South Fayette hosts Seton in showdown

Published Sep 23, 2013 at 2:04 pm (Updated Sep 23, 2013 at 2:04 pm)

In the classrooms and hallways as well as on the practice fields at Seton-La Salle and South Fayette, it’s a football week and all thoughts are on Lions and Rebels as the two teams prepare for the clash of the Century Conference. The two undefeated clubs square off at 7 p.m. Sept. 27 at South Fayette.

“This is what high school football is supposed to be; two teams going at it. If you are not ready to play this game, then,” trailed off SLS skipper Greg Perry.

Rival coach Joe Rossi concurred. “It’s what high school football is all about,” he emphasized. “The preparation. The whole week in school and in practice; there’s the excitement, the hype and the build-up for Friday night. We always have a great game every year that we have played them.”

Friday will be no exception as both teams enter the fray with 4-0 records. And though both clubs still must play unbeaten Quaker Valley, they know the winner emerges as the eventual conference champion. Such has been the recent history.

The Lions have won three of the past four league titles and they beat the Rebels on their home turf each time: 21-14 in 2009 to preserve an unblemished regular season; 42-35 in 2010 when SF won the WPIAL crown and finished second in the state; and 51-12 in 2012 when the Lions ran the table in the conference and reached the district semifinals.

Although neither won the conference in 2007 and 2008, SLS won the bout with the Lions. In 2011, when the Rebels won the division, they topped the Lions, 33-10, at South Fayette.

With that fact in mind, Perry is unhappy playing on the road. At Baldwin, one of SLS’s playing sites, the stadium not only served as the scene of the 51-12 debacle, but also proved the place for the Rebels’ recent struggle, a 28-7 victory over Steel Valley. In the Sept. 20 contest, the Ironmen, whom the Lions demolished only a week prior, 42-7, led, 7-0, until the first play of the fourth quarter.

“We don’t play well here,” Perry admitted of Baldwin. “We needed a win and we got it,” he said of Steel Valley. “We’ll take them any way we can get them.

“They’ve won over here and we’ve won there at South Fayette,” he continued. “So that helps.”

Familiarity aids the teams, too.

“We are very familiar with them and they with us. The last four years it has been the two of us for the conference championship,” Perry said.

“It’s always a great game,” agreed Rossi. “We had our key game against Steel Valley and it’s sure a physical test when you play them. I’m sure they (SLS) are sore from their game but when it comes around to game day, they’ll be ready to roll from there.”

Since opening day, the Lions have been rolling. Before blasting the Ironmen, they blanked Keystone Oaks, 59-0, and whipped McGuffey, 41-14. Last week, South Fayette demolished Burgettstown, 74-7.

In the victory, Brett Brumbaugh completed 7 of 9 passes for 127 yards and four scoring strikes; two to Justin Watson (1 and 55 yards), and one each to Hayden Orler (11 yards) and Conner Beck (16 yards).

The junior has started since his freshman year and threw for 2,283 yards and 37 scores last year. However, Brumbaugh has completed 48 of 76 aerials for 681 yards and nine scores this fall.

“Brett has done all that we have expected of him. He doesn’t have a lot of throws due to the scores we have put up in our games,” explained Rossi. “That’s always a concern going into a game like SLS. But, Brett’s a great player. He makes great plays and he has great players around him.”

Brumbaugh and all his weapons are of primary concern to the Rebels.

“They are a great team and I think we are okay,” Perry said. “We have to shut Brett down and play good defense. Once they complete a pass, we can’t let them get the extra yardage.”

Extra yardage is the forte of receivers like Watson and company. The University of Pennsylvania recruit leads with 313 reception yards and five scores followed by Beck (135 yards, 2 TDs).

Even though they graduated Zach Challingsworth, SF has been a well-oiled machine on offense. The Pitt freshman not only led the Lions in receiving for two seasons, he punted, returned kicks and excelled in the defensive secondary.

In the win over the Blue Devils, however, Roman Denson returned the opening kickoff 87 yards for the first of 12 touchdowns, seven in the first frame. Zach Walker, Grant Fetchet and Nick Ponikvar rushed for scores of 4, 6 and 77 yards and Jack Relihan returned an interception 96 yards for another TD before intermission.

In the second half, SF played most of its reserves. Mike Speca, who earlier in the game tossed a 14-yard TD to Dan Lombardi, rushed for a 76-yard score. Jake McKee also ran for a 9-yard touchdown.

Brian Coyne kicked seven extra points. Nathan Faux and Dan Trimbur also contributed successful PATs.

“We knew our offense would be good with our numbers returning and we had guys who have stepped up after we lost Challingsworth,” Rossi explained. “We are particularly pleased with the backs. Our running game has come on.”

Fetchet is the top rusher with 468 yards and eight scores followed by Hunter Hayes (152 yards, 1 TD).

Decimated by graduation, the defense has excelled for the Lions, who are allowing only 100 yards of offense and seven points per game. Guys such as Orler, who moved from corner to outside linebacker, Jared and Zach Walker at the inside slots, Beck and Ben Berkovitz on the line have been outstanding. The Walker brothers are the leading tacklers while Berkovitz is the sack man, followed by Bryce Christoff.

Rossi said that he is particularly pleased with his defense because of its lack of experience.

“We lost a lot of starters,” he explained, “but I am definitely pleased with the defense. Those guys rally around the football. Orler is making plays. He’s been phenomenal as have been the Walker brothers.. Roman is making players and Conner is one of our best defensive players. Ben is just so tough to block. He’s done a good job, too.”

SLS, like the Lions, have done a good job on defense but then the Rebels had nine veterans return from last year’s 8-2 squad. Defense has held SLS in games until the offense has gotten on track. Such was the case against Steel Valley as the Rebels did not start clicking until exploding for all 28 points in the fourth frame.

Brandon Aiello plunged into the end zone for a 1-yard score to start the fourth quarter. Despite bobbling the hand-off and nearly fumbling, Tyler Perone turned a shaky play into a 62-yard mad dash into the end for the second score with 6:38 to play. Dom DelGreco followed with a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown before James Ross picked off a pass and returned it 8 yards into the end zone with 38.7 seconds to play.

Billy Jackson, Jacob Blahut and Mike Kalnas, on defense, helped spark the Rebels recovery.

“We have a senior group and we had to get at them at halftime,” explained Perry. “Steel Valley played well. Run is what they do well and we made some adjustments and slowed them down in the second half. The offense sputtered around a bit but the kids made the plays when they needed to. Now it’s on to week five.

Heading into week five of Century Conference action: Perone ranks among the top three passers in the WPIAL with over 800 yards. His top targets include Danzel McKinley-Lewis, Tom Rizza and Ricky Mellick.

“I’m anticipating a good game. Everybody is,” Perry continued. “It could come down to who has the ball last and who makes the big plays.”

In other words, South Fayette versus Seton-La Salle this Friday will be the epitome of the classic high school football game.

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