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Game of the Week

"Down and Out"

New Castle (20) vs. Thomas Jefferson (47)
Written: Nov 19, 2008
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BRIDGEVILLE — The rematch wasn’t meant to be for the New Castle High football team.

Thomas Jefferson rang up 571 yards of total offense in rolling to a 47-20 victory over the Red Hurricane last night in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals at Chartiers Valley High School.

“They handled us today,” New Castle coach Frank Bongivengo Jr. said. “They played better than we did up front and they moved the football on us.”


The victory sets up a championship showdown for the Jaguars (11-1) against Blackhawk (11-1), a 36-7 winner over Highlands at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 22 at Heinz Field for the WPIAL championship. This was the 11th straight trip to the semifinals for Thomas Jefferson and it’s the sixth straight appearance in the championship game.

“There’s really no secret to it,” Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak said of the program’s success. “We just work hard and coach everybody.

“When it’s the young kids turn to play, they have to be ready and we’ve been fortunate to have good players, too.”

New Castle (8-4) was looking advance to its first district championship since 1998 and set up another battle with the Cougars, who handed the ’Canes their only Parkway Conference defeat. New Castle rebounded nicely after opening the season 0-3.

“I’m proud of this team,” Bongivengo said. “No matter what the outcome of the game was tonight, this team battled all year long.

“When nobody gave us a chance these guys made it all the way to the semifinals. I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”


The ’Canes couldn’t find a solution for Thomas Jefferson’s bruising running back Brian Baldrige. The 5-foot-9, 196-pounder rolled up 382 yards rushing on 32 carries with three touchdowns.

“I knew we were going to be able to run the ball,” Baldrige said. “Our line has played outstanding all year long and they opened up huge holes; they deserve all the credit. All I had to do was run through them.”


New Castle let a quality opportunity get away early in the first quarter. The ’Canes drove to the Jaguars’ 30 and Keith Keene was stopped on a fourth-and-one play for no gain.

“That always hurts you when you have a chance to get down there and put some points on the board and you get stopped,” Bongivengo said. “That took a little wind out of our sails.

“You can’t do things like that against a good football team like Thomas Jefferson.”

Thomas Jefferson gave New Castle another shot with the game scoreless when Baldrige’s fumble was recovered by E.J. Padula. However, three plays netted no yardage and the ’Canes were forced to punt.

Baldrige ended the scoreless duel when he plowed in from two yards out on the next possession for a 7-0 lead. He added another score on a 61-yard scamper for a 13-0 buffer. New Castle’s Brandon Burley raced in free on the conversion kick to get the block.

“Baldrige ran tremendous,” Bongivengo said. “They ran the ball down our throats and that’s what they wanted to do.”


Thomas Jefferson took control when Brock DeCicco hauled in a 34-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Wehner, who is a son of former Pittsburgh Pirates player John Wehner. DeCicco caught the swing pass right at the line of scrimmage and shook off Burley’s attempted tackle at the line, coasting into the end zone for the score and a 20-0 lead.

The ’Canes fought back though as Michael Bongivengo, the coach’s son, marched the team to the Jaguars’ 5. He was sacked on third-and-goal back to the 20 and Ed Hasis thwarted the drive with an interception just inside the 1.

“They’re a good team,” said an emotional Michael Bongivengo. “They came out ready to play.”


With just 1:42 to play in the half and three timeouts left, it appeared New Castle had a great shot at getting another possession. But Wehner took a quarterback sneak up the middle and broke out of the pack for a 99-yard run and a convincing 27-0 advantage.

“We had about five missed tackles on the play,” Frank Bongivengo Jr. said. “We had him tackled three different times but we just didn’t wrap up and bring him to the ground.”

Wehner finished with 107 yards rushing on eight attempts.

Said Cherpak, “It was just a sneak to get it out of there and he broke a big play.”


New Castle recorded seven first-half possessions, five of which crossed into Jaguars territory, but accumulated no points.

“I was surprised at halftime at how well our defense was playing,” Cherpak said. “I thought they would break something, especially when they got down to the 5.”

Said Michael Bongivengo, “We were confident at halftime. We knew we could score; we just didn’t execute as well as we should have in the first half.”


The Jaguars nearly initiated the mercy rule on their first drive of the second half. They took the half’s opening kickoff and drove 48 yards in three plays, culminated in a 1-yard run by Wehner. However, New Castle’s defense stood its ground on the conversion run for a 33-0 deficit. Burley was ejected on the second play of the drive after being whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Frustration set in as Michael Bongivengo was picked off by Steve Licht on the ’Canes’ next play.


New Castle finally got on the board when Michael Bongivengo connected with Jajuan Jay on a 60-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-three to cut the deficit to 33-7.

“That was just a hitch that was thrown to the numbers,” the coach said. “Jajuan made a nice move and outran everyone to the end zone.”

Michael Bongivengo recorded a 24-yard touchdown run and freshman quarterback Johnny Matarazzo found sophomore Randy Gillette for a 23-yard scoring pass to account for the other New Castle scores.


Michael Bongivengo, a senior quarterback who holds the program’s single-season passing yardage record, concluded his stellar career with 202 yards through the air on 12-of-24 passing. He tossed one touchdown with four interceptions, while rushing for 46 yards on 11 carries.

“He’s my coach here and he’s my dad at home,” Michael Bongivengo said of playing for his dad. “It was great to have him around. He’s a big part of my life.

“He’s a hell of a coach; just unbelievable.”

New Castle will lose 10 seniors to graduation. Frank Bongivengo Jr. acknowledged the solid job his veterans did this season.

“We lose a tremendous senior class, both academically and athletically,” Frank Bongivengo Jr. said. “It’s going to be tough to recover.

“There’s some tough young kids that are ready to step up and be leaders.”


13 First downs 19

148 Yards Rushing 553

24 Yards Lost 16

124 Net Rushing 537

24 Passes Attempted 4

13 Passes Completed 1

4 Passes Intercepted 0

225 Yards Passing 34

349 Total Yards 571

2-1 Fumbles-Lost 4-3

3-25 Punts-Average 2-34

4-32 Penalties-Yards 2-7

NEW CASTLE 0 0 14 6 — 20

T. JEFFERSON 13 14 13 7 — 47

Scoring plays

THOMAS JEFFERSON — Brian Baldrige, 2-yard run (Matt Sauter kick).

THOMAS JEFFERSON — Baldrige, 61-yard run (kick blocked).

THOMAS JEFFERSON — Brock DeCicco, 34-yard pass from Tyler Wehner (Sauter kick).

THOMAS JEFFERSON — Wehner, 99-yard run (Sauter kick).

THOMAS JEFFERSON — Wehner, 1-yard run (run failed).

NEW CASTLE — Jajuan Jay, 60-yard pass from Michael Bongivengo (Jay kick).

THOMAS JEFFERSON — Wehner, 1-yard run (Sauter kick).

NEW CASTLE — Bongivengo, 24-yard run (Jay kick).

THOMAS JEFFERSON — Baldrige, 1-yard run (Sauter kick).

NEW CASTLE — Randy Gillette, 23-yard pass from Johnny Matarazzo (run failed).

New Castle 0 0 14 6 0 20
Thomas Jefferson 13 14 13 7 0 47
One step short 12/3/16 Neshannock season comes to end 11/27/16 The (im)perfect season 11/19/16 WPIAL championship game 11/18/16 New Castle advances to WPIAL Class 4A title game 11/11/16 Neshannock routs Serra Catholic 11/4/16 Neshannock hosts Serra Catholic 11/4/16 Thriller 10/28/16 Union at Shenango 10/28/16 'Canes stumble; playoff berth on line in finale 10/21/16 New Castle hosts Ringgold on Senior Night 10/21/16 Wilmington falls in battle of unbeatens 10/15/16 Wilmington at Hickory 10/13/16 On the defensive 10/8/16 Neshannock hosts Riverside 10/7/16 New Castle struggles in home loss to Mars 9/30/16 New Castle hosts Mars 9/30/16 'Canes hope to even score against Mars 9/30/16 Stayin' alive 9/23/16 Union hosts Western Beaver 9/23/16 Ground assault 9/17/16 Wilmington hosts Sharpsville 9/16/16 Too many mistakes for Laurel 9/10/16 Riverside travels to Laurel 9/9/16 Neshannock routs North Catholic 9/3/16 Canes quipped 8/31/16 A good mix 8/27/16 Black Friday 11/14/15 Wilmington vs. Cambridge Springs 11/13/15 Defense steps up for Lancers 11/7/15 Neshannock vs. Bentworth 11/5/15 No doubt about it 10/31/15 Neshannock vs. Union 10/30/15 Crowning effort 10/24/15 Shenango vs. Riverside 10/23/15 Playoff hopes dashed 10/17/15 Laurel vs. Beaver 10/16/15 A costly brawl 10/10/15 New Castle vs. Central Valley 10/9/15 Inching closer 10/3/15 Union vs. Shenango 10/2/15 'They had us on our heels' 9/26/15 South Side Beaver at Union 9/25/15 Shootout 9/19/15 Neshannock at Riverside 9/18/15 Pivotal 9/13/15 Neshannock, Shenango clash Saturday 9/11/15 Under the weather 9/5/15 New Brighton at Laurel 9/4/15 Heartbreaker 11/15/14 Neshannock vs. Clairton 11/14/14 Weathering the storm 11/8/14 Neshannock vs. Jeannette 11/7/14 Fast and furious 11/1/14 Springdale at Shenango 10/31/14 Opportunity lost 10/25/14 Sharpsville at Wilmington 10/24/14 One for the books 10/18/14 Ellwood City at Laurel 10/17/14 Ground war 10/11/14 Ellwood City at Mohawk 10/10/14 Drenched with happiness 10/4/14 South Side Beaver at Shenango 10/3/14 The perfect storm 9/27/14 Moon at New Castle 9/26/14 Coming up short 9/20/14 West Middlesex at Wilmington 9/19/14 Back in the saddle 9/13/14 Neshannock at Riverside 9/12/14 Tough act to follow 9/6/14 New Brighton at Ellwood City 9/5/14 'We will get better' 8/30/14 West Allegheny vs. New Castle 8/29/14 End of the road 11/16/13 Neshannnock vs. North Catholic 11/15/13 'Sharks in a frenzy' 11/9/13 Lancers advance to WPIAL semifinals 11/9/13 Neshannock vs. Monessen 11/8/13 The best defense 11/2/13 Neshannock vs. Brentwood 11/1/13 'We battled to the end' 10/26/13 New Brighton at Mohawk 10/25/13 Costly blunders 10/19/13 Sto-Rox at Laurel 10/18/13 West Allegheny rallies in fourth to defeat 'Canes 10/12/13 West Allegheny at New Castle 10/11/13 Mohawk wins thriller behind McConahy, Barber 10/5/13 Ellwood City at Mohawk 10/4/13 Spartans ride big second half to win over Union 9/28/13 Laurel at Union 9/27/13 Burkes stars as Lancers escape upset bid 9/21/13 Shenango at Neshannock 9/20/13 So close ... 9/13/13 Neshannock at Sto-Rox 9/12/13 Run to glory 9/7/13 Laurel at Neshannock 9/6/13 Dando, Spartans roll over South Side Beaver 9/5/13 South Side Beaver vs. Laurel 8/30/13 Turnovers spell doom for Wilmington in D-10 title game 11/26/12 Wilmington vs. Hickory 11/24/12 Caught in a 'Bear' trap 11/17/12 Neshannock vs. Clairton in WPIAL Class A semifinals 11/15/12 Neshannock advances 11/10/12 Neshannock vs. Monessen 11/9/12 Neshannock vs. Monessen 11/9/12 Neshannock vs. Monessen 11/8/12 Neshannock advances 11/3/12 Neshannock vs. Jefferson-Morgan 11/2/12 Down and out 10/27/12 New Castle at Hopewell 10/26/12 Pugh paces Wilmington to win over Sharon 10/22/12 Wilmington vs. Sharon 10/19/12 Mohawk falls to Beaver 10/13/12 Beaver vs. Mohawk 10/12/12 ‘We tip our hats to them’ 10/8/12 Neshannock at Rochester 10/5/12 Big-play display for Union 9/29/12 Union vs. Laurel 9/28/12 Lancers rout Shenango for fourth win 9/24/12 Blend of old, new sparks Union win 9/22/12 Union hosts Western Beaver 9/21/12 ’Hounds rise up for win over Hickory 9/15/12 Wilmington vs. Hickory 9/14/12 Milestone victory 9/10/12 New Castle at Riverside 9/7/12 699 and counting 9/1/12 New Castle vs. Central Valley 8/31/12 Turnovers lead to season-ending loss for Wilmington 11/21/11 Wilmington vs. General McLane 11/17/11 End of the dream 11/12/11 Ellwood vs. Greensburg Central 11/11/11 Ellwood advances 11/5/11 Ellwood City vs. Freeport 11/4/11 Mixed reviews 10/29/11 New Castle vs. Blackhawk 10/28/11 Wilmington rolls to Region 3 title 10/22/11 Wilmington vs. Sharon 10/21/11 It's Polka time 10/15/11 Ellwood City vs. Laurel 10/14/11 Aliquippa cruises past Ellwood City 10/8/11 Aliquippa vs. Ellwood City 10/7/11 Wilmington holds on for thrilling win over Hickory 10/1/11 Wilmington vs. Hickory 9/30/11 Union pulls away for win over South Side Beaver 9/24/11 South Side Beaver at Union 9/23/11 Big plays spell doom for New Castle 9/17/11 Central Valley vs. New Castle 9/16/11 Defense delivers for Neshannock 9/10/11 Defense delivers for Neshannock 9/10/11 Neshannock vs. Serra Catholic 9/9/11 New Castle suffers disappointing loss in opener 9/3/11 New Castle vs. Butler 9/2/11 Sharon ends Wilmington’s dominance 11/22/10 ‘Underdog’ Greyhounds move on to a rematch with Sharon 11/15/10 Wilmington vs. North East 11/12/10 Tough lesson 11/6/10 WPIAL Playoffs: Ellwood vs. South Fayette 11/5/10 Wolverines earn playoff berth 10/30/10 Riverside at Ellwood City 10/29/10 'Hounds lose heartbreaker 10/23/10 Wilmington at Sharon 10/22/10 Wolverines outlast Spartans 10/16/10 Laurel at Ellwood City 10/15/10 'Canes fall to Parkway foe Hopewell 10/9/10 New Castle to battle Hopewell 10/8/10 Lancers fall to Western Beaver 10/2/10 Western Beaver at Neshannock 10/1/10 Wolverines fall to Beaver 9/25/10 Beaver at Ellwood City 9/24/10 Shenango runs past South Side 9/20/10 Greyhounds lay hammer down on Greenville 9/11/10 Wilmington vs. Greenville 9/10/10 New Castle comes through 9/4/10 New Castle vs. Butler 9/4/10 Memorable run ends for Wilmington football team 12/14/09 Wilmington vs. Greensburg Catholic 12/11/09 Wilmington survives close call against Forest Hills 12/4/09 Wilmington vs. Forest Hills 12/4/09 Wilmington blanks Sharon 11/28/09 Wilmington vs. Sharon 11/27/09 Laurel season ends with setback 11/21/09 Laurel vs. Clairton in WPIAL semifinals 11/20/09 West Allegheny ends New Castle’s season 11/14/09 New Castle vs. West Allegheny 11/13/09 New Castle holds off Greensburg Salem 11/7/09 New Castle at Greensburg Salem 11/6/09 Wilmington routs Slippery Rock 10/30/09 Slippery Rock at Wilmington 10/30/09 Shenango blanks Union 10/24/09 Shenango at Union 10/23/09 Spartans overwhelm Monaca 10/17/09 Monaca at Laurel 10/16/09 Mohawk outlasts Ellwood City 10/10/09 Mohawk at Ellwood City 10/9/09 Rochester turns back Laurel in battle of unbeatens 10/3/09 Laurel at Rochester 10/2/09 Laurel opportunistic against Neshannock 9/26/09 Neshannock at Laurel 9/25/09 New Castle ends streak against Blackhawk 9/19/09 New Castle hosts Blackhawk 9/18/09 New Castle passes test against Indiana 9/12/09 Indiana at New Castle 9/11/09 Ellwood comes up short against Freedom 9/5/09 Freedom at Ellwood 9/4/09 Wilmington wins PIAA title! 12/15/08 'Hounds headed for Hershey 12/6/08 Wilmington vs. Aliquippa 12/5/08 Wilmington holds off Martinsburg Central 11/29/08 Wilmington edges Slippery Rock for District 10 title 11/24/08 "Down and Out" 11/19/08 New Castle outlasts Indiana in quarterfinals 11/8/08 New Castle vs. Indiana 11/7/08 New Castle vs. Indiana 11/6/08 New Castle routs Franklin Regional 11/1/08 Franklin Regional at New Castle 11/1/08 Laurel wins, but not enough 10/25/08 Shenango at Laurel 10/25/08 New Castle routs Ambridge 10/18/08 Ambridge at New Castle 10/18/08 Rochester blanks Neshannock 10/11/08 Wilmington handles Sharon 10/4/08 South Side Beaver blanks Neshannock 9/27/08 Neshannock vs. South Side Beaver 9/27/08 Neshannock holds off Laurel 9/20/08 Rochester blanks Union 9/13/08 Union-Rochester 9/12/08 Mohawk routs New Brighton 9/6/08 Butler outlasts New Castle 8/30/08
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