Nick Kamberis ran across the field in search of Jon Drager. The Keystone Oaks coach wanted to congratulate the Thomas Jefferson tailback — before Drager could find a phone booth to change his uniform.
“Take off his pads,” Kamberis said, “and he has to have an ‘S’ on his chest.”
Drager was that unstoppable Friday night.
He stopped short of wearing Superman’s cape, but finished with 382 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns to lead top-seeded Thomas Jefferson to a 37-0 victory over Keystone Oaks in a WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinal game before a standing-room-only crowd of 3,854 at Elizabeth Forward.
The 6-foot, 188-pound senior rushed for a game-high 166 yards on 30 carries, caught two passes for 55 yards, returned a kickoff 67 yards, two punts for 60 yards and had a 34-yard interception return.
“We needed 13 guys out there,” Kamberis said. “Drager was incredible. It wasn’t like we weren’t in position. He just made cuts and made our guys miss. When you have a kid like that — someone who’s one touch away from taking it the distance — he doesn’t just hurt you in one place.”
Thomas Jefferson advanced to the WPIAL semifinals for the seventh time in eight years under coach Bill Cherpak. The Jaguars (11-0) will play Hopewell (10-1), a 28-14 winner over Knoch, next week at a time and site to be determined. Hopewell beat TJ in the semifinals last year.
“We want that rematch,” Drager said. “We want to beat them this time.”
It was the second time TJ beat Big Seven Conference rival Keystone Oaks (8-3) this season. Kamberis was suspended for TJ’s 31-3 win in Week 3, however, and the Golden Eagles vowed to get even with the Jaguars.
“It was said (by KO) all week that no one wanted to play them,” Cherpak said. “They didn’t realize they were exactly who we wanted to play.”
Drager improved his season totals to 1,973 rushing yards, which leads Class AAA, and a WPIAL-best 41 touchdowns. He started strong, rushing nine times for 59 of TJ’s 66 yards on the first drive, scoring on a 1-yard run. Jon Browne’s extra point made it 7-0 with 3:18 remaining in the first quarter. Browne added a 31-yard field goal for a 10-0 halftime lead.
Drager ended KO’s best scoring chances when he intercepted a Danny Krchmar pass at the TJ 1 and returned it to the 35. That drive ended with Drager being stuffed by Keystone Oaks defensive tackle Jeff Hetzel on fourth-and-goal at the KO 1 with 6:35 remaining in the first half.
“We definitely got mad over that,” Drager said.
Though Drager rushed for 90 yards in the first half, it was in the second half that he put on a show. He took turns slipping and breaking tackles, cutting back across field seemingly untouched. The Jaguars scored four touchdowns in a span of 7:40, and Drager had three on runs of 12, 18 and 4 yards.
“His game is very conducive to playing on artificial surface,” Cherpak said. “He can cut on a dime. You just give it to him and let him go.”
Drager’s running was apparently contagious. Junior quarterback Pete Winovich had the most spectacular run of the night. He shook off a facemask in the backfield, took off left and broke several tackle en route to a 38-yard scoring run for a 23-0 lead with 6:39 left in the third quarter.
TJ outgained KO, 329-124, behind 274 yards rushing on 47 carries. The Jaguars stifled the Eagles’ passing attack, intercepting Krchmar twice and backup Bill Theobald once and held star Bryan Dapper without a catch.
“We couldn’t get anything established offensively,” Kamberis said. “Our game has been to establish the run to set up the pass. Their defense stymied us all night. I can’t see anybody beating that team.”