Thomas Jefferson quarterback Jake Pugh finished his junior season with a total of 140 passing yards, while the Jaguars rode senior Shane Stump to WPIAL and PIAA titles.
Pugh inherited the starting quarterback job in his senior year this fall, and it took him all of about 10 minutes into the season to eclipse his previous season total. His first pass was a downfield dart to receiver Preston Zandier and those two connected for a touchdown on the next day to start what ended up as a long night for the West Mifflin secondary.
Pugh threw for five first-half touchdowns as Thomas Jefferson went on to a 52-0 rout of the rival Titans and West Mifflin on Friday.
The breakout performance wasn’t all that unexpected, at least if you ask Jaguars head coach Bill Cherpak.
“The thing about Jake is he would have been a three year starter anywhere but here with Shane,” Cherpak said. “He’s been ready for this moment. This has been a long time coming. I knew he’d take advantage of it and do a nice job and he’s got great receivers. He took a couple of hits, but overall, he had some good time and I’m not surprised at all.”
Cherpak said Pugh was aided by TJ’s experienced receiving corps, which includes Zandier, Ian Hansen, Jack Konick and Shultz Reinhart.
“That’s four targets,” Cherpak said. “That’s pretty good as a quarterback. If you spread it around, they can’t focus on any one player, and that’s what we do.”
“Honestly, I think our receivers are just really good playmakers and thankfully I have them because I don’t think I threw very many great balls tonight,” Pugh said. “But theyThey went up and made plays and, I’ll give the credit to them.”
Pugh said the deep passing game that sparked the Jaguars from the start was part game plan and part simply making some reads on some open receivers.
“We definitely game-planned for it, but also a couple of the passes were on the fly,” Pugh said. “We just got a matchup that we wanted and I knew that I could trust my guys to go make a play, and they did. That’s all I can ask for.”
The other key to Pugh’s big night was the time he got to throw. The Jaguars front line put the clamps on West Mifflin defensive end Nahki Johnson, a four-star prospect and Pitt commit.
“Our o-line did a great job,” Pugh said. “They blitzed a lot of people and they picked them up, I think I only got hit twice, which is a is a great thing as a quarterback. Only getting hit twice in the game and being able to throw like that, all credit to the offensive line. They did a great job.”
Pugh has a long way to go to replicated the success Stump had at quarterback at Thomas Jefferson, but the defending state and district champs seem to be in good hands. The future beyond Pugh looks solid, too, as junior Joe Leske played the whole second half in the blowout win over West Mifflin.