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2020 PIAA Playoffs (OC FB, RV, Clarion VB)

Cardiac Oilers Set To Battle Thomas Jefferson In Class 4A Semifinals

Just call them the cardiac Oilers. 

Football Playoff Hub

After a pair of 1-point wins in the first round and quarterfinals of the PIAA Class 4A football championships, the Oilers travel to Thomas Jefferson (Friday, 7 p.m.) with a trip to the state championship on the line.

It’s an Oil City (10-0) team that rolled through District 10, outscoring its opponents by a 449-47 margin. 

Thomas Jefferson is in a position that is quite familiar to the program. Jaguars coach Bill Cherpak won his 10th WPIAL title last week in thrilling fashion, a 35-28 overtime victory over Aliquippa. He is also seeking his fifth state title. 

In the game against the Quips, TJ let a 28-14 lead slip away, but ultimately came through in OT. 

TJ (8-1) has outscored its opponents 354-106, with its lone loss coming 20-14 to McKeesport on Oct. 24. 

Here’s a look at how the two teams stack up as they vie for a berth in the state title game. 

Oil City Offense (51.1 ppg.)

It’s been well-documented that the Oilers have been without two of their best players on both sides of the ball in Cam Russell and Brayden Crocker. 

In their absence, quarterback Holden Stahl has taken a step up from his already stellar play, as has Sean Stack. 

Stahl accounted for four total touchdowns in the quarterfinal win over Upper Moreland, throwing a pair to JT Stahlman and rushing for two, including the go-ahead score with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter. 

Stack led the team with 87 yards on the ground, and the Oilers will rely on him to run behind their dominant offensive line once again. 

Stahl has been in rhythm with his receivers, Stahlman and Dakota Cole, as the Oilers have hit for some big plays in the passing game. 

Thomas Jefferson Offense (39.9 ppg.)

TJ quarterback Jack Pugh scored on a 2-yard run in overtime, which turned out to be the game-winner against Aliquippa. 

Pugh has had a tremendous season for the Jags. The sophomore has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,525 yards, 21 TDs and 6 INTs. 

His top targets are seniors Preston Zandier (37 receptions, 562 yards, 7 touchdowns) and Ian Hansen (32-583-7). 

The ground game of TJ features the two-headed monster of Conner Murga (560 yards, 10 TDs, 7.6 ypc.) and Deron VanBibber (409-10-4.3). 

Oil City Defense (10.7 ppg.)

Even without Crocker and Russell, this is still an excellent unit. 

Stack, Cole and Stahlman all came up with interceptions in the win over UM last week. 

Zac Kiefer leads the team with 81 tackles from his linebacker spot, while Mario Fontanazza has 68 stops (12 for loss 8 sacks) from his defensive tackle position. 

Stahl has 57 tackles and Justin Fagley 56 and 14 sacks. 

Cole leads the defensive backfield with six interceptions. 

Thomas Jefferson Defense (11.8 ppg.)

This is a terrific group, with three shutouts and another game in which they held their opponent to six points. 

Linebacker Isaac Eckley is the anchor of the Jags defense with 57 tackles. 

Winner Gets: Lampeter-Strasburg/Jersey Shore Winner in state title game (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Hersheypark Stadium)

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