MOON – South Fayette beat Beaver Falls in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA football playoffs last year despite an ugly game from quarterback Brett Brumbaugh, who completed one third as many passes to the Tigers – four – as he did to his own team.
By halftime of last night’s Class AA quarterfinal, which also was against Beaver Falls, Brumbaugh must’ve been suffering through a serious case of déjà vu, having thrown three interceptions in the first half.
Unlike last year, Brumbaugh reversed course and put together a sparkling second half, completing six of eight passes for 140 yards and a pair of scores, as second-seeded South Fayette earned a 35-21 victory over the 10th-seeded Tigers at Moon.
“At halftime, my first thought was, ‘This can’t be happening,’” said Brumbaugh, who finished 19 of 31 for 330 yards and three touchdowns. “But we bounced back. I have great players around me who picked me up, and it gave me the confidence to go out there and get it done in the second half.”
South Fayette (11-0) advanced to the WPIAL Class AA semifinals and will play third-seeded Washington (11-0) next Friday, site and time to be determined.
Wide receiver Zach Challingsworth (Pitt) was Brumbaugh’s favorite target against Beaver Falls (8-3), catching eight passes for 135 yards and a 57-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.
Conner Beck finished with three catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns, the second of those coming on what was likely the best throw of Brumbaugh’s young career – a corner route that he somehow wedged between a cornerback, a safety and a linebacker.
“The first thing I said to Brett before halftime was, ‘Put your helmet on. Don’t listen to anything anybody from Beaver Falls says to you. You’re a great quarterback, and we all make mistakes,” Challingsworth said. “He kept his head, and luckily we came out with the win.”
Though not as easily as most associated with South Fayette would have liked.
The Lions committed six turnovers and needed two of Brumbaugh’s touchdown tosses to break a 21-21 tie.
“We faced some adversity,” South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said. “It’s something that we haven’t faced all year, and we responded.
“You know, at times you’re going to play bad, and we did.”
After Dylan Nock’s 8-yard interception return midway through the third quarter gave South Fayette a 21-14 lead, Beaver Falls quarterback Dan Stratton scored from 40 yards on fourth-and-1.
“We gave them a game, and that’s something no one else can say this season,” Beaver Falls coach Ryan Matsook said.
The teams were tied at halftime, despite Brumbaugh’s three interceptions.
South Fayette drove 93 yards on its second possession, with Brumbaugh completing five of six passes for 81 yards, as Challingsworth put the Lions ahead, 7-0, with an 11-yard run.
After three straight incompletions on South Fayette’s next drive, Beaver Falls running back Rob Bell (69 yards) broke to the outside and scored a 14-yard touchdown with 1:43 left in the quarter.
South Fayette was able to answer with 7.6 seconds left in the first quarter behind four straight completions from Brumbaugh, the final one a 17-yarder to Beck to make it 14-6.
But Elijah Cottrill intercepted Brumbaugh, and Beaver Falls put together an 11-play drive that went 75 yards in 5:01 and ended with a 4-yard touchdown run from Stratton. All 11 plays on the drive were runs, seven by Damian Rawl, who finished with 27 carries for 182 yards.
Brumbaugh’s final two passes before the half were both interceptions, but the sophomore responded by upping his yardage to 2,583 and his touchdown total to 36, a 180-degree reversal from what he did in this game last year.
“I just found a peaceful zone. I blocked out everything and played my own game,” Brumbaugh said. “I remember seeing an interview with Aaron Rodgers, and he said, ‘You just can’t let anything get to you.’ I made sure that happened in the second half.”