Vikings’ ship sunk: Thomas Jefferson rolls to 3rd PIAA title
Written by: Josh Funk on Friday, December 12th, 2008
HERSHEY, Pa. – Thomas Jefferson quarterback Tyler Wehner had quite the impressive performance in last week’s PIAA semifinals win over West York, accumulating over 300 yards of offense and six total touchdowns.
The bad news for Archbishop Wood: Wehner didn’t leave his game in Altoona.
Thomas Jefferson (15-1) got another solid performance from #3, and the Jaguar defense put the clamps on Archbishop Wood’s (12-3) offense in a dominating 34-7 victory in the “AAA” state championship game from Hersheypark Stadium.
With the victory, Thomas Jefferson became the third WPIAL representative to win three PIAA football titles. Rochester and Pittsburgh Central Catholic are the other members of the trio.
TJ head coach Bill Cherpak wouldn’t take any of the credit, deflecting all the attention to the kids.
“It’s something they’ve worked long and hard for. To see them be rewarded for it (is neat),” the 152-game winner said.
Why people keep asking Cherpak to talk about himself is like banging your head into a wall. He won’t budge. Speaking of banging into a wall, Archbishop Wood hit a brick wall clad in black and gold.
The Vikings fumbled the opening kickoff, and two plays later, TJ jumped ahead 7-0 on a Wehner five yard run. TJ pushed the advantage to 14-0 after forcing a Wood interception when Wehner fired a 13-yard bullet to Dan Virgin, TJ’s 1,000-yard receiver.
Wehner would fire two more touchdown passes on the night – both to senior tight end Brock DeCicco, who is bound for Pitt. The two passes covered 33 and 18 yards, respectively, and ballooned TJ’s lead to 28-7 at halftime.
#3 wasn’t a part of TJ’s PIAA title last season – he had been kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons. He watched last year’s game from the sideline fence.
“That wasn’t fun,” he said. “It’s a lot better on the field than off it.”
The same could be said for TJ’s Brian Baldrige, who contributed 120 yards on 17 carries. He didn’t score a touchdown, but instead helped the Jaguars control the clock and the tempo in the second half.
Junior wideout Jim Giansante also helped play a role in the game – he hauled in three passes for 56 yards.
“It was so much fun (last year), but to win it this year is a dream come true,” Giansante said.
Thomas Jefferson’s defense turned in yet another solid performance. Wood came into the game averaging 225 rushing yards per game – they were held to just 108 yards rushing this night.
And the lone Viking touchdown came courtesy of a Sean McCartney-to-Anthony Narisi 26-yard touchdown pass, which cut the TJ lead to 14-7. But even then, Wood wasn’t really in the game.
McCartney finished his season completing 9-of-23 passes for 100 yards with three interceptions. Sean Cunningham, a 1,700-yard rusher, finished with 12 carries for 34 yards.
Wehner added 16 rushes for 37 yards. In the last two weeks, he accounted for 11 Thomas Jefferson touchdowns. Ryan Veitmeier added 20 yards on five carries; Dan Virign had two catches for 43 yards.
“I don’t think they’re going to realize the effects of this for a while,” Cherpak said of his team. “It’s been driven into them from the beginning that this was the only goal.”
As for those milestones you keep setting, Coach?
“Maybe they’ll start to realize I don’t care about all that,” he said, smiling.
NOTES: TJ has gone an impressive 93-8 since the start of 2002, winning 31 straight games against in-state opponents. The Jaguars also became the 27th known team to hit 600 points scored in a season, finishing with 616 in 16 games.
Wood’s loss means teams with a “Viking” nickname fall to 6-2 all-time in PIAA finals play. The Philadelphia Catholic League, which Wood competes in, was denied its first PIAA football championship.
The 34-7 final margin marked the 34th time in state finals history a championship game ended with a margin of victory greater than 20 points. It’s the 15th time that’s happened since 2002.
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