Game of the Week: Thomas Jefferson vs. West Mifflin
October 25, 2013 12:00 AM
Matt Freed /Post-GazetteOctober 26, 2012West Mifflin's James Wheeler carries against Thomas Jefferson Friday night. Original Filename: thomasj102612b.jpg PUBLISHED CAPTION: Matt Freed/Post-GazetteWest Mifflins Jimmy Wheeler has rushed for a school-record 2,000 yards this season. Original Filename: wheeler1115.jpg
By Nick Veronica / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Thomas Jefferson and West Mifflin have been perfect through eight weeks.
One of those streaks will end tonight when the Class AAA football powers meet in the regular-season finale.
Making the case for Thomas Jefferson to be the favorite would be easy: The Jaguars have been ranked No. 1 since the preseason, and they surrender only a touchdown per game.
West Mifflin, though, is the home team, and, more important, has Jimmy Wheeler.
Rushing officially 218 times for 2,008 yards this season, Wheeler can break the WPIAL's regular-season rushing record with 142 yards tonight, a mark he has surpassed in every game this season.
His lowest yardage total this year is 174. He has been held to fewer than 100 yards once in the past two seasons (although Thomas Jefferson limited Wheeler to 129 yards in a 28-14 victory last season).
West Mifflin coaches know the record is in sight, but they haven't given it much thought.
"Maybe Jimmy is, maybe some of the kids are, but we haven't said that much about it," Titans coach Ray Braszo said. "We just go about our business."
Here's what's impressive about West Mifflin's offense: As a team, the Titans have more than 300 rushing attempts this year. Quarterback Karlyn Garner has attempted 49 passes.
Every opponent knows West Mifflin is going to run the ball. (And run the ball. And run it some more.) Yet the Titans continue to do it effectively.
As much as that says about West Mifflin's offensive line, the key tonight may be its defense.
Even if West Mifflin can score on the Jaguars, will it be able stop them?
"We came into the year with sort of an inexperienced defense," Braszo said. "We lost a lot of kids [to graduation], kind of undersized. We haven't been as dominant this year on defense. We've been bending a lot and not breaking too much."
Breaking defenses is a habit on Thomas Jefferson's offensive line, which has sprung runners for more than 2,200 yards. Austin Kemp leads with 816 yards on 91 carries, and Ricky Daley (who had five touchdowns last week) has 355 yards on 59 carries.
"They have a very good offensive line -- very strong," Braszo said. "They're going to try to keep the ball, run their counters, traps, sweeps, take it to you up front.
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