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TJ Outlasts Aliquippa in Overtime Classic for 10th WPIAL Title



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Thomas Jefferson quarterback Jake Pugh accounted for four total touchdowns and McClain Flinn’s interception in overtime secured a 35-28 victory for the Jaguars in the 2020 WPIAL Class-4A championship at North Allegheny High School on Saturday.

Pugh scored on a 2-yard keeper as the Jaguars took the ball first in the extra period, and Flinn intercepted Aliquippa quarterback Vaughn Morris to end the game.

It was fitting that it was a defensive play that secured that game, as despite the final score, it was mostly a defensive battle throughout. The teams played a scoreless first period and the score stood at 7-7 at halftime after a Morris keeper and a 41-yard Pugh to Preston Zandier touchdown in the first half’s final minutes.

Pugh gave Thomas Jefferson its first lead of the game when he hit McClain Flinn for a 20-yard score while rolling to his left in the third quarter.

Late in the third quarter, Karl McBride stripped Pugh on a sack and Isaiah Gilbert recovered for Aliquippa, setting up another Morris keeper for a score to once again tie the game.

A long Ian Hansen kick return set the Jaguars up in good field position and Pugh scored on a keeper of his own to put Thomas Jefferson on top once again. Aiden Palmer then partially blocked an Aliquippa punt, setting up Thomas Jefferson with yet another short field and the Jaguars capitalized on a 3-yard dive by DeRon VanBibber.

But then a big special teams play then went in Aliquippa’s favor, as Cyair Clark had a 65-yard kickoff return to set up a 27-yard scoring strike from Morris to Tajier Thornton.

Clark then intercepted Pugh to give the Quips another chance on offense, and Vernon Redd took a counter draw handoff for a 14-yard score to send the game into overtime.

The Quips suffered their first loss of the season despite moving up a classification. Aliquippa has a Class-A enrollment and had voluntarily played at the Class-3A level before being moved up by the PIAA against their will before this season.

Thomas Jefferson won its 10th WPIAL title and fifth in its last six years. Nine of those titles have been won by head coach Bill Cherpak, who became the coach with the most titles in WPIAL history, breaking at tie with Mt. Lebanon and former West Allegheny coach Bob Palko.

The Jaguars will face District 10 champions Oil City in the PIAA state semifinals.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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