valuable commodity at the next level.
Cherpak: “Our whole line has good size, and they can run, but Doms, the leader. He is a three-year starter, very physical player, plays hard plays to the whistle.”
Parish Parker, CB, (Howard):
Parker saw some FBS attention before committing to FCS Howard. He is the feared running back that Thomas Jefferson certainly will have eyes on, but Division One schools like his future at cornerback. Parker is electric with the ball in his hands, but the light feet and speed translate to both sides of the ball. If West Mifflin can play the spoiler this week, it will likely be because of a massive game from Parker.