Central Valley eliminates Thomas Jefferson
First-year high school Central Valley will have a shot at a WPIAL title thanks to an outstanding semifinal game from a sophomore.
Robert Foster scored four touchdowns — three on receptions and another on an 80-yard run — as Central Valley upset perennial Class AAA power Thomas Jefferson, 42-24, Friday in a Class AAA semifinal at North Allegheny High School’s Newman Stadium.
The Warriors (9-3) now will face Parkway Conference foe Montour in the championship game at Heinz Field next Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
Sto-Rox, in 1966, was the last WPIAL school to win a title in its first year of football existence.
Thomas Jefferson (10-2), in the WPIAL semifinals for the 13th consecutive season and trying for its sixth WPIAL crown overall, fell short of returning to Heinz Field, where it had won four titles in the past seven seasons.
“All we did was play our hearts out,” Foster said. “It’s a blessing, and we came out here and did what we had to do.”
“He’s a tremendous athlete and a very modest young man,” Central Valley coach Mark Lyons said.
Central Valley wasted little time getting on the scoreboard in its first possession. The Warriors drove 62 yards in three plays.
Following Lukas Turley’s 35-yard run to the Jaguars’ 15, sophomore Robert Foster took a swing pass from Matt Bradford and scored.
Thomas Jefferson responded with a lengthy possession, driving to the Central Valley 10 in 14 plays. Mike Wainauskas kicked a 27-yard field goal to cut the Warriors’ lead to 7-3. The Jaguars held the ball exactly eight minutes.
The swing pass to Foster worked so well the first time around, Central Valley repeated the play early in the second quarter, with the play covering 27 yards.
At that point, Jaguars coach Bill Cherpak inserted junior Dom Presto at quarterback, and he responded with a 60-yard connection to Nick Raimondi. That pulled the Jaguars to 14-10 with 10:53 left in the second quarter.
The next big play was made by the Central Valley special teams. With Wainauskas in punt formation, Dillion Trasport blocked the punt, picked the ball up at the Thomas Jefferson 3 and scored the third Warriors touchdown. That raised the lead to 21-10 with 5:30 left in the half.
After Wainauskas blasted a 55-yard punt into the end zone, Foster brought the large crowd to its feet on an 80-yard run on the next play. Foster spun around two defenders at the line of scrimmage and broke loose for a touchdown.
In a key play of the game, Thomas Jefferson decided to forego a field-goal attempt from the Central Valley 11 on fourth-and-3. Instead, Presto found Jacob Bronder in the end zone, but Michael Kupper’s excellent defensive play jarred the ball loose before Bronder had it in his grasp, turning possession over to the Warriors.
Central Valley then held the ball for nearly three minutes and punted. But on the next play from scrimmage, Foster intercepted a Presto pass and returned it to the Thomas Jefferson 19. Foster scored on a 15-yard pass four plays later.
“I never would have envisioned this, giving up 42 points,” Cherpak said. “If you don’t make big plays in a big game like this, you don’t win it.”