Thomas Jefferson lost top passer Shane Stump, top receiver Dan Deabner and top rusher Dylan Mallozzi to graduation from its 2019 WPIAL and PIAA Class-4A championship team.
But the Jaguars started their title defense on Friday by breaking out some new weapons. Senior quarterback Jake Pugh caught fire for five first-half touchdown passes, including a pair to Ian Hansen as Thomas Jefferson rolled, 52-0 over rivals West Mifflin.
Stump hit Preston Zandier for a long completion down the left side on the game’s first play and it was a taste of what was to come from the TJ offense. Stump and Zandier connected again for a touchdown on TJ’s second offense play and the Jaguars never looked back.
Pugh connected with Hansen, Jack Konick and Shultz Reinhart to give him four touchdown passes to four different receivers in the first quarter. Pugh and Hansen connected again in the second before TJ head coach Bill Cherpak decided to turn to the running game with a big lead.
Running back DeRon VanBibber took charge, scoring from 12 yards out on a toss sweep and helping to set up a field goal late in the first half. Defensively, the Jaguars surrendered very little in the first half, as West Mifflin was unable to advance beyond the 50-yard line. The Titans’ offense was hindered by a first-quarter injury to running back DelRon White.
The Thomas Jefferson starters largely exited the game at the point, with backup running back Conner Murga scoring to give the Jaguars a 52-0 lead in the fourth quarter.
West Mifflin star defensive end Nahki Johnson was largely held in check by the Jaguars in the first half, but he was able to force a fumble and record a sack in the second half.
West Mifflin will move on to face Belle Vernon next week, while Thomas Jefferson will visit Trinity.