South Xtra: TJ using dual-QB system to win


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Most high school football coaches typically rely on one starting quarterback to guide their offense.

Bill Cherpak, however, has gone in a different direction this season.

The longtime and successful Thomas Jefferson coach rotates a pair of seniors -- Christian Breisinger and Chase Winovich -- behind his offensive line.

Considering the Jaguars (4-0, 3-0) are off to another impressive start -- taking their usual spot at or near the top of the Big Nine Conference standings, a half-game behind West Mifflin Area (4-0, 4-0) -- the unorthodox tactic seems to be working.

"What we're trying to do is not put pressure on one guy," Cherpak said. "They each know their role and understand what we want to do with our offense. They know that regardless of how they're playing, we're going to rotate and they're not going to get pulled because of how they're performing.

"They both do things well to complete our offense. They both start on defense, so this also allows them not be out on the field the entire game."

Winovich, a Division I prospect already committed to Michigan to play linebacker, has taken the majority of snaps this season. Breisinger, however, stepped in the spotlight two weeks ago with a breakthrough performance against Hollidaysburg.

A 6-foot-1, 165-pound quarterback/safety, Breisinger completed 8 of 13 passes during the Jaguars' 45-12 non-conference victory and threw for a career-best 176 yards and four touchdowns.

He also tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Dietrich during Thomas Jefferson's 44-7 win last week against Trinity.

Through four games, they have proven to be an effective combo. Winovich is the team's second-leading rusher behind Austin Kemp, having gained 128 yards on 17 carries. He has also thrown for 114 yards, completing 9 of 21 attempts for two touchdowns but two interceptions.

Breisinger has completed 11 of 23 for 241 yards good for six touchdowns and no interceptions.

"Christian has thrown the ball well and is getting better," Cherpak said. "He's still trying to grasp the big picture of everything and the whole concept of what we want to do. He's growing in his role.

"We've had some good quarterbacks the past few years, so he's learned and watched those guys."

Breisinger, a former wide receiver, never played quarterback until last season when he served as a backup to starter Joe Carroll, who has graduated.

"I didn't even play quarterback in youth football," said Breisinger, who lives in Jefferson Hills. "When I was a sophomore, my cousin, Dom Presto, was starting at the time and the coaches wanted some depth at quarterback, so I decided to give it a try.

"So last year I backed up [Carroll] and this year I'm sharing the position, so it turned out to be a good decision."

Breisinger admits he is still grasping all the ins and outs of the position.

"I did a lot of work in the offseason," he said. "I worked a lot on building my arm strength and learning to read my receivers. We also participated in passing camps at Pitt and West Virginia this summer and they were a lot of help.

"There's always room for improvement and all I want to do is continue to get better."

Breisinger also has embraced his role on the team and sharing duties with Winovich.

"You just have to stay positive," Breisinger said. "When Chase needs a break, I go in there and do my job. When I need a break, Chase goes in and takes over. He's more of a runner and I'm more of a thrower, so it brings a really nice balance to our offense."

Thomas Jefferson continues conference play this week on the road against Albert Gallatin (2-2, 1-2).

"We just have to keep improving and not worry about other teams," Breisinger said. "The deeper we get into the season, the better competition we'll face, so we need to fix mistakes now.

"We've been playing pretty well and we're meeting our expectations. Our defense has definitely come together. Offensively, we're still working through some minor problems, but we're coming together and I'm sure we'll be fine."


First Published September 26, 2013 4:00 AM


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