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PSR's High School Football Game of the Week: Chartiers Valley at Thomas Jefferson

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Chartiers Valley quarterback Wayne Capers isn't used to this. Capers and the Colts face perennial power Thomas Jefferson Friday night in a Big Eight battle that could very well decide the conference champion.

But it's not the magnitude of the game that makes this an unusual week for Capers – it's the fact that he's playing football in October. Capers, one of the top athletes in the WPIAL, has had season-ending injuries each of the past two years and has not played into the sixth week of a season since his freshman year in 2008. He was knocked out of the 2010 season opener with a torn ACL.

The 6-1, 205-pound Capers—whose father, Wayne Sr, was an NFL wide receiver for four years and caught 25 passes for 438 yards and 4 touchdowns for the Colts in 1985—appears to be overcoming questions about his durability. He has scholarship offers from Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, Temple and Toledo. He has thrown for 577 yards and six touchdowns, while rushing for an additional 353 yards and five scores.

TJ head coach Bill Cherpak has gone so far as to compare Capers to Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor—albeit smaller—because he's not merely an athlete playing quarterback: “He's a a quarterback,” says Cherpak.

Yet just two months ago, Capers wasn't even going to play quarterback this season. He was set to open the year at wide receiver, the position he's being recruited to play at the next level. But head coach Chris Saluga switched him back to quarterback after starter Christian Kuntz sustained a ruptured spleen in preseason practice.

Capers has not looked back.

Char-Valley has won four consecutive games, including a 24-17 victory over Quad-A opponent Bethel Park two weeks ago. Capers threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Zach Chapman and scored the winning touchdown on a 25-yard run with about eight minutes left in what was a statement victory for the Colts.

Since a Week 1 thrashing at the hands of Montour, 49-14, CV has outscored their Triple-A opposition—Trinity, Elizabeth Forward and Belle Vernon—by a score of 116-24.  Capers had 230 all-purpose yards and accounted for four touchdowns in last week's win over Belle Vernon.

Thomas Jefferson, meanwhile, is off to a slow start at 3-2 on the year, having dropped multiple games this early in a season for the first time since they were 4-3 in 2004. The Jaguars won the state title that year, by the way.

Their 3-2 record should be taken in context – TJ's losses are both to Quad-A teams, as they took on Woodland Hills on the road in the season-opener and lost 31-7. They were also beaten two weeks ago 21-14 at Baldwin.

So while a 3-2 record might indicate a team on the ropes for some schools, that's not necessarily the case for a still-powerful Thomas Jefferson program riding an incredible 31-game conference winning streak. The Jags have not lost a conference game since 2005 and have only one league loss in the past decade.

Veteran Thomas Jefferson quarterback Dom Presto is orchestrating an offense that is led by running back Ryan Ruffing, who exploded for 214 yards on 17 carries and five touchdowns to lead the Jaguars over Elizabeth Forward last week, improving them to 3-0 in the conference. On the season, Ruffing has rushed for 573 yards, averaging over 9 yards per carry.

The Jaguars are working to regain offensive balance after wideout Nick Raimondi tore his ACL a couple weeks ago. Raimondi's downfield presence opened things up for the running game, but without him Presto has had to step up his game, spread the football around and run a smart offense, something the senior did especially well in last week's win over Elizabeth Forward.

Despite their slow start, the goals don't change for the Jags. Thomas Jefferson has a history of winning the Big Eight Conference, playing for the WPIAL title and chasing a state crown. The 2011 Jaguars fully intend to live up to their rich history – game by game.

That starts in earnest on Friday against a Char-Valley squad intent on making their own history.

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