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Thomas Jefferson poised for physical battle against Trinity

Posted Thursday, October 14, 2010 by Ed Dalton

Thomas Jefferson poised for physical battle against Trinity

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John Santa is a McKeesport Daily News staff writer and can be reached at 412-664-9161

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There aren't many secrets between Bill Cherpak and Ed Dalton on the football field considering the combined 28 years of WPIAL football coaching experience between them.

With that in mind, Cherpak has been schooling his Thomas Jefferson (5-1, 4-0) players all week as to what to expect when they host Trinity (4-2, 3-1) in the Daily News Game of the Week Friday at 7:30 p.m. for a showdown of the top two teams in the Big Eight Conference.

"We've got to play as physical a game as we have so far," Cherpak, now in his 16th season with the Jaguars, said. "Every time we play Trinity they always have big kids and it's always a real physical game. So, our kids know what to expect and we've just got to be ready."

"If we don't play physical," he added, "it's going to be a long game for us."

For Dalton, now in his 12th year leading the Hillers, the emphasis in preparing for one of the most successful programs in WPIAL Class AAA history has fallen elsewhere.

All week the Trinity coach, his staff and players have been studying film in an attempt to figure out the various formations TJ employs on offense.

"Sometimes the thing that the average fan doesn't notice is that (Cherpak) sets you up with formations to get matchups," Dalton said Wednesday. "You've got to try to match his matchups if you want to have a chance."

And this season, along with the Jaguars' various formations, Cherpak has a bevy of talented players at his disposal who can only help to confuse matters for opposing defenses.

Beginning at the running back position, Cherpak has utilized both Ryan Ruffing and T.J. Matrascia in conjunction with bruising fullback Dylan Breisinger to yield one of the most potent rushing attacks in conference.

The more athletic of the pair of tailbacks, Ruffing has carried the ball 51 times this season and racked up a team-high 429 yards and four touchdowns.

Matrascia has bullied his way with a physical brand of running to 355 yards and eight touchdowns.

"That was a big concern coming in, but it really has become almost a strength, in terms of them playing together," Cherpak said.

The dual quarterback rotation of junior quarterback Dom Presto and senior Ryan Crouse also has aided the running game by fostering an improving offensive attack each game this season.

Wide receiver Mike Terpin, who will be a game time decision to play due to a sprained ankle, has been the Jaguars' biggest target in the passing game along with Tom Greives and tight end Bruno Natter.

"We're going to have to be willing to fight every single play," Dalton said. "Give everything we have every single play."

On the defensive side of the football, much of the fight will begin with the Hillers' talented group of linebackers.

Led by 6-foot-1, 217-pound middle linebacker Kyle McWreath, a likely Division I prospect, Trinity's linebacking corps, which includes Dom Raggi, Eric Richards and Taylor Davidson, will have to be at its best against the Jaguars.

"Hopefully we can match their skill kids a little bit," Dalton said. "It comes down to the lines really. We're probably giving away two or three inches and 30 pounds at almost every line position, so that's where the battle's going to be. If we're going to have a chance we're going to have to win some battles inside."

An area of major encouragement for Dalton has been the improved play of the leader of his offense.

With concussion issues, which left quarterback Brad Martin on the sideline for two games, behind him, the Hillers' signal caller has completed for 23 of 43 passes for 391 yards and seven touchdowns this season. His favorite targets have been wide receivers Mike Cleveland and Ty Billie.

"We have 10 plays of over 55 yards on the season," Dalton said. "We have hit a lot of big plays against people."

Trinity's running game also has been a major part of the equation for offensive success.

Freshman Pat Frey has racked up a team-high 390 yards rushing this season, while McWreath and Tyler Yocca have combined to add 529 yards and five scores.

"Our kids are looking forward to the opportunity to play them," Dalton said. "But, we also have a lot of respect for everything they do and the kind of kids they have."

The feeling is mutual for TJ.

"We're confident," Cherpak said. "There's just a lot of things we need to do well."

"The focus has been good," he added. "We have our toughest games at the end. For (Trinity) this is basically the conference championship."

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