South Fayette faces Imhotep Charter in state final
When South Fayette (14-0) faces Imhotep Charter (12-2) at noon Dec. 14 in the PIAA Class AA football championship game at Hersheypark Stadium, the Lions task is simple. Capture lightning in a bottle.
Of the Panthers, who boast 18 Division I prospects from sophomores through seniors, SF head coach Joe Rossi said, “They are our biggest challenge of the year, as they should be for a state final.
“They have flat out speed,” he added quickly. “We cannot give up the big play.”
For, like lightning, the Panthers kill when they strike. Just ask Berks Catholic. The Panthers used three big plays to end Berks Catholic’s undefeated season and state championship hopes. In last week’s 20-0 PIAA semifinal, Tyliek Raynor rushed four times for 131 yards and two scores while DeAndre Scott rushed once for a 75-yard touchdown.
Imhotep rolled up 339 yards rushing against Berks Catholic. The Panthers average 302.6 yards a game on the ground. They have accumulated 4,237 yards and 56 touchdowns rushing this season. They average 8.51 yards per carry.
While junior Nasir Bonner leads the Imhotep ground game with 1,149 yards and 15 scores, Raynor follows with 902 yards and 13 TDs. The 6-0, 170-pound sophomore averages 9.5 yards per carry. Another sophomore, Mike Waters has 892 yards on 106 carries for an 8.42 average and 12 scores.
“Eighty-five percent of the time, they run the football,” Rossi said.
Imhotep, however, boasts a quarterback (Andre Dreuitt) that has passed for 1,485 yards and 22 touchdowns. Dreuitt’s top target is Denniston (DJ) Moore. The 6-1, 180-pound junior has 38 catches for 787 yards and 11 scores. With 40 extra points, he leads the team in scoring with 118 points.
“Their quarterback and receiver are nice players but they normally rotate four to five running backs into the game,” said Rossi. “So we have to find a way to stop them and not give up the big play.”
The Panthers also have a defense that can stop a big-play offense. Against Berks Catholic, Shaka Toney recorded three sacks and Quadeem Starks picked off a pass.
For the season, Imhotep has picked off 18 passes, a team-high six by Starks. Scott, who is an Arizona State University recruit, has three picks to go along with 40 tackles.
Additionally, Imhotep has recorded 35 sacks. Tyrone Barge ranks first with seven followed by Toney and Qwamere Wright-Downing, each with six. The defense also shares the wealth in tackles, with nine players with 30 or more. Steven Denby leads with 67.
“Imhotep has good speed. They make big plays and they are big up front,” Rossi said.
Yet, there is hope for the Lions. “I think we have enough speed and talent to play with them,” added Rossi.
Indeed, the Lions boast one of the best quarterback-wide receiver combinations in the state.
While he did not complete a scoring strike in SF’s 23-20 win against Hickory in a PIAA semifnal game at Slippery Rock University, Brett Brumbaugh connected on 22 of 37 passes for 175 yards in the game. The junior signal caller has passed for 3,618 yards and 38 touchdowns this fall.
A 6-3, 195-pound senior, who is bound for Penn, Justin Watson leads the Lions with 1,442 yards receiving and 20 touchdowns. He needs 144 yards to break the WPIAL’s single-season record.
Conner Beck is Brumbaugh’s other top target. He has 1,057 yards receiving and 10 TDs. Beck caught a two-point conversion pass and recovered an onside kick to preserve the Lions’ victory against Hickory, which finished the season at 12-2 overall.
While noted for its aerial attack, South Fayette beat the Hornets on the ground and with its stingy defense. Grant Fetchet rushed for 161 yards on 21 carries. With his two scores of 4 and 37 yards, he topped 20 TDs for the season and punched the Lions’ ticket to Hershey. The senior has 1,331 yards rushing.
JJ Walker, who had a TD against Hickory, follows Fetchet with 19 rushing scores. Hunter Hayes has contributed four scores on the ground for the Lions, who are 15-0 overall.
Spencer Girman, Anthony Davidson, Zach Walker and Ben Berkovitz provide a strong front for the Lions. They pressured Hickory into a safety and they also have paved the way for South Fayette’s ground attack. Berkovitz leads the team with nine sacks; Walker follows with eight and Davidson has four. The Walker brothers are the top tacklers with JJ racking up 149 and Zach recording 135. Beck and Ryan Schmider, who recovered a fumble against Hickory, followed with 78 and 62 tackles.
Roman Denson is questionable for the state final. He injured his ankle returning the opening kickoff of the game against Hickory. The junior leads the SF secondary with four interceptions. Hayden Orler also has four picks while Schmider and Zach Walker have three and two respectively.