High School

“Mr. High School Sports” – Who Will Replace Raimondi?

Nick Raimondi

Thomas Jefferson receiver Nick Raimondi goes up for a pass in last year’s WPIAL playoffs. (File photo credit: Lake Fong/Post-Gazette)

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By Matt Popchock

(mpopchock@kdka.com)

As originally reported by the Tribune-Review’s Keith Barnes Wednesday morning, Thomas Jefferson head football coach Bill Cherpak confirmed senior receiver/outside linebacker Nick Raimondi is done for the year after tearing his ACL during the Jaguars’ Week 3 win over McGuffey.

Raimondi had registered 161 yards receiving, and five of his seven catches had gone for touchdowns, though the injury was actually sustained during a first-half punt return–his first, and, unfortunately, last punt return of 2011.

So how does a team proven to be so good at reloading replace such an important player?

He was regarded as quarterback Dom Presto’s chief target, though more than likely, the majority of his touches will simply go to junior Zach Schademan, who actually leads TJ with 167 yards receiving, and has two TD’s on seven catches. Schademan seems poised for a breakout year anyway; he’s already ten yards away from eclipsing his total receiving yardage as a sophomore.

But behind Schademan, the Jaguars aren’t particularly deep at that position. Only three other players have a pass reception to their credit. In fact, those three only have one apiece.

One of those players is lineman and Division I prospect Bruno Natter. It wouldn’t be ridiculous to think TJ would try throwing to its tight end more, though more than likely Cherpak will want to keep him on the line for protection.

A more likely scenario would be to see Presto start throwing to senior tailback Ryan Ruffing out of the backfield. An even more likely scenario, however, would be for TJ to simply play more blue-collar football and give opponents a steady, balanced diet of the run.

Ruffing leads Thomas Jefferson with 191 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns, but he is just one of seven different TJ players with at least one scoring run to his credit. Fullback Austin Kemp, who has shown a lot of promise as a freshman, could also get more reps, and sophomore Jake Farrell is another good candidate to spell Ruffing.

In addition, Ruffing can help fill the defensive void left by Raimondi. He’s got five solo tackles and already plays a lot of two-way football. Natter shares the team lead in total tackles with 13, so there’s a little more pressure on him to carry the linebackers, though Tyler Toboz, who has also recorded 13, has looked sharp so far.

NOTE: In other Class AAA Big Eight Conference news, ROOT Sports, per flexible scheduling, just announced Wednesday its Week 5 WPIAL football telecast will be Belle Vernon at Chartiers Valley. The game is slated for a 7:00 kickoff. Meanwhile, Belle Vernon (2-0, 2-1) hosts New Castle in Week 4, its final non-conference game, while Chartiers Valley (2-0, 2-1) also hosts a non-conference game, against Bethel Park.

(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)

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