South Fayette’s Watson has another major challenge

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South Fayette senior wide receiver Justin Watson is used to being the center of attention for opposing defenses.


In the Lions’ 34-28 WPIAL title win over Aliquippa at Heinz Field, Watson was shadowed by Quips senior Dravon Henry, who committed to West Virginia last week. Watson passed the test as he caught six passes for 130 yards and a touchdown.


With the Lions in Hershey and Imhotep Charter standing between South Fayette and its first PIAA football championship, Watson needs just 108 receiving yards to break the WPIAL’s single-season record. The future University of Pennsylvania wide receiver has caught 67 passes for 1,442 yards and 20 touchdowns.


When the Lions and Panthers face off today at 1 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium with the Class AA title on the line, Watson will face yet another major college-bound defensive back who has the sole task of shutting down the 6-3 wide receiver. Imhotep Charter senior DeAndre Scott, who committed to play for coach Todd Graham at Arizona State, has four interceptions this season and is excited for the challenge of covering one of the WPIAL’s best.


“I can’t wait until (today),” Scott said. “He’s a great player as you see his stats. He goes for the ball, has a lot of heart and I’m pretty sure he’s got some speed on him. I can’t wait to line up with him.”


Imhotep Charter head coach Albie Crosby was the offensive coordinator for West Catholic in 2010, when it defeated South Fayette in the state championship game. Crosby remembers South Fayette’s team vividly and notices several similarities – most notably, the Lions’ balanced offensive attack. Crosby praised Christian Brumbaugh, who quarterbacked the 2010 team, and wide receiver Zach Challingsworth, who now plays at Pitt.


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


Watson, whose brother Alex played on the 2010 team, credits Challingsworth with helping him grow as an all-around player and giving him the desire to face an opponent’s best player on both sides of the ball.


“It makes it easy to prepare knowing you are going against another top guy in the country,” Watson said. “You have to focus during the game that you are going against another great athlete. It’s more exciting, but there is definitely more pressure. (Scott) is a really aggressive player and attacks the ball. That’s the kind of player that makes plays and scores touchdowns, but hopefully we can take advantage of his aggressive nature.”


Watson’s impact is not limited to offense. As a defensive back, the senior also shadows the opposing team’s top wide receiver and uses his speed to aid the Lions in stopping the run. Last week against Hickory, Hornets quarterback Matt Voytik was facing a fourth-and-long in South Fayette territory when he tucked and ran the football down the right sideline. Just before he reached the first down marker, Watson knocked him out of bounds to force a turnover on downs.


Later in the game, Watson sped through the line of scrimmage and blocked a punt that swung field position in South Fayette’s favor. Lions senior running back Grant Fetchet scored on the ensuing drive to give South Fayette a lead they would not relinquish.


“He’s just an all-around player,” South Fayette head coach Joe Rossi said. “Zach passed it off to him and he has taken and run with it. We are always putting him against the other team’s best receiver. He shuts them down.”


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