By Matt Popchock


6:40 – The Fan is here, Lanny Frattare is here, Bob Orkwis is here, ROOT Sports is here, “Deuce” is here, and, last but never least, “Mr. High School Sports” is here at The Wolvarena in Turtle Creek for the start of the 2011 WPIAL football season! We’ll have updates on this game throughout the night, as the Thomas Jefferson Jaguars, one of last year’s WPIAL Class AAA Semifinalists, take on last year’s WPIAL Class AAAA runners-up, the Woodland Hills Wolverines in what should be a fun non-conference contest between two of the most accomplished programs in district history.

Bill Cherpak has coached his Jaguars to four WPIAL titles, including three straight 2006-08, and three PIAA crowns, while George Novak has guided Woody High to five district championships since the program’s inception in 1987, and sent over one hundred players to Division I schools.

6:45 – Some recruiting tidbits, in case you missed them… Pitt picked up a pretty good lineman earlier today when Allderdice’s Tyrique Jarrett chose the Panthers over Cincinnati, Akron, Temple, and UConn, according to the P-G’s Paul Zeise.

A while ago Hopewell’s Rushel Shell hinted he would announce his college choice when ESPN cameras come to town for their game against Central Valley Oct. 14. According to the P-G’s Mike White, Shell has more or less retracted that remark. No timetable for his college decision.

Tonight I’ll keep an eye on Woodland Hills senior linebacker Mike Caprara. He enters 2011 as the leading tackler in program history, and he is currently courting Michigan State, Pitt, South Carolina, and Syracuse. He posted a team-high 120 total tackles and 8.0 sacks in 2010.

6:55 – The teams take the field. Time to get excited…especially now that Rob King and Craig Wolfley from TV have assumed broadcast position…as have Lanny and Bob for their call on 93.7 The Fan…

Boy, the season just sneaks right up on you, doesn’t it? I’m sitting next to Deuce, and he told a story about how he once jumped over the fence on the opposite side of the stadium to attend a game. Wonder if he snuck into the seats in our picture up there?

7:03 – Thomas Jefferson wins the toss, but defers. Woodland Hills gets the ball, moving right to left on your computer screen or smartphone. We’re about to kick off the first meeting ever between former co-coaches Cherpak and Novak. The former worked for the latter briefly at Woodland Hills, and Cherpak was Novak’s star lineman when Novak coached Steel Valley to the 1982 WPIAL title. The two have been friends for quite some time, and not surprisingly, the team’s styles are similar, as Novak pointed out to me earlier this week.

7:07 – One side note: the line judge for this game is Mark Cherpak, Bill’s brother in law. Interesting…

7:09 – Caprara carries off right tackle for a 5-yard gain on 2nd and long. Novak hinted this summer Caprara might see more work on offense with Lafayette Pitts having moved on to the University of Pittsburgh…

7:10 – Fake punt! Pat Menifee, the quarterback/punter had everyone off guard, and he sprints up the far sideline to the TJ 38. Moments later, Woody High catches a huge break as Caprara fumbles in the open field, but tight end Tariq Jackson recovers for forward progress.

7:15 – Touchdown Wolverines! Jaimire Dutrieuille plunges in over left tackle from 2 yards out for the first TD of the season. Sam Scifo’s extra point is right down the middle, 7-0 Woodland Hills, 7:15 left, 1st quarter. For a team that graduated a lot of backfield talent, Woody High sure ran the ball with relative ease. That won’t make Cherpak happy. TJ’s offense gets ready for its first possession of 2011…

7:20 – Two plays after a block in the back penalty, Mike Steals nearly brings down Dom Presto for a safety. Looked like he had him in the grasp in the end zone…but refs call 3rd down. Presto takes advantage of the break by converting to Nick Raimondi in the right flat past the 20 yard line.

7:30 – Touchdown Wolverines! Menifee throws a 4-yard fade pattern that Shakim Alonzo gets up and grabs in the back left corner, out-leaping Ryan Ruffing in otherwise perfect man coverage. Scifo’s kick is good. 14-0 Woody High, 37 seconds left, 1st quarter.

Some technical difficulties…during that time TJ’s Dalton Dietrich shanked a punt inside his own 40, and Menifee and Dutrieuille pretty much took matters into their own hands, running for multiple first downs.

7:35 – 1st quarter ends after Presto hits Raimondi down the middle at midfield. 14-0 Woodland Hills.

7:40 – Harry Randall takes one of Dietrich’s punts in stride and nearly takes it to the house. Timeout before a 1st and goal, Woody High trying to pad its lead.

7:43 – Thanks to some great tackling by lineman Bruno Natter, and again on 4th down by Ruffing, the Jaguars make a goal line stand! Dutreuille is stuffed for a third straight time, 9:50 left, 2nd quarter, 14-0 Woody High. TV timeout.

Natter is being recruited at linebacker by several Big Ten schools.

7:48 – Touchdown Woodland Hills! Incredible…Dutrieuille gets redemption, as Ruffing can’t handle a pitch-out, and he gets credit for a 13-yard fumble recovery in the end zone…Scifo converts, 21-0 Wolverines, 8:35 left, 2nd quarter.

TJ looks like a team that…well, hasn’t played a game all year. Only two first downs to the Wolverines’ five.

7:53 – TJ takes its second timeout with 7:00 left till half.

Presto hasn’t looked in sync, and Ruffing has found the sledding tough. When TJ can’t run, it means Presto needs to get back on top of his game and make some plays.

Incidentally, Sam Scifo is also getting some Division I looks, and Dutrieuille has been the most impressive player for either team tonight.

7:58 – Menifee with fancy footwork on the QB keeper…35 yards to the TJ 25. This one, believe it or not, could get ugly…

8:02 – First update of the night: Montour up 28-7 on Chartiers Valley after a 50-yard TD run by Julian Durden.

Meanwhile, Scifo misses a 44-yard attempt wide right–hey, why not, he’s one of the strongest kickers in the WPIAL–after a Jason Peterson TD run is wiped out on a holding call. Still 21-0 Woodland Hills, 3:00 left till half.

8:04 – Nice job picking up YAC by Raimondi past midfield…44 yard pass by Preto. Then Presto hits Zach Schademan for 13. TJ needs something positive to build on before the gun.

8:08 – Timeout TJ, its last. Bad execution by the Jags the last couple plays…Presto missed Raimondi over the middle, the Jake Mascaro dropped a ball wide open in the right flat.

8:10 – Now Novak calls his second timeout…

8:12 – Some more updates trickling in…

Penn-Trafford 21 Peters Twp. 0 2nd qtr Manny Simpson over 100 yds 2 TD

Seneca Valley 14-0 over Norwin, 2nd quarter

Indiana 21 Apollo-Ridge 6 2nd quarter

35-7 now, Montour over Char’ Valley, 2nd quarter

Clairton 13-0 over Washington 1st quarter

Belle Vernon and Hopewell scoreless at half

McKeesport 21 St. Joan of Arc 0 1st qtr

Bethel/Kiski Area scoreless

Luke Hagy, Mt. Lebanon: could break 3,000 career yds tonight, needs 2 TD to tie school record (47)

Burrell 9 Valley 0 2nd qtr

By the way, Rushel Shell had just 4 yards on his first 4 carries…

Meanwhile, it’s 21-0 Woodland Hills over TJ here at the half.

8:20 – Some first half numbers…

Dutrieuille 12 rush 42 yds 2 TD

WH has outgained TJ 170-103

WH has 7 first downs to 3

Presto 4 for 9, 96 yds

Not sure what Cherpak’s halftime speech is, but knowing him, it’s loud. Having said that, it’s a non-conference game, and Cherpak, sportsman that he is, knows this is to them what last night’s preseason game was to the Steelers…experimental. On the other hand, Novak has to like what he sees, especially from his defensive line and running game. Ruffing has had almost nowhere to go. Offensive line hasn’t looked shabby either.

I know TJ is playing up, and in doing so, playing a heck of a team (nothing wrong with either), but still, I’m a little surprised this game isn’t closer.

8:33 – 21-0 Penn-Trafford over Peters…Manny Simpson and P-T QB Zach Emerick both with over 200 yds

Ford City 3 Kittanning 0 (half)

Latrobe 7 Derry 0 (half)

Upper St. Clair 14 Shaler 0

Canon Mac over Trinity 12-6 at half

Connellsville 26 Uniontown 0 at half

Burrell 16 Valley 0 at half

8:37 – Another update right before the start of the second half here at The Wolvarena…Springdale and North Catholic scoreless at half. Baptism by fire for those teams in Week 1 in the Class A Eastern Conference, as Canevin takes on Avonworth tonight as well.

8:40 – Shakim Alonzo, who has a touchdown catch tonight, getting medical attention. The half began where the first left off; TJ fumbled the opening kickoff, and Caprara recovered for the Wolverines at the TJ 28.

8:42 – Things go from worse to…uh, worse…as new QB Harry Randall hits Peterson ahead of his man for a 23-yard TD up the far sideline, and the siren (blared whenever the Wolverines score) sounds for a fourth time tonight. Scifo is true, 28-0 Wolverines, 11:20 left, 3rd quarter.

Not sure what was wrong with Alonzo…I wouldn’t rule out cramps. Game time temperature was a robust 92 degrees…but don’t worry, the humidity was only 56%.

Trevon Mathis of Woody High now in great pain, getting his leg stretched out at the 30 yard line. Now walking off under his own power, buttressed by trainers.

8:48 – Raimondi with a 16-yd gain on a screen.

8:50 – Presto under too much pressure to connect…again, give Woody High’s D-line credit for blowing the doors off TJ’s O-line.

Speaking of those aforementioned Eastern Conference games, Canevin leads Avonworth 13-0.

8:54 – TJ sophomore DL Angelo Natter blows up a fullback run by Josh Young. The younger Natter also has D-1 potential.

8:55 – Timeout Woody High, their first. And it comes after their second 1st down of the 2nd half.

8:57 – Scifo kicks a 37-yd field goal inside the left upright…31-0 Woody High, 7:26 left, 3rd quarter.

9:02 – The heat is starting to get to these kids…Mike Steals cramps up now, but appears to be okay.

9:06 – Jaylin Moore gets his first carry of the night. Novak may be calling off the dogs here.

9:09 – Moore stopped just shy of first down yardage. Harry Randall, a sophomore, in at QB. Scifo coffin kicks inside the 10 on his first punt of the night.

9:15 – A 53-yard run by reserve Byron Minous gets TJ into Woodland Hills territory, and several plays later, Austin Kemp sheds a couple tackles and gets TJ’s goose egg off the board with a 13-yd TD run up the middle! Derrick Rothey’s extra point is good, 31-7 Woody High with 5 seconds left, 3rd quarter.

Isn’t it ironic that Cherpak’s bench ends up producing the team’s most cohesive drive of the night? Speaks volumes to the depth of that program, and to the rough night the starters were having.

Some updates:

Seneca Valley 41 Norwin 0

Connellsville 3 Uniontown 7

Jeannette 33 East Allegheny 6

Penn-Trafford 42 Peters 0 (last I checked, Simpson and Emerick each had 200 yds, combined for 7 TD’s)

Seton-LaSalle 42, Carrick 0

Belle Vernon 7 Hopewell 0

McKeesport 40 St. Joan of Arc 10

Burrell 16 Valley 0

Montour 42 Chartiers Valley 14

Latrobe 14 Derry 0

Grensburg-Salem 14 Hempfield 0 (half)

Canon-McMillan 18 Trinity 13

St. Edward 24 Penn Hills 6

Franklin Regional 48 Plum 0 (4 TD’s for Dane Brown)

9:24 – TJ takes timeout after recovering a fumble around the Woodland Hills 25. Once again, the second string is playing some inspired football, and with still 10:23 left in the game, the Jags at least have a chance to make it respectable.

9:26 – Story of the night…TJ fumbles the exchange, and Woody High recovers. You gotta love garbage-time football…

9:28 – Reserve QB Randall is managing the game nicely as it winds down…


Ford City 3 Kittanning 0 (3rd)

South Fayette 7 West Mifflin 7 (half)

9:32 – Sophomore Richard Yezovich becomes the 3rd different QB played by Novak with 7:00 left in the game.

TJ takes over at their own 22 with 6:17 left in the game. Coaches often say they use these non-conference games to see what they have to work with. If anything, the Jaguars have learned as much as their backups as they already knew about their regulars.

9:35 – Jake Farrell fumbles, and Mike Smith recovers for the Wolverines. Fourth turnover of the night by Thomas Jefferson, three of them coming in the second half.

9:37 – Moore picks up 9 with 5:00 to go. This kid has been looking good tonight. Roughly 90 players on the roster for both schools, so he’s probably pumped to get all these reps.

9:40 – Scifo missed wide right for the second time tonight, this time from 40. 2:26 left, 31-7 Woody High.


Julian Durden – 236 yds 4 TD for Montour, which beats Char’ Valley 49-14

Franklin Reg. 55 Plum 0

Salem 28 Hempfield 7

Jeannette 47 East Allegheny 6

USC 42 Shaler 0 (3rd)

9:42 – Marco Marinelli stays in at QB for the Jags, hands off to Kemp for 6 yards. Clock winding down.

9:45 – Thomas Jefferson begins the 2011 season the same way it began 2010: with a rough loss at The Wolvarena, this time to its primary tenant. Final score: Woodland Hills 31, Thomas Jefferson 7. Wolverines 1-0, Jaguars 0-1.

Woodland Hills takes on North Hills in Quad-A non-conference action at Martorelli Stadium next Friday; North Hills stunned them in this building, 7-0, last season. TJ opens its Big Eight schedule next week at home against South Park.

Trying to nail down official stats for Caprara, but, in the meantime, talked to him after the game. Said it feels great to win an opener, at last…can’t set the tone for a season without a win in the first game, says a lot about team unity. Really did their homework on TJ’s run game; tried to read the guards closely, read their keys closely. “When you’re in The Wolvarena, you’re on our turf, and you ain’t leaving till you’re bruised.” Playing North Hills next week will be going from “step one to step four,” can’t rest easy even after beating such a great team.

From Coach Novak: was worried about defense, execution of offensive line, but generally pleased with both. TJ did a lot of good things, their passing game worried them. Speed was what got TJ off its game. Credits coaching staff for doing a good job with defense; they’re small, so they have to mix their coverages. Liked the positive attitude; it’s a battle during the game, “but afterward, we’re friends.” Actually wanted Mark Cherpak to help officiate. Kicked field goal at end of game on first down (the one that made it 31-0) because wanted to practice that game situation. Only 7 starters back (4 on offense, 3 on defense), so important for young players to get reps. What did this game tell them? “We’re getting better.” Where does this team have to go to get better? “We’ll find out next week at North Hills.” Menifee had the green light to pull the fake punt that led to first TD.

Some finals pouring in:

Indiana 49 Apollo-Ridge 19

Ellwood City 57 Freedom 21

McKeesport 54 St. Joan of Arc (Ontario, eh?) 9

Carmichaels 25 Leechburg 0

Burrell 23 Valley 16 (OT)

Salem 34 Hempfield 14

Canevin 33 Avonworth 6 (nice statement by the Crusaders on the road)

Knoch 36 Brashear 0

North Hills 35 Perry 14

Jefferson-Morgan 14 West Greene 6

GCC 41 Waynesburg 14

Beaver Falls 57 Mohawk 7

Aliquippa 41 Laurel 7

N.A. 53 St. College 21

Latrobe 21 Derry 0

Trinity 19 Canon-McMillan 18

Seton-LaSalle 49 Carrick 8

Sto-Rox 49 South Allegheny 0

Laurel Highlands 35 McGuffey 7

USC 49 Shaler 0

Hopewell 14 Belle Vernon 7

Neshannock 29 West Shamokin 6

Connellsville 40 Uniontown 7

Springdale 14 North Catholic 6

Lebo 34 Pine-Richland 0 (Luke Hagy 5 TD; he played some QB tonight)

West A 38 S. Park 0

Ford City 10 Kittanning 0

Monessen 46 Geibel 0

Penn-Trafford 42 Peters Twp. 12

Listen to post-game coverage with Don Rebel on 93.7 The Fan all night. In the meantime, we’ve got more to come on this game after “Mr. High School Sports” gets back from the road…

12:45 AM – A few more things before “Mr. High School Sports” calls it a night…

Check out for the rest of tonight’s scores. No real eye-popping upsets tonight, but definitely some message-sending by some of the top teams in the area, including in this game.

The rumors, in case you were at the game, or following it otherwise, and heard them, were true: Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Ryan Mundy, a proud Woodland Hills alum, was hanging out on the sidelines tonight. Another Pittsburgh-born NFL star, albeit one from the past, will supposedly be coming to town next week: Joe Namath (to attend Aliquippa-Beaver Falls).

One national note: somebody call Brian Kelly, because Washington High School (South Bend, Indiana) receiver Gehrig Dieter has set a U.S. single-game record with 447 yards receiving. Currently he has been getting looks for Purdue and offers from many MAC schools. More on this in “Spanning the States” next week.

A couple final numbers: Woodland Hills had almost 250 yards as a team, though nobody jumping off the page individually. Dom Presto 7-of-18 for 110 yards. Pat Menifee 63 offensive yards, including the fake punt…though a bruised knee is part of why Novak sat him for the second half. No update on his condition, though if I had to speculate, he should be okay. Moore had 63 yards as well, coming off the bench.

In case you’re curious…147 yards for Rushel Shell in Hopewell’s victory Friday, so give him an even 30…30 consecutive 100-yard rushing games, that is. National record is 38 by Billy Sims. More on Shell’s pursuit of history next week.

Audio highlights, courtesy of Lanny on tonight’s Game of the Week broadcast:

Dutrieuille’s TD run

Alonzo’s TD grab

Dutrieuille’s defensive TD

Randall’s TD toss

Scifo’s field goal…on first down

Kemp spoils the shutout

Final thoughts:

If there’s one thing both teams can take from this game, especially Woodland Hills, it’s that they’re deep. If Menifee’s injury turns out to be anything real bad–and again, I don’t think it is–we now know George Novak at least has other competent players at the position. Woodland Hills’ second-team offense and defense nursed its three-touchdown lead effectively, and TJ’s second-team offense spoiled the Wolverines’ shutout bid, while the defense minimized the damage in the second half, after a performance by the starters that was very uncharacteristic of the Jaguars. One offense executed, the other did not. One wilted in the heat, the other did not. As a result, this game, once again, turned out much more one-sided than I imagined. Knowing Cherpak’s team, though, they’ll learn from opening the season against a tough team and look night-and-day dominant when conference play begins next Friday. Speaking of dominant, this may be a Class AAA team Woodland Hills roughed up, but come on…it’s TJ. That’s no ordinary Triple-A team. This was an impressive statement by Novak’s kids, especially his defense, which looks like it’ll be the calling card of this team, led by Caprara (who was also pulled for precautionary reasons in the second half). If they put forth that same effort at Martorelli next week in a rematch of the 2010 WPIAL Semifinals, the Indians are in for a long night.

That just about wraps it up for “Mr. High School Sports,” but be sure to revisit his blog later this weekend for special coverage of Sunday’s Gateway Kickoff Classic! Plus, be sure to jump back on for Week 2 coverage leading up to 93.7 The Fan’s next Game of the Week, as Montour visits Hopewell.

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