Beck proves top dog for South Fayette
Beck fights to make South Fayette a champion
Conner Beck epitomizes the adage about the combatants in a dogfight. For with Beck, who is generously listed on the South Fayette football roster as standing 6 feet tall and weighing 175 pounds, it truly isn’t the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog that matters.
Hampered by a hip flexor injury suffered in a semifinal win over Beaver Falls, Beck proved the hero for South Fayette as the Lions roared past Aliquippa, 34-28, in the WPIAL Class AA championship contest at Heinz Field.
“The toughness of the kid is tremendous,” head coach Joe Rossi said of Beck. “I can’t say enough about the kid who didn’t practice, couldn’t practice, couldn’t walk. We didn’t know if he would play.”
No matter what, Beck was playing. “I knew I wasn’t going to miss playing at Heinz Field. That’s been my dream since the beginning of the season,” he said.
Few, however, imagined Beck would prove the hero against the Quips, who were undefeated and had won a record 15 district crowns, including the past two titles.
With 2:48 to play, Beck hauled in the game-winning pass from Brett Brumbaugh. He twisted, turned and maneuvered his way over the goal line. “I knew I was close. I knew I had to reach it,” Beck said of the end zone.”
Panic though set in and Beck said that he ‘freaked out’ when Dravon Henry knocked the ball loose and Jyier Turner pounced on the apparent fumble. However, the umpire had already signaled a touchdown.
Quips’ head coach Mike Zmijanac said of the play, “I have no idea but it actually appeared to me that it should have been an incomplete pass. But, I’m not an official. These guys have a tough enough job with Jumbotrons and our parsing every call they make.
Rossi commented that he couldn’t see the official and that he was yelling to cover the ball. “But it was definitely across (the goal line.)”
Rossi also knew if anybody on his team could make that play, it definitely was Beck. “He’s an unbelievable player,” Rossi said.
Beck certainly was against the Quips and he certainly has been throughout the Lions’ 13-0 season. He and Justin Watson are Brumbaugh’s top targets on offense.
While Brumbaugh completed 16 of 35 passes for 315 yards and two TDs against the Quips, the majority of the throws went to Beck and Watson. In the championship game, Beck caught five passes for 112 yards while Watson, hauled in six aerials for 130 additional yards. Each has a TD reception, Watson’s a 68-yard strike pulled SF to within, 8-7 with 3:05 left in the first frame.
For the year, Beck has 864 yards receiving and nine scores while Watson has 1,335 yards and 17 TDs.
While Beck is part of an offense that has racked up 400 points this fall, he also excels in the secondary on a defensive unit that has surrendered only 46 points and recorded five shutouts. While he ranks third, behind the Walker brothers, J.J. and Zach, in tackles, Beck finished with 11 tackles and an interception against the Quips. J.J. Walker led with 13 tackles while Zach Walker and Bryce Christoff followed with eight each.
Beck and his defensive unit came up big several times against the Quips, who had scored 595 yards during the 2013 campaign and featured Terrry Swanson, who rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns.
The Lions forced the Quips into nine penalties, mostly procedures, for 51 yards. They also stopped the high-powered offense five times on fourth-down attempts. The biggest stop occurred just at the 2-yard line before halftime and preserved SF’s 17-16 lead.
“The stop before halftime was crucial,” Rossi said.
“We didn’t get it done when we had to,” Zmijanac agreed.
Particularly when the Lions took the lead for good, the Quips could not muster a retort. Roman Denson and Beck intercepted their final two possessions to seal the Lions’ fourth title in school history.
Beck’s pick like his game-winning TD were just part of him doing his job.
“I knew I had to make a play,” said the senior. “We needed one and I just went up for it and caught it.”