The best — make that the second-best — teams in WPIAL Class AAA appear to be reliving history.
Thomas Jefferson is back in the championship game for the sixth consecutive season and is looking for its fourth title since 2002.
What is so maddening to the rest of Class AAA is that coach Bill Cherpak’s teams make it look so easy. When they beat West Mifflin for the championship in 2004 at Heinz Field, it was 20-0. Two years later, Blackhawk fell, 34-15. Last year, Montour came in with one of its best teams in school history and lost to Thomas Jefferson, 34-0.
Now, it’s Blackhawk’s turn again, and for the third season in a row, the team that must play Thomas Jefferson in the final comes in riding a huge tidal wave of momentum. In 2006, Blackhawk beat Pine-Richland, 42-3, in its semifinal. Last year, Montour took apart Knoch, 32-6, to earn a berth at Heinz Field.
Friday night in the other semifinal, Blackhawk had no trouble with previously undefeated Highlands, 36-7. Blackhawk quarterback Zack Hayward completed 18 of 26 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Jake Delmonico caught seven passes for 96 yards and two scores.
When Thomas Jefferson failed to win the championship, it came as close as possible without actually walking away with hardware. The Jaguars have been in either the semifinals or final every year since 1999 — maybe the most consistently amazing run of success by one team in WPIAL history.
Blackhawk is a worthy foe this year, but others were, too, and couldn’t solve the riddle of the Jaguar. It should happen that way again next Saturday evening at Heinz Field.
Thomas Jefferson hasn’t lost to a WPIAL team since the 2005 championship game, won by eventual state champion Franklin Regional, 31-14.
Of the eight teams that earned berths in this year’s title games, only two others (aside from Thomas Jefferson) are returning from last year. Gateway and Beaver Falls are back and both lost to WPIAL and eventual PIAA champions (Central Catholic in Class AAAA and Jeannette in Class AA).
In Class A, Clairton is returning after winning in 2006. Its opponent, Monaca, hasn’t won since 1985.
In Class AA, Beaver Falls hasn’t won since 1984. It will meet Aliquippa, which most recently won a WPIAL title in 2003.
Gateway in Class AAAA hasn’t won since 1986, although it gave Central Catholic quite a scare in an overtime thriller last year. The Gators meet Bethel Park, whose next Quad A title will be its first.
There are four undefeated teams in the Heinz field, including both AAAA participants and Beaver Falls and Clairton.