SF, USC headline Almanac Premier Pigskin Performers

Published Dec 20, 2013 at 2:43 pm (Updated Dec 20, 2013 at 2:43 pm)

Historic best described the 2013 football campaign as South Fayette and Upper St. Clair ruled the gridiron. Both ran the table during the regular season.

While injuries derailed USC’s championship chances, SF steamrolled to three titles, including the school’s first-ever state banner. The Lions posted a perfect 16-0 record and added a Century Conference plaque and a WPIAL trophy to its loot. Meanwhile the Panthers captured the Southeastern Conference with a 9-0 record. USC reached the district semifinals before falling to Woodland Hills and finishing 11-1 on the year.

With their successes this season, it comes as no surprise that SF and USC dominate The Almanac’s annual Premier Pigskin Performers list. The Lions grabbed MVP honors with record-setting tandem Brett Brumbaugh and Justin Watson (see related article) as well as Coach of the Year accolades with Joe Rossi.

In seven seasons at the helm, Joe Rossi guided South Fayette to the pinnacle of success and a spot on everybody’s Coach of the Year list, including the Associated Press All-State squad. During his tenure with the Lions, Rossi has racked up a 69-16 record that includes this year’s state title, the first in the school’s history.

In addition, the Chartiers Valley High School and West Liberty University graduate gave the program its second WPIAL championship in four years. Both times, the Lions beat Aliquippa, including this year’s dramatic 34-28 finish on Nov. 23 at Heinz Field. SF also reached the PIAA finals in 2010 but avenged that 50-14 defeat to West Philadelphia Catholic, by waxing another District 12 club, Imhotep Charter, 41-0, in this year’s championship contest played Dec. 15 at Hersheypark Stadium.

Rossi, who is a physical education teacher at the middle school, started his coaching career as an assistant at Carrolton High School in Ohio. He toiled five seasons at Riverview before landing the job at South Fayette in time for the 2007 campaign. He designed a defense that registered six shutouts this season and adopted a spread offense that produced a record combination.

Brett Brumbaugh

Though just a junior, Brett Brumbaugh is on pace to shatter the all-time WPIAL passing record. His brother, Christian, set the mark in 2010 but it was broken this year by Sto-Rox signal caller Lenny Williams. Brumbaugh has 7,325 career yards. He needs approximately 1,200 yards to break the record next year.

The 6-4, 200-pound signal caller completed 260 of his 379 attempts for 3,917 yards and 41 touchdowns. He set the single-season record for passing yards in the WPIAL when he completed 18 of 25 of his passes for 299 yards and three scores in the PIAA championship game. In addition to earning all-conference honors, Brumbaugh capped his year by netting first-team, all-state recognition as well as the Pennsylvania Sports Writers Association’s Class AA Player of the Year.

Justin Watson

Brumbaugh’s top target, Justin Watson also garnered all-state accolades and set new district standards for receivers. The 6-3, 195-pound senior shattered the WPIAL record for receiving yards (1,545) set by Carmen Connolly of Seton-La Salle. Watson finished the year with 1,568 yards on 73 receptions. He scored 22 touchdowns. A do-it-all performer, who returned punts and kickoffs, Watson also dominated the defensive side of the ball. In the secondary, he compiled 54 tackles, 36 of the solo. He had 10 deflections and three sacks to go along with one fumble recovery. Watson will play football at the University of Pennsylvania and study business at the Wharton School.

Grant Fetchet

South Fayette didn’t just pass the football this season. The Lions did boast a dominate rushing attack thanks to Grant Fetchet. The 5-11, 170-pound senior led the ground game with 1,389 yards rushing on 186 carries. He scored 21 touchdowns. He averaged 7.5 yards a carry and 13.1 yards per pass reception. Fetchet also played defense, posting 12 solo tackles and six assisted takedowns. A standout wrestler, who was 97-40 heading into this winter’s action, Fetchet hopes to again return to Hershey for the PIAA championships. The WPIAL bronze medalist was a state qualifier on the mats last year.

Ben Berkovitz

This 6-2, 225-pound senior anchored the defensive line for the Lions. He led the team with 10 sacks and accumulated 64 tackles. He forced two fumbles, recovered two fumbles and was credited with a safety. The all-conference lineman also contributed to SF’s six shutouts this season, including four in a row against Riverside, South Park, South Allegheny and Greensburg Central Catholic.

Jared (JJ) Walker

This 5-9, 180-pound linebacker led the Lions in tackles with 159 (76 solo, 83 assisted). He managed 16 tackles for losses of 76 yards. The senior recorded six sacks, three deflections and one fumble recovery. In addition to contributing to six shutouts on defense, Walker also filled in at running back. He rushed for 332 yards and contributed 20 touchdowns to an offense that produced 719 points.

Zach Walker

This 5-11, 210-pound linebacker ranked second on the squad with 144 tackles (76 solo, 68 assisted). He had 12 tackles for losses, measuring 55 yards. He had eight sacks to go along with two fumble recoveries and one interception. Just a junior, Walker helped anchor a defense that produced six shutouts and allowed 129 points, an average of only 8.1 per game.

Conner Beck

This 6-0, 175-pound senior dominated both sides of the ball for South Fayette. On offense, he was the team’s second-leading receiver with 1,130 yards on 84 catches. He scored 10 times. As a defensive back, he picked off three passes, including one for a touchdown in the PIAA championship game. Beck registered 86 tackles (57 solo, 29 assisted). He had the game-winning touchdown in the WPIAL championship game, where he also finished with five receptions for 112 yards. On special teams, Beck averaged 19.7 yards per kickoff return and 16.8 yards per punt return.

Trevor Morrow

This 6-0, 200-pound tailback led Upper St. Clair’s rushing attack. Trevor Morrow gained 1,126 yards on 162 carries for a 6.8-yard average. The senior also led the Panthers in scoring with 17 touchdowns for 102 points. Morrow gained second-team all-conference laurels behind Miles Sanders from Woodland Hills and Nick Barca from Baldwin.

Ben Huss

A Division 1 recruit, this 6-3, 275-pound tackle gained first-team all-conference honors as well as all-state acclaim. The senior anchored an offensive line that produced both a 1,000-yard passer as well as a 1,000-yard rusher. He also was a mainstay on a defense that posted six shutouts, including five in row from Sept. 6 through Oct. 4. Ben Huss posted 46 tackles and added nine more for losses. He also had four sacks. “(No. 66) was one of the best players I saw this season,” said rival coach Jeff Metheny from Bethel Park.

Zack Morris

This 6-0, 280-pound senior played on the same side of Huss and created a strong front through which the Upper St. Clair running back plowed. A Division I prospect, he also gained first-team all-conference honors at offensive guard. Morris also played on the defensive line, managing 25 tackles. He had five more for losses and one sack.

Joe Pateras

For three years, Upper St. Clair didn’t need to worry about who would center its offensive line because Austin Park handled the position commendable. But he graduated. Joe Pateras, however, stepped in and filled the vacancy more than admirable. The 5-11, 225-pound senior performed his duties so well that he gained first-team all-conference honors. Pateras also saw time on the defensive line for the Panthers, who finished 11-1 overall after winning a third straight conference championships.

Mac Pope

A versatile performer, Mac Pope played many positions for the Panthers that when he sustained a knee injury in a playoff win against North Allegheny, USC’s championship hopes faded. A powerful fullback, he rushed for 319 yards on 54 carries for a 5.9-yard average. He scored 12 touchdowns. He had eight receptions for 188 yards and two more scores. An all-conference defensive end, first team laurels, Pope managed 3.5 sacks. He had 17 tackles on a defense that allowed just 7.8 points per game. While Pope was also “one of the best players” that Bethel Park head coach Jeff Metheny say, Jim Render respected his long-term committed. An “MVP” type, “Mac was great for three years at the highest level of western Pennsylvania,” said Render.

Robert Plummer

This 6-0, 225-pound senior gained all-conference honors for his defensive line play at Upper St. Clair. Robert Plummer anchored a unit that posted six shutouts in nine regular season games. The Panthers allowed just 94 points all season, permitting the opponents just 7.8 per game. He led the team in hurries, registered 3.5 sacks, nine tackles for losses and 35 total tackles.

Kyle Page

This 5-11, 180-pound senior captained the Panthers’ defense. Kyle Page led a unit that posted six shutouts, five of them in row, during the regular season. He ranked No. 1 in tackles with 88. He managed eight tackles for losses and ranked second on the club with 4.5 sacks. He forced one fumble and recovered another for USC, which finished the season at 11-1. For his efforts, Page garnered first-team, all-conference honors.

Joe Repischak

This 6-3, 190-pound senior excelled on both sides of the ball. Joe Repischak quarterbacked Upper St. Clair to its third straight Southeastern Conference championship. He completed 78 of 127 aerials for 1,411 yards and seven scores. He was intercepted only four times. Additionally, he rushed for eight touchdowns. Repischak, however, earned acclaim as one of the conference’s top linebackers. He recorded 43 tackles, managed eight more for losses. Repischak garnered high praise from his adversary when Mt. Lebanon head coach Mike Melnyk dubbed him “a dominant linebacker for the best defense around. “He also played a sound quarterback, made good decisions, threw efficiently, and ran effectively,” Melnyk added.

Morgan Lee

This 5-11, 185-pound senior excelled as a defensive back and a flanker for the Panthers. Morgan Lee picked up 53 tackles and intercepted one pass. He ranked No. 2 on the team in receptions with 15 grabs for 315 yards. Additionally, he averaged 10.4 yards per carry and scored two rushing touchdowns. An all-conference defensive back, Lee also excelled on special teams. He returned 16 punts for 310 yards.

Michael Grimm

This 6-6, 308-pound senior recently earned first-team all-state accolades for his play at offensive tackle. The Pitt recruit dominated both sides of the line for Bethel Park, which finished 6-4 overall and third in the Southeastern Conference behind USC and Woodland Hills. Grimm also gained all-conference, first-team laurels. “He’s strong and athletic,” said head coach Jeff Metheny. “Mike was a solid high school player. He had the ability to hand other teams’ best players.”

Ryan Sosnak

This 6-3, 290-pound senior gained all-conference honors for his play on the defensive line for the Hawks. He anchored a unit that surrendered 17.6 points per game and advanced to the WPIAL Quad-A playoffs, falling in the first round to North Allegheny. Sosnak was also a starter on the offensive line for the Hawks, who finished 6-2 in the Southeastern Conference but 6-4 overall. Sosnak is a member of the Bethel Park boys’ varsity basketball team this winter.

Danny Emma

This 5-8, 159 senior earned first-team acclaim on the Southeastern Conference squad for his play at defensive back. He excelled on a defense that recorded three shutouts against Plum, Canon-McMillan and Peters Township. He also performed well on a unit that surrendered 17.6 points per game. “He’s a great player,” said head coach Jeff Metheny. “Nobody knew much about him (until this year). He’s a tremendous football player.”

Troy Apke

This 6-2, 190-pound Penn State recruit recently was named to the all-state team. He had also claimed first-team all-conference recognition. Troy Apke ranked No. 2 in the league with 40 receptions for 748 yards and seven scores. He also had one rushing and one kickoff return for touchdowns. The senior led Mt. Lebanon in tackles with 59, one interception and four pass breakups. He averaged 27 yards per kickoff return and 15.6 yards per punt return. Apke also handled the punting duties for the Blue Devils.

Alex Bookser

This 6-5, 295-pound senior recently made a verbal commitment to the University of Pittsburgh. In addition to first-team all-conference honors at defensive line, Alex Bookser garnered all-state acclaim. He anchored Mt. Lebanon’s defensive line, leading the unit with 38 tackles, seven for losses. He had three sacks for the Blue Devils, who finished 3-6 on the season. “Though double-teamed throughout most of the year,” said head coach Mike Melnyk, “Alex still made an impact on almost every play.”

Dom Castello

This senior was the lone player to garner Parkway Conference honors from Chartiers Valley. A wide receiver, he caught 45 passes for 667 yards and five touchdowns. In addition, he returned 20 kickoffs for 357 yards. Of the multi-purpose back, first-year head coach Niel Loebig said, “Dom was a do-it-all player. I wish I had him back.”

Max Augenstein

This 6-5, 245-pound senior is receiving Division I and I-AA interest because of his outstanding abilities at tight end. Augenstein led Peters Township to the WPIAL playoffs, where the Indians lost to McKeesport in the first round and finished 5-5 overall. The all-conference tight end led the Indians in receiving with 29 catches. He scored three touchdowns. “Max was very instrumental in our success this year,” said head coach Rich Piccinini. “He was an excellent pass catcher as well as an excellent blocker.”

Tom Rizza

This 5-10, 170-pound senior anchored the Seton-La Salle secondary. The three-year starter was the Rebels’ shutdown cornerback. “He’s very athletic and he was just outstanding for us,” said head coach Greg Perry. With his good grades and football skills, Perry added, that Rizza should thrive at a Division 1-AA school. Duquesne, Robert Morris, Lafayette and Bucknell are interested in the two-way player. He provided the Rebels a target on offense. Plus, he was a threat to run the ball on a team that finished 8-3 overall after falling to conference rival South Fayette in the second round of the district playoffs.

Eddie Jenkins

This 5-9, 160-pound sophomore broke into the starting lineup as quarterback for Mt. Lebanon during week six of the season. “He squeezed almost an entire year’s worth of stats into four games while leading us to two victories,” said head coach Mike Melnyk. Jenkins threw for 752 yards (184 yards per game) while completing 67 percent of his passes. He tossed seven scoring strikes, including an 84-yard touchdown. Jenkins was intercepted only twice. He rushed for 10 yards and scored a 65-yard touchdown against Peters Township. For his efforts this fall, Jenkins, who also excels in basketball and baseball, netted Almanac Rookie of the Year honors.

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