Superstitious South Fayette has clean slate for title game

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Editor’s note- Due to inclement weather, Saturday’s Class AA state championship game of South Fayette vs. Imhotep Charter has been moved to Sunday at 1 p.m.

As South Fayette High School’s football team prepared this week for the Class AA state championship game, Lions head coach Joe Rossi reflected on the school’s 2010 trip to Hershey.

During that cold December week, South Fayette practiced at home the day prior to the game to prepare for their championship opponent, West Catholic of Philadelphia. The result was not ideal for the Lions and Rossi.

South Fayette limped into the title game with injuries to starting tailback Jeff Davis and an early injury to quarterback Christian Brumbaugh stifled the offense. The result was a 50-14 loss to the Burrs, who rushed for 407 yards.

South Fayette earned its chance at redemption with a win last week over Hickory and will face Imhotep Charter (12-2), now scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m., for the PIAA Class AA championship. For Rossi and the Lions’ return to trip to Hershey, changes had to be made.

South Fayette (15-0) will travel to Hershey early Friday and practice at an indoor soccer facility in Harrisburg. While the team went to a movie the night before the 2010 game, Rossi and the Lions are treating their time in Hershey as a business trip to accomplish a goal. The team also will avoid eating at the same restaurants as in 2010. For South Fayette, the slate is clean.

“It’s a business trip,” Rossi said. “We are going up there to win a football game. We talked to the seniors and they want to go up there on a new path. We are doing nothing the same way we did in 2010.”

The Lions’ group of 11 seniors is ready for the chance to make things right after a tumultuous result against West Catholic. While none of the current Lions played at Hersheypark Stadium in 2010, the group is excited for the opportunity to make history by winning South Fayette’s first state football title.

“They are a very, very explosive football team,” Imhotep Charter head coach Albie Crosby said. “Their quarterback, Brett Brumbaugh, is amazing. The wide receivers are kids who can just change games. They are definitely game-changers. They are a very good football team.”

While this is the first time the Lions’ seniors will play a down of football in Hersheypark Stadium, Rossi believes the WPIAL title game experiences at Heinz Field have prepared South Fayette for the state final.

“Being there and experiencing Heinz Field is a perfect test,” Rossi said. “(The seniors) have two trips to Heinz, and even though they didn’t play in 2010 this will be their second trip to Hershey. Those experiences mean something. The Heinz Field experience should definitely get you ready.”

The task will not be an easy one for the WPIAL champs. Imhotep Charter’s offensive scheme relies heavily on an offensive line that averages almost 300 pounds and a running game led by two NCAA Division I prospects. Junior Nas Bonner, who has several scholarship offers from BCS schools, is complimented by a stable of running backs that includes senior DeAndre Scott, who is headed to Arizona State to play defensive back.

Scott is an X factor for the Panthers’ offense. While he has only 26 carries, Scott has scored four touchdowns. Scott made his first carry in Imhotep Charter’s semifinal win over Berks Catholic count. The senior took a sweep and ran for a 75-yard touchdown. He also has seven touchdowns on defense and special teams.

“Their team speed is tremendous,” Rossi said. “That’s the first thing that stands out. We’re glad it’s a television game because it may slow down the pace of the game. Their tailbacks are tremendous and linemen are 300 across the board. They are loaded. (DeAndre Scott) is phenomenal. He has a touchdown every game on defense or special teams and is one of the best high school players I have seen.”

The similarities between Aliquippa and Imhotep are countless. Both teams possess Division I talent in the backfield with a dual-threat quarterback who is an accurate passer. Panthers junior quarterback Andre Dreuitt has completed 55 percent of his passes for 1,485 yards and 22 passing touchdowns, and gained 148 rushing yards with two touchdowns.

The Lions’ defensive line will be tasked with stopping the Panthers’ running game, but last week’s win over Hickory prepared the group to face a fast, physical football team. While Hickory quarterback Matt Voytik’s used his track speed to run for two touchdowns, a second-quarter forced fumble by South Fayette senior Ben Berkovitz was one of many plays the Lions’ defensive line made to contain the Hornets.

“Going there freshman year and coming back senior year, there’s no better feeling,” Berkovitz said. “We have a chance to win it this time, so I’m excited to win a state championship.”

Imhotep Charter, like Aliquippa, has offensive and defensive lines that will outweigh South Fayette’s by 60 to 100 pounds per man. The Lions defeated Aliquippa 34-28 for the WPIAL Class AA title, and Rossi believes the experience was a perfect test for South Fayette to prepare for a state title game. Crosby knows that a team’s physical stature, speed or scholarship offers will not make the difference.

“(South Fayette’s) coaches have done an amazing job with putting those guys in a position to succeed,” Crosby said. “Young men are mentally tough. I don’t think they become intimidated by size. When you are in a program such as them and you have been successful, then you just listen to what the coaches say and you believe it. They are a very good team.”

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