The Washington and South Fayette high school football teams play on 100-yard fields with goal posts at each end. They start 11 players on offense, 11 on defense and wear helmets with facemasks, shoulder pads and cleats.
That’s about where the similarities end.
Friday’s WPIAL Class AA semifinal game between Wash High and South Fayette at Chartiers Valley will feature two teams with completely opposite styles of play, making it that much more important to control the tempo of the game and dictate pace.
South Fayette is a spread, hurry-up passing team, while the Prexies love to grind it out and run.
“We have to stop the ground. They have to stop the air. That’s what makes it an intriguing matchup,” South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said.
Even though Wash High quarterback Josh Wise is a three-year starter and can make throws when necessary, the Prexies funnel their offense through Shai McKenzie, who has 2,363 yards and 37 touchdowns. He needs just 176 yards to break Mike Vernillo’s Washington/Greene single-season yardage record.
Wash High (11-0) is plenty deep in the backfield, too, with DaRon Whitaker as a more-than-capable backup who would be a starter on most teams. Whitaker has 47 carries for 439 yards and eight touchdowns.
Prexies coach Mike Bosnic also likes to use fullback Jaylin Kelly (33-187-1), Chivar Brown (34-237-4) and Malik Wells (18-231-2). Wise is an above-average runner, as evidenced by his eight touchdowns.
“We run the ball very well, but part of the reason for that is our line and the fact that Josh is a dual-threat and a great athlete, and he has great athletes to throw the ball, too,” Bosnic said. “We take Shai out, and we have other tailbacks who can go in and spell him.”
While South Fayette has a serviceable rushing attack behind Grant Fetchet (914 yards, 10 touchdowns), quarterback Brett Brumbaugh and wide receiver Zach Challingsworth are the focal points, along with several other talented receivers.
Brumbaugh leads the WPIAL in passing, having completed 143 of 218 attempts for 2,583 yards and 36 touchdowns. Fifty-four of those have gone to Challingsworth, a Pitt recruit who has 1,087 yards and 14 scores.
“That’s what makes high school football great,” Rossi said. “We utilize our talents with our quarterback and our receivers. And they’re going to utilize their talents with their running backs and their offensive line.”
Besides Challingsworth, Conner Beck has 28 catches for 454 yards and four touchdowns, while Justin Watson has 26 for 544 and eight.
Want more proof these teams are polar opposites? The Lions’ fourth option, Mike Fetchet, has more catches and touchdowns (14 and five) than Wash High’s top receiver, Darius Spinks, who has 10 catches, four of them scores.
Wash High faced a strong passing game last week in Seton-La Salle, with Brett Brumbaugh’s older brother, Luke, at the helm. But after Luke Brumbaugh completed 12 of 20 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, the Prexies limited him to 58 yards and no touchdowns on 5-of-12 passing in the second half.
“South Fayette is a real good passing team,” Wash High lineman Rikwon Moore said. “Our secondary [Wise, Spinks and Mijerean Witcher] has to be ready because I know our defensive line is going to do what we usually do – which is get pressure. Our secondary has to lock down, just like the second half of the Seton-La Salle game.”