Dominant running game helps West Allegheny to lopsided victory over Thomas Jefferson
Lopsided scores dotted Thomas Jefferson’s season schedule.
But none were like this.
For the first time in coach Bill Cherpak’s memory, his Jaguars were blown out. Two-time champion West Allegheny secured a third consecutive trip to Heinz Field with a dominant 41-7 victory over TJ on Friday night in a WPIAL Class AAA semifinal at Bethel Park.
The lead was 41-0 at halftime.
“We just looked helpless,” Cherpak said.
Among its 11 wins, No. 2 Thomas Jefferson (11-1) had beaten teams 51-0, 48-0 and 63-0 this season. But No. 3 West Allegheny (11-1) turned the tables with four touchdowns in a five-play span in a 28-point second quarter.
“You saw a certain look in these kids’ eyes this week,” West Allegheny coach Bob Palko said. “It was just different how they handled their business. They were focused a little more. It was neat. You haven’t seen that in a while. They knew what they wanted to accomplish.”
Now, the Indians could become the first team to win three consecutive Class AAA titles since TJ in 2006-08. Palko, whose teams never have lost a WPIAL title game, could become the first coach with eight.
They’ll face No. 1 seed Central Valley (12-0) in the championship at 8 p.m. Friday. It’s a rematch of last season’s championship won by West Allegheny. But it’s also a rematch of a Week 9 game won 28-17 by CV.
“It’s crazy,” senior Chayse Dillon said. “Not just going back to Heinz Field, but we’re playing Central Valley again.”
The Indians won Friday with strong defense (48 yards allowed) and a potent wildcat attack. Dillon, Terence Stephens and Whitney White combined for 271 yards and five touchdowns on just 23 carries. Dillon had touchdown runs of 2 and 55 yards. Stephens had a 5-yarder and a 25-yarder. White’s covered 65 yards.
Both teams had 31 carries. West A rushed for 242 yards. TJ had 16. Austin Kemp, the WPIAL’s leading rusher, had just 26 yards on 15 carries.
“They beat us in every facet of the game,” Cherpak said.
Dillon had 107 yards on 11 carries.
A 65-yard punt return TD by Tyler Amedure sparked the Indians and broke a scoreless tie. Kemp fumbled on the next play, and West A scored on its next five possessions.
“It just snowballed,” Cherpak said. “I’ve seen it happen in our favor: You score, they fumble, you get a big play. They had three (touchdown) drives that were one play. You’re not going to win any games when teams do that.”
With a one-dimensional, run-first offense, TJ wasn’t built to rally.
It was the second time in two weeks West A stayed on the ground, featuring its wildcat offense over the arm of its 1,200-yard passer.
“It was a great game plan,” Palko said, “and the kids executed it to a T.”