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Written by: Nate Grella on Thursday, October 21st, 2021
The landscape of the 4A playoff picture in the WPIAL could change drastically after Friday night, as two of the top teams in the classification square off. The defending state champions, the Thomas Jefferson Jaguars, will look to avenge their only loss from a near flawless 2020 season. The McKeesport Tigers on the other hand, will try to prove themselves as worthy state title contenders.
Last year, it was the Tigers who shook up the WPIAL landscape by taking down Thomas Jefferson in Jefferson Hills, giving the Jaguars their first home loss in five seasons. The Tigers held a 20-0 lead after the first half. In the second half, the Jaguars battled back, however the Tigers defense stood tall on the final drive to hold the upset 20-14.
In the 2021 season, no 4A team has been as underrated as the Tigers. The only loss McKeesport has suffered all season came in Week 3 to Canisius of New York. While conference rivals Thomas Jefferson and Belle Vernon elected to take the bye week left with the evacuation of Uniontown, McKeesport decided to schedule one of the top teams in all of western New York, and suffered the consequences in their record.
Aside from their out of state loss, the Tigers have one of the more impressive resumes in their classification. The Tigers defeated 6A Baldwin and 4A and 5A playoff teams in Armstrong and Woodland Hills to open up the season.
Thomas Jefferson also holds a top resume in 4A, taking down a weakened South Fayette and holding off a top tier Gateway in non-conference. Thomas Jefferson’s only loss came to rival Belle Vernon, off of a last second TD from Devin Whitlock.
McKeesport’s offense presents a new challenge for Thomas Jefferson so far this season. Not only do the Tigers bring back the iconic wishbone triple option offense, but McKeesport returns one of the top backfields in the region. Kanye Thompson, Bobbie Boyd, and Jahmil Perryman lead a three -headed monster of a rushing attack. If the Thomas Jefferson defense struggled against one dynamic player in Devin Whitlock, the TJ defense’s hands will certainly be full with 3 dynamic athletes coming out of one of the toughest offensive schemes to game plan against.
On the other side of the ball, Thomas Jefferson QB Joey Lekse has been a dynamic threat in both the passing and the rushing game. Conner Murga, Elias Lippincott, and McClain Flinn all lead a talented backfield for the Jaguars.
As good as they are in the backfield, the real challenge will be up front for the Tigers. A somewhat untested defensive and offensive line will go against one of the top trenches in the state for Thomas Jefferson. Division 1 Commits Jordan Mayer and Nick Bryan will be a force on both offense and defense for Thomas Jefferson. Senior Tyre Demery will look to lead the Tigers both on offense and defense to hold up a young bunch the lines for McKeesport.
The Tigers head into Friday night with something to prove to the entire WPIAL community. The atmosphere at George Smith stadium will be electric as these two teams clash. A win for McKeesport will catapult the Tigers up in both the WPIAL and state rankings. For Thomas Jefferson, this game is all about revenge. Not only do the Jaguars have a chance to lock up second place in the Big 8 and a likely 2 seed in the WPIAL playoffs, but Thomas Jefferson can avenge their only loss for a season ago.
The Tigers have one of the most dynamic offenses in the region, and their defense has held other top offenses like Armstrong and Laurel Highlands to minimal points. If McKeesport shuts down TJ’s running game on defense, the Tigers will coast to victory. On offense, the offensive line just has to hold back TJ’s offense enough to allow the dynamic athletes to work.
Prediction: McKeesport 38-21
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