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Tiger football team faces tough task

November 1, 2012
By Philip Cmor ( , The Altoona Mirror

You might think it'd be hard to know where to begin when devising changes for a game plan against a team that already beat you by 55 points once.

Hollidaysburg Area High School football coach John Barton had no problems coming up with things he'd like to see be different for the Golden Tigers' rematch with Thomas Jefferson, though.

"Hopefully, a lot. What we did before didn't work," Barton said with a laugh.

The Tigers will travel to Jefferson Hills again on Friday night looking for a much better result in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs than the 55-0 shellacking they took at the hands of the top-seeded Jaguars seven weeks ago. Hollidaysburg is 3-6. TJ is the only undefeated team in the bracket at 9-0.

Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.

Jaguars quarterback Joe Carroll threw for 245 yards and five touchdowns in the first meeting, and Thomas Jefferson also rushed for 234 yards as a team. The outcome wasn't in doubt after TJ bolted out to a 34-0 lead at the end of one quarter.

"They came out and did some things we weren't prepared for and really did some things to take advantage of their athleticism," Barton said. "We'd like to think we have a better handle on what they can do to hurt us."

TJ coach Bill Cherpak might be hoping for a repeat performance, but he isn't counting on one.

"That was a long time ago, and both teams have changed somewhat. Even though we're familiar, it's not the same as it was the first time," Cherpak said.

That's certainly true. Hollidaysburg went through several personnel changes in the second half of the season when the Tigers were battling illness and injuries. Last week, they had more receivers involved in the passing game as in any contest all season.

The Jaguars, too, have made adjustments. On the defensive side, injuries and performances issues have caused Cherpak to switch some players in the secondary and at linebacker. The offense has been expanded, he said.

Cherpak doesn't think his players will take Hollidaysburg lightly in spite of the earlier score.

"We've been in the playoffs enough to realize you can't win the second one until you win the first one," Cherpak said.

One thing that hasn't changed is Carroll. He enters the playoffs third in the WPIAL in passing with 1,737 yards. He's thrown 33 touchdowns and been picked off just three times.

Zach Schademan has 44 receptions and 21 touchdowns for the Jaguars.

"Obviously, we've got to do a better job of defending their passing game," Barton said. "They have multiple threats. That's what makes it a challenge."

Barton might get some assistance if Hollidaysburg can sustain some offense better this time. The Tigers only had 108 yards in the first meeting.

Barton, though, believed significant improvement might lay in the details.

"Really, so many times we were a block away, a missed assignment away from doing some things offensively. So we hope we can get some consistency," Barton said. "I told the kids to look at the tape. The proof is in there. We just need to correct some mistakes."

Despite losing at Indiana, 17-13, last week, Hollidaysburg had its third best game of the season rushing the football. Barton thinks if the Tigers can build on that and weather the early portion of the game, this will be a much more competitive matchup the second time around.

"The pressure's not on us. Everyone's expecting them to be the big dogs," Barton said. "I just told the kids to have fun. Let's just go in and lay it all on the line. We're doing something a lot of other teams wish they could do."

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