A winter storm expected to hit Hershey has pushed back Saturday’s PIAA championship games.
South Fayette will now face Imhotep Charter at 1 p.m. Sunday for the Class AA title, and St. Joseph’s Prep will face Central Catholic at 6 p.m. for the Class AAAA title at Hersheypark Stadium.
The Lions planned to practice outdoors at a local high school Friday and will practice at an indoor facility in Harrisburg Saturday.
South Fayette will take the opportunity to tour Hersheypark Stadium and soak in a portion of Friday night’s Class AAA final between Archibishop Wood and Bishop McDevitt. Despite the schedule change, the players are excited for the opportunity to play Imhotep Charter Sunday for a chance to claim the school’s first state football championship.
“Another day to spend with these kids is a Christmas present,” South Fayette head coach Joe Rossi said. “The kids are taking it in stride, and it gives us a chance to check out the stadium during today’s games. Maybe it will help take the edge off.”
The game is South Fayette’s first state title appearance since the Lions lost to West Catholic of Philadelphia, 50-14.
“The kids laughed when they found out,” Rossi said. “We’re scrambling to find somewhere to practice outside (Friday) to take advantage of the beautiful weather, but it doesn’t change our preparation besides adding an extra day.”
With five to eight inches of snow forecast for the mid-state Saturday, the PIAA said it was concerned for the safety of players and fans traveling to the games in Hershey.
The National Weather Service called the arriving storm system complex, warning it could affect much of the central and eastern United States, and bring a mix of snow, slush, freezing rain, rain and even thunder. The Philadelphia area is expected to see an inch or two of snow.
The storm is expected to arrive Saturday morning, with strong winds and gusts of up to 30 mph.
South Fayette junior defensive back Roman Denson, who was hurt on the opening kickoff of last week’s win over Hickory, will not play Sunday for the Lions. An ankle injury will force Denson to miss his first trip to Hershey and the impact will be felt.
Denson lines up opposite of Justin Watson in the South Fayette secondary and had interceptions in back-to-back games against Aliquippa and Karns City. Denson’s prowess on special teams was critical in South Fayette’s win over the Gremlins in Clarion two weeks ago.
Sophomore Hunter Hayes will start in Denson’s place and Rossi believes Hayes is more than just a plug to fill a spot in the starting lineup.
“He’s been rotating and has had a couple of starts this year,” Rossi said. “There were a couple of times where we sat Watson on defense and he stepped up and did a nice job. He actually played against Beaver Falls and limited their guy to almost nothing.”
When watching film of South Fayette, the Lions’ offensive line stood out to Scott and Imhotep Charter. With a strong pass rush that includes strength and speed, the Panthers know that winning the matchup at the line of scrimmage will be critical.
“Their line is kind of small but they have a strong line,” said Imhotep Charter head coach Albie Scott. “They have great pass blocking. The way the quarterback sits in the pocket, he just watches the receivers run around for fun. Our D-ends and tackles are going to have a good game trying to get past their line. I also see that the wide receivers are well-coached. They come back to the ball. They set him up so he can make a play and the quarterback doesn’t have to scramble.”