Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Semifinal Run Ends for Tj

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Semifinal Run Ends for Tj

Article excerpt

If it feels like there's something missing from the WPIAL semifinals this weekend, well ... it's probably because there is.

For the first time since 1997, Thomas Jefferson won't be playing football the weekend before Thanksgiving, a remarkable streak of 13 consecutive WPIAL Class AAA semifinals appearances.

For some context, the last time Thomas Jefferson didn't make the WPIAL semifinals:

* The world population was 5.84 billion, as compared to a little more than 7 billion today.

* A gallon of gas cost $1.30. It'll run you around $3.45 today

* The national debt was just under $5.5 trillion. Today it sits at $14.95 trillion.

* The first Harry Potter book was just published in the United Kingdom. It wouldn't be released in the United States for another year.

* Diana, Princess of Wales, had died in a car crash two months earlier in Paris.

"It looks impressive when you look at it, but you have to realize the times we lost in the semifinals were just as disappointing and heartbreaking as any of the other ones," Jaguars coach Bill Cherpak said.

Thomas Jefferson lost to Knoch, 31-9, in the WPIAL quarterfinals Friday.

The Jaguars had some opportunities to make that game close, but couldn't take advantage of those chances.

Although their semifinals streak came to an end, the Jaguars still put together a solid season by most standards, finishing 7-4 overall and sharing the Big Eight Conference championship with West Mifflin Area.

"The main thing we've always wanted is consistency and to be competitive every year," Cherpak said. "I never wanted to have [just] a good team, we wanted to have a good program."

Thomas Jefferson, which won three consecutive WPIAL championships from 2006 through 2008, was plagued by injuries this season. While that may have cost them a trip to Heinz Field, Cherpak said the opportunity it gave younger players prepared the Jaguars nicely for the future.

"In the long run is it going to benefit us? Definitely," Cherpak said. "But when you're starting sophomores and freshmen, it's tough.

"They're learning on the job."

Cherpak pointed specifically to freshman Austin Kemp, who played significant time for the Jaguars at fullback and middle linebacker late in the season. …

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