By Matt Popchock
It’s an unusually mild night throughout western Pennsylvania, and it’s an unusually hot night in the West Jefferson Hills School District…hot pink, that is. Thomas Jefferson Stadium, like many other WPIAL football venues, is “Pinked Out” tonight in honor of breast cancer awareness as the Jaguars get set to host the Chartiers Valley Colts on homecoming night in a pivotal Class AAA Big Eight Conference showdown between the two front-runners.
As the inimitable Mike Lange would say, TJ hasn’t lost a conference contest since the eighth grade picnic (literally, for some of these kids). Bill Cherpak’s Jaguars are 3-0 in the section, 3-2 overall, and have won 34 straight versus Big Eight/Big Seven competition. Over the course of the past decade, Thomas Jefferson has been the winningest program in the state, but tonight, their dominance may be challenged.
That’s because Chris Saluga’s Colts are playing great football, coming in with a 3-0 conference mark and 4-1 overall record, thanks to the great leadership of quarterback Wayne Capers. He’s getting offers from Pitt and several other D-1 schools now that the health issues of the past two years are behind him. Capers has amassed over 900 all purpose yards, has thrown for six TD’s, and has run for several more.
A big key for the Colts will be how well they can protect their lethal weapon against one of the toughest defensive lines in Class AAA, led by Wisconsin recruit Bruno Natter. Also, keep an eye on promising underclassman–and brother–Angelo Natter.
On offense, Cherpak’s bell cow is Ryan Ruffing. He’s run for over 500 yards and seven TD’s, and as usual, TJ will try to establish the run early, with the hopes of taking the attention off its receivers and opening things up for pro-style QB Dom Presto.
“Mr. High School Sports” is right in the thick of the pink, and he’ll be providing updates from Thomas Jefferson High School–and around the WPIAL–all night long as Week 6 of the 2011 season commences…
7:23 – The big news of the night is that Hopewell’s Rushel Shell is concussed and will miss the Vikings’ game against New Castle, but the first update of the night comes from elsewhere in the Parkway Conference:
Nate Dearth’s 30-yard FG has given Montour a 3-0 lead over Central Valley with 8:25 left in the 1st.
Speak of the devil…I just got word Hopewell is up 14-0 over the Red Hurricane early. So much for Shell’s absence being a factor…
Also, Greensburg-Salem leads Derry 20-0 in the 1st.
7:27 – Shell’s concussion is still being characterized by multiple sources as being “mild.” His streak of 34 straight 100-yard games, second-longest in U.S. history, will be temporarily halted, as will his pursuit of the PIAA career rushing record, which now becomes more of a long shot for the WPIAL all-time rushing champ.
Captains meet at midfield here at Thomas Jefferson Stadium. Char’ Valley wins the toss and defers, so the Jaguars will take the ball and attack from right to left on your computer or mobile device.
7:30 – Right out of the chute, Ruffing bounces out to the left and picks up an even 10 for a 1st down.
7:32 – TJ goes 3 and out, and Char’ Valley will take over inside its own 25.
Meanwhile, Woody High up 21-0 on Fox Chapel in the 2nd…South Fayette & Keystone Oaks scoreless after one. Salem up 20-0 on Derry after one.
7:34 – Char’ Valley also goes 3 and out on its first drive. Good job by TJ defense getting heat into Capers’ kitchen. A botched punt snap will give the Jaguars 1st and goal at the 1, as punter Cody Kent falls on it.
7:36 – TOUCHDOWN TJ! One dive for Dom Presto, one score for the Jaguars, as the QB gets in over the left side. Stephen Shelpman’s kick is good, 7-0 TJ…9:33 left, 1st quarter. Historically, Thomas Jefferson has had Chartiers Valley’s number, and the Jaguars are looking to dominate early…
7:38 – Updates: Kittanning 7 Valley 0 (90-yd KR TD by Jud Toth)…Char-Houston up 7-0 over Brentwood in 1st…Montour 3-0 over Central Valley after one…KO 3 South Fayette 0 (Dom Canello 27-yd FG).
7:41 – Zach Chapman is the new Char’ Valley punter, as Michael Boulos is stopped for no gain on 3rd and short. TJ’s defense continuing to flex its muscles.
7:46 – TOUCHDOWN TJ! After a pass interference call, and a 25-yard strike to Zach Schademan, Presto finds Schademan again from 6 out, inside the far pylon, for his 9th TD pass of the year. Shelpman’s kick is good…14-0 TJ, 6:10 left, 1st quarter.
7:49 – Timeout, Char’ Valley. 5:16 left in 1st. Updates:
Avonworth 6 N. Catholic 0 (1st)
Chartiers-Houston 14 Brentwood 0 (1st half)
Salem 26 Derry 0 (late 2nd)
Sto-Rox 28 South Side 0 (1st)
Seton-LaSalle 7 S. Allegheny 2 (1st) — Kevin Hart 4-yd TD run
Central Valley 7 Montour 3 (2nd) — Curtis Lewis 8-yd TD run
Central Catholic 21 Plum 0 (1st)
7:52 – On 3rd and long, a roughing the passer call gives the Colts their first 1st down. Moments later, Boulos gets one with a 13-yard gain up the middle.
7:53 – Robert Foster of Central Valley just had a pick-six of 70 yards wiped out by penalty. Still 7-3 Warriors.
Woodland Hills up 31-0 over Fox Chapel late in the 1st half.
North Hills up 14-0 over Butler at Martorelli after a punt return TD.
7:55 – Colts are halted in TJ territory but pin the Jaguars inside their 5 with a nice, well-covered punt.
7:56 – Timeout, TJ. 2:30 left in 1st. Updates:
Norwin up 7-0 on Connellsville (late 1st). Don’t look now, but Falcons could be a playoff team after suffering longest losing streak in AAAA history last year.
Sto-Rox up 36-7 on South Side…4 TD passes for Lenny Williams.
Montour now up 9-7 on Central Valley (2nd).
Highlands 0 Mars 0 (end 1st).
7:58 – Speaking of long losing streaks, if West Shamokin falls, they’ll set a WPIAL record for longest losing streak ever. Deer Lakes leads them 7-0 after one.
Chartiers-Houston’s lead over Brentwood cut to 14-7. Can Spartans stay unbeaten?
Gateway only up 3-0 on Hempfield after 1st.
8:00 – Interception by Wayne Capers! Huge play there, as the Colts have a pulse, 1st and goal at the 5. He had been invisible for much of the night, but that’s what great players do: be great when they have to be.
8:01 – Ryan Ruffing appears to have hurt his right leg. He’s down, and that’s not a player TJ wants to lose.
8:02 – Ruffing appears to be okay, walking off under his own steam. Now he’s back out there. Meanwhile, TJ’s D-line is owning Chartiers Valley up front.
8:04 – TOUCHDOWN CHARTIERS VALLEY! Capers pushes the pile to the right and barrels in from 4 yards out. 13th TD of the year, 6th on the ground. Tom Kovach’s extra point is good, and as well as TJ has played, the Jaguars are only up 14-7 with 1:42 left in only the 1st quarter.
8:09 – End of 1st…TJ 14, Char’ Valley 7, with the Jaguars driving behind some nice work by Presto.
Central Valley 13 Montour 9 (late 2nd) — Curtis Lewis late TD run of 5 yds
Seton-LaSalle 14 S. Allegheny 0 (2nd) — another TD run for Hart
Norwin 14 Connellsville 7 (2nd)
Aliquippa 14 Ellwood City 7 (end 1st)
Valley 7 Kittanning 7 (2nd) — both teams scored on kick returns
Perry 13 Allderdice 6 (half)
Jeannette 14 Yough 7 (end 1st)
8:14 – More updates, as TJ is forced to punt by a holding penalty and a couple incompletions:
Central Catholic 42 Plum 6 (half)
Salem 32 Derry 0 (half)
Gateway 10 Hempfield 0 (2nd)
N.A. 35 Kiski Area 7 (1st half)
8:18 – Capers was nearly brought down for a safety on Char’ Valley’s first play on the ensuing drive. As it turns out, an unsportsmanlike conduct call and a deep incompletion force a dangerous punt from the end zone. TJ starts from CV’s 31…8:47 left, 2nd quarter.
8:21 – TOUCHDOWN TJ! Presto goes right for the jugular, and right down the middle to Jacob Mascaro, who makes a beautiful diving catch from 31 out! 10 TD’s on the year for Presto now. Shelpman converts. Huge play there for the home team; Jaguars up 21-7, 8:41 left, 2nd quarter.
8:24 – Great job escaping the rush by Capers along the near sideline to throw a 31-yarder to Marco Schubert for a 1st down. Moments later, Dalton Dietrich narrowly misses an INT–an easy one–for the second time tonight. A break for Capers there.
8:26 – Boulos as slippery as an eel as he avoids a well-timed tackle and breaks free for 28 yards after a catch…
8:27 – TOUCHDOWN CHARTIERS VALLEY! The Colts have an answer, as fullback Joe Ragni finishes the drive from 3 yards out. But the extra point snap is bad, and the kick is missed. 21-13 TJ…8:00 left, 2nd quarter.
8:29 – Great kickoff return by Ruffing out to midfield. The phrase “high octane” coming to mind as I watch this one…
8:32 – Chartiers Valley starting to find its sea legs on defense as well; this is the first time TJ has gone 3 and out, I believe, since the start of the game.
8:33 – UPDATES (sorry for being neglectful, it’s been a quick-moving game):
Freeport 21 Apollo-Ridge 6
Seton-LaSalle 24 S. Allegheny 0 (late 2nd)
Avonworth 9 N. Catholic 0 (half)
Gateway 10 Hempfield 0 (half)
Mars 3 Highlands 0 (half)
8:36 – TOUCHDOWN CHARTIERS VALLEY! The fireworks continue, as Capers hits Chapman in stride with a 74-yard bomb, and Chapman never looks back! Capers’ 2-point pass is too well covered by Luke Deanovich, so it remains 21-19 TJ. 5:46 left, 2nd quarter. 7th TD pass this year by Capers, 14 total TD in 2011.
8:41 – Update: Deer Lakes 20, West Shamokin 7 at half. The record is still in peril…
8:42 – Update: Sto-Rox 49 South Side 7 (late 2nd)…Chartiers-Houston 14 Brentwood 7 (half).
8:45 – The teams trade punts shortly after Austin Boyd of TJ drills Capers for a partial sack. The Thomas Jefferson defense is really picking up its intensity. 25 seconds to go till halftime, same score.
8:47 – A compelling first half at Thomas Jefferson Stadium ends with the Jaguars clinging to a 21-19 lead over Chartiers Valley. More to come…
8:48 – Updates:
McKeesport 7 Penn-Trafford 3 (half) – as seen on ROOT Sports; Warriors can get a leg up on conference title with a win
Woody High 38 Foxes 0 (half) — sorry, Josh
Seton-LaSalle 38 S. Allegheny 0 — 31 yd TD from Luke Brumbaugh to Scott Orndoff
Hopewell 21 New Castle 12 (2nd) — Matarazzo TD pass to Marcus Carter from 6 cuts the lead
Indiana 24 Knoch 21 (late 2nd) — winner gets 1st place in GAC
Kittanning 14 Valley 14
Connellsville 21 Norwin 20 (half)
Beth-Center 19 Monessen 0 (half) — winner takes control of Tri-County South
9:00 – Back again. More updates trickling in:
Central Valley 27 Montour 9 (late 3rd) — Justin Shaw 2-yd TD run
Hopewell 21 New Castle 12 (3rd)
Franklin Reg. 56 Uniontown 7 (3rd)
Perry still up on Allderdice 13-6, now entering 4th…
Salem 46 Derry 0 (late 3rd)
New Brighton 14 Laurel 14 (half)
9:03 – Homecoming court introductions at TJ. Will try to have some unofficial stats up soon…
Ruffing – 15 rush, 50 yds
Presto – 7-for-16, 2 TD, INT, sacked once, 116 yds
Capers – def. INT, sacked twice, 4-yd TD run, 7-for-17, 160 yards, 2 TD
Boulos – 6 rush, 26 yds; 2 rec., 33 yds
9:13 – Char’ Valley with good field position just outside its own 40 to start the second half.
9:15 – We have our first final of the night: Salem whacks Derry Area…well, in the Derry Area…by a count of 46-0.
9:16 – More updates:
Gateway 23 Hempfield 0
Woody High beats Fox Chapel 38-0 — again, sorry Josh
Highlands 7 Mars 3 (end 3rd)
Kittanning 21 Valley 13 (early 3rd)
Penn-Trafford 10 McKeesport 7 (3rd), as seen on ROOT Sports
Avonworth 9 N. Catholic 0 (end 3rd)
9:17 – Schademan takes a Char’ Valley punt up the near sideline and deep into Colts territory after a 3 and out. It’s that old football cliche about the first drive of the second half being crucial.
9:20 – TOUCHDOWN TJ! Nice cutback by Ruffing, who dances to his left and races inside the left pylon for a 10-yard score. 8th TD of the year by Ruffing, and Shelpman converts to extend TJ’s lead to 28-19, 9:27 left, 3rd quarter. Ruffing had all 41 yards on that drive.
9:22 – Kevin Gillen nearly takes the ensuing kick to the house, but he’s cut down by Shelpman. He won’t hear the end of that one…Char’ Valley in business again deep in TJ real estate…
9:25 – Colts still threatening, but Boyd picks up his second unofficial sack. He’s been a monster tonight.
9:26 – Personal foul on TJ for a late hit…and a dumb one at that. Jaguars have been going for his legs on multiple occasions tonight, as Mike White corroborates…
9:28 – Talk about deja vu–Wayne Capers clutching his right knee in pain after being held for no gain on a QB keeper…
9:30 – Capers walked off on his own steam, but definitely in discomfort. Jordan Joseph in at QB for the time being. Right now he’s standing on the sideline, minus one shoe, talking to one of the trainers.
9:33 – Tom Kovach’s 26-yard FG attempt, despite a false start on Char’ Valley prior, is good. Colts cut it to a 28-22 deficit, 5:47 left, 3rd quarter.
9:36 – Updates:
Char-Houston 21-14 over Brentwood (4th)
Norwin 28 Connellsville 28 after 3rd
Beaver beats Mohawk 43-0
LaSalle 38 SA 14 (4th)
Mt. Lebanon 24 Baldwin 7 (2nd half)
Penn Hills 40 Altoona 6 — final
Kittanning 28 Valley 13 (4th)
McKeesport 13 Penn-Trafford 10 (2nd half) — 7-yd TD run by Ed Stockett
9:40 – Great block by Dom Presto to allow Ruffing to get loose. This team is well-schooled in X’s and O’s, even though they’re not as dominant as they usually are.
9:41 – Ruffing picks up another 1st down. Colts did a good job against him in the 1st half, but it looks like he’s starting to wear down that defense.
9:44 – Update: Gateway leading Hempfield 30-0 in the 4th. More coming soon, I hope…
9:45 – Capers sitting nonchalantly on the sideline as Jordan Joseph trots in again. He draws a roughing the passer penalty on an incomplete pass. I’ll have to ask Coach Cherpak how he feels about all the laundry tonight (though I won’t expect a happy answer).
9:49 – Joseph taking a pounding from Tyler Toboz as Char’ Valley is forced to punt, still trailing 28-22 with mere seconds remaining in the 3rd quarter.
9:51 – End of the 3rd quarter at Thomas Jefferson Stadium with TJ ahead, 28-22.
9:53 – Presto opens the 4th quarter by converting a 3rd and short with a QB bootleg. Haven’t checked on Ruffing’s yardage, but he’s definitely within hailing distance of 120 or 130, if he’s not there already.
9:57 – Update: Mt. Lebanon whips Baldwin 38-7.
10:00 – Timeout, TJ. 6:42 left, 4th quarter, Jaguars up 28-22. A couple of bad penalties, again, have stalled a good drive for TJ, which faces 4th and long.
Update: OLSH 41, Riverview 21 (4th) — SIX touchdowns for Isaiah Neely
10:02 – Presto plays conservatively, keeps for 8 yards. Char’ Valley takes over on downs at own 14.
10:05 – Joseph is brought down by Angelo Natter for a safety. That’s a potential backbreaker there, as TJ gets the free kick with a 30-22 lead, 5:42 left in regulation. Joseph has been under pressure pretty much every play…and rubbing salt in the wound is the fact that the free kick goes out of bounds.
10:09 – Ruffing and Tyler Toboz continue trying to run out the clock. Under 4 minutes left, Jaguars in CV territory. Meanwhile, Gateway has beaten Hempfield, 36-0.
10:11 – Touchdown! Toboz busts through the right side, and keeps the legs churning for a 19-yard score, and that…ought to be your ballgame, kids. Shelpman makes it happen, and TJ ups its edge to 37-22 with 2:56 left in the game.
10:15 – Jordan Joseph’s first completion of the game goes for 13 and a 1st down to Kevin Gillen.
10:16 – Ryan Ruffing with an easy pick in the open field on an under-thrown ball to cap off a great night. That should do it.
10:20 – Update: Brentwood beats Chartiers-Houston 26-21 to remain unbeaten.
That’s it and that’s all! Make it 35 in a row in conference play for Thomas Jefferson, which beats Chartiers Valley, 37-22. TJ now 4-0, 4-2 overall, CV now 3-1, 4-2 overall. Colts haven’t beaten TJ since 1991.
10:41 – A couple notes:
Wayne Capers’ injury is to his left knee, and he’ll be re-evaluated over the next couple days, per the Chartiers Valley coaching staff, and the Trib’s Keith Barnes.
Bill Cherpak is scheduled to appear Saturday morning at 8:30 on “The UPMC Centers for Rehab Services High School Football Show” with John Phillips on 93.7 The Fan.
Chartiers Valley at McGuffey, TJ at Trinity in Week 7.
10:46 – A couple more friendly reminders…
First of all, check out KDKA.com for all of Friday night’s scores.
Second of all, check this blog later tonight for final stats.
In fact, we have one right now: Dom Presto was just 9-of-24, but ended with 164 yards and two TD’s to go with one pick.
Make that several: Wayne Capers threw for 190 yards before going down, on 9-of-22 passing. Joseph was just 2-of-9.
We’ll see if we can confirm Ruffing’s total later.
Now, a few words from the victors, coming momentarily…
10:55 – Ryan Ruffing: Char’ Valley was putting 8 in the box in the 1st half; they made some adjustments at halftime, and O-line played inspired football in the 2nd half. Corrected their blocking schemes in the 2nd half, per Cherpak’s suggestion. “It took everybody to win this game.” Chuckled at the preponderance of penalties, but “the final effort is all that matters.” Defensive line came out flying, played good, tough game against Capers. Gameplanned against him the whole week. On conference winning streak: “It’s a legacy here. No one wants to be the ones to let it die.” Team really came together tonight.
More to come…
Bill Cherpak – “Man, that kid’s good…” (re: Wayne Capers)…Didn’t know about the 35 straight conference wins, but felt tonight was their most important one of this year, because they hadn’t played well leading up to this game, and this starts a stretch of games against the top teams in the conference. “Our guys were dead tired, but they picked themselves up and kept playing.” Capers is as good as he’s seen him. What they wanted to do was not let Capers have options; wanted to come after him, and make him get rid of the ball, coaching staff had a great week of prep, and kids executed really well. 8 or 9 sophomores played on defense tonight, an unusual situation for him, but they stepped up. Did a lot of single back stuff in the 1st half, 2nd half running success came with bringing multiple backs into formation. On penalties: “Aggressive penalties aren’t a problem with me, but we can’t line up wrong, [etc.]…” Biggest thing to take from tonight going into Week 7? “Everybody contributed to this win, and I think the kids understand that.”
11:08 – Unofficially, Ruffing had 32 carries for 131 yards and a touchdown, and Tyler Toboz had 67 rushing yards in the 2nd half by our count, including that late TD.
More high school football coverage from Week 6 coming this weekend on KDKA-TV, 93.7 The Fan, and here on the “Mr. High School Sports” blog at 937thefan.com. Stay tuned!
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)