Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

As Usual, Tj's Defense Tough

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

As Usual, Tj's Defense Tough

Article excerpt

The Thomas Jefferson football team has made six appearances in the WPIAL Class AAA title game in the past 10 years.

Each of those teams boasted a strong defense, including four that allowed 8.7 points per game or fewer.

"You can't make it to Heinz Field without a strong defense," said Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak, as the Jaguars prepare for their 15th semifinal appearance in 16 years. "We will find out Friday just how good our defense is."

Thomas Jefferson, the Big Nine Conference champions and No. 2 seed in the Class AAA bracket, will play No. 3 seed Central Valley in Friday's semifinals at Chartiers Valley High School.

"The play of our defense is a big reason we're still unbeaten," Cherpak said. "Our first team defense has allowed only five touchdowns this year, including two [in last Friday's quarterfinal game] against Highlands."

Thomas Jefferson has recorded five shutouts and allowed only 70 points in 11 games, which averages to 6.4 points per game. That's fewer points per game than any of the six Jaguars teams that played in the title game.

"We had seven starters back on defense, but one has been out the entire season," said Cherpak, referring to defensive end Corey Payne. "Corey had knee surgery, then had to have a second surgery. He hasn't played a down for us this season."

With Payne out of the picture, Cherpak moved one of his returning starters to fill the void.

"I moved Austin Boyd from linebacker to defensive end," Cherpak said. "Austin was a natural at end. The change solidified our defensive line."

Boyd has recorded 15 unassisted tackles, nine assists and three sacks. He is joined on the defensive line by tackles Jake Guinn and Mat Nagy and end Russell Siess.

Guinn has 22 unasissted tackles, nine assists and three sacks. Nagy has 22 unassisted tackles, 10 assists and two sacks. …

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