South Fayette challenges Aliquippa for championship
After easily dispatching their semifinal opponents, No. 1 and No. 2 will battle for the WPIAL Class AA football title at 5 p.m. Nov. 23 at Heinz Field.
For the sixth year in a row, Aliquippa returns to the finals. The top-seeded and undefeated Quips have won a district-record 15 titles, including championships the past two years. They raised their overall record to 12-0 with a 57-14 victory over Beaver in a semifinal game played last Friday night at Moe Rubenstein Field in Ambridge.
Meanwhile, South Fayette is making its fourth appearance in the district finals and first since 2010, when the Lions beat the Quips, 19-6. The Lions also are unbeaten in 12 contests, including their 35-7 triumph over Beaver Falls in their semifinal clash played at Montour.
“You get to Heinz Field and that’s the pinnacle when you are a WPIAL player and a kid growing up,” said SF head coach Joe Rossi. “We are pretty excited to be back.”
The Lions are back, in part, because of a quarterback named Brumbaugh.
In 2010, Christian Brumbaugh engineered South Fayette’s triumph. Before heading to the College of William and Mary, he also led the Lions to the PIAA finals and a state runner-up showing.
Today, Brett Brumbaugh is at the controls. On track to break his brother’s records, the junior has completed 172 of 267 passes for 2,781 yards and 31 TDs. Against the Tigers, who finished the season 9-3 overall, he completed 16 of 25 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Brumbaugh also rushed for a 1-yard score.
As they have all season, Conner Beck and Justin Watson again proved Brumbaugh’s top targets. Each hauled in a scoring strike; Beck’s measured 12 yards and Watson’s 33. Each pulled in six passes, Beck for 126 yards and Watson for 89.
On the year, Beck has 60 receptions for 789 yards. Watson has 51 grabs for 1,168 yards. He ranks second on the team in scoring with 15 TDs.
While Zach Walker tacked on two 1-yard TD runs against the Tigers, Grant Fetchet, Hunter Hayes and J.J. Walker spearhead the Lions’ ground game. Fetchet, who has a team-high 19 TDs, is the lone 1,000-yard rusher on the club. Hayes, however, averages nine yards a carry and Walker has scored 14 times.
Meanwhile, the Walkers spearhead a defense that limited the Tigers to 196 total yards, 106 on the ground, and intercepted two passes by Ryan Schmider and Beck. J.J. has 112 tackles and Zach follows with 99. Ben Berkovitz leads the team in sacks with eight, followed by Zack Walker with six.
SF has racked up five shutouts this season. While they have rolled up 564 points, the Lions have also limited the opposition to 47 points or 5.0 a game, the lowest in the entire WPIAL.
“I’m proud of this defense,” said Rossi.
Meanwhile, the Quips nearly mirror the Lions. They have scored 567 points while surrendering 123. They have also played Beaver Falls, beating the Tigers, 34-28, Oct. 18 at Geneva College to wrap up the Midwestern Conference.
In the Quips’ win against Beaver, Terry Swanson rolled up 141 yards rushing and two TDs of 38 and 31 yards. On the year, Swanson is the team’s top rusher with 1,532 yards on 117 carries for a 13.1-yard average. He has scored 20 TDs.
Darren Fields completed 7 of 11 passes for 143 yards and TD strikes of 11 and 19 yards to Patrick Anderson. Fields is 66 of 94 for 1,097 yards and 16 scores. Anderson is just one of Fields’ targets. His others are Jyler Turner and the versatile Dravon Henry.
Henry also rushed for two scores of 9 and 36 yards. He finished with 94 yards on 13 carries. In addition to averaging over 11 yards a catch, Henry has rushed for 1,172 yards and a team-high 26 touchdowns. He has scored 18 extra points to lead the team in scoring.
Anthony Barton also scored on a 7-yard scamper and Marquese Moore returned a fumble 55 yards to complete Aliquippa’s scoring.
With Swanson and Henry in the backfield, Aliquippa boasts the first players in the WPIAL on the same team to have 4,000 career rushing yards.
With all their weapons, Rossi understands that the Quips pose a formidable foe for his Lions. However, South Fayette is embracing the challenge.
“Double-A football goes through Aliquippa,” he said. “We had a great game with them,” Rossi noted of the 2010 final, “and hopefully another great opportunity to meet with them. It will be a great match-up.”