Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Jaguars Hope to Keep Season Alive in Semis

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Jaguars Hope to Keep Season Alive in Semis

Article excerpt

When Thomas Jefferson opened the season with a loss at Ringgold, a loss that snapped a 24-game conference win streak, it was an upset.

When the Jaguars then lost their second game of the season to Belle Vernon, a defeat that ended a 58-game home win streak dating to 2004, it was a disaster.

"People at school and other people that used to play for the football team, they were upset, and they were like, 'Oh, it's a disgrace that you guys lost the home winning streak,' " said junior running back Quinton Hill, who has 1,250 rushing yards. "It was just terrible to let so many people down. We were disappointed in ourselves, too. We definitely felt some embarrassment from that."

But Thomas Jefferson (9-2) used that as motivation, going undefeated from there into the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals against Franklin Regional (9-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Hempfield.

With Thomas Jefferson as such a perennial powerhouse - having won WPIAL championships in 1980, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008 - the high expectations led to major early season doubts.

But coach Bill Cherpak said he has been impressed with how resilient his players have been.

"We just wiped away those first two weeks and said, 'Look, let's start from here. Let's start from scratch,' " Cherpak said. "And from that point forward, it's just been real positive."

Since Franklin Regional beat Thomas Jefferson for its first and only WPIAL title in 2005, the Panthers have lost to the Jaguars all four times the teams have met - the 2006 semifinals, 2009 quarterfinals, 2012 quarterfinals and 2014 non-conference game.

"They're kind of a nemesis to me over the past six years," Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said. "They've always been a roadblock."

That history made Botta wary of reports of Thomas Jefferson's demise.

"'They're really, really off, and they're not going to be good,'" he remembered hearing. …

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