PITTSBURGH – History, they say, has a way of repeating itself.
In last year’s WPIAL AA title game, Aliquippa turned the ball over five times in a humbling 33-7 defeat to Greensburg Central Catholic.
Consider the Quips’ 2010 WPIAL finals appearance a case of deja vu.
South Fayette (13-0) recovered three Aliquippa (12-1) fumbles inside its own territory and senior field general Christian Brumbaugh fired two touchdown passes for a 19-6 victory in the WPIAL AA championship game from Heinz Field.
With the victory, the Lions will face the District 9 champion Brockway Rovers in a PIAA AA quarterfinal game next Friday, December 3rd, at West Allegheny High School.
Aliquippa head coach Mike Zmijanic, as is typical, made no excuses for the loss.
“Those (turnovers) are all part of the game,” Zmijanic said. “And sometimes, games turn on those. I would say today’s game turned on those.”
The three turnovers Aliquippa’s boss spoke of occured at the South Fayette 12, 17 and 15 yard lines. The initial fumble, recovered by senior LB Eric Myers at the SF 12, turned into the game’s first touchdown just five plays later, as Brumbaugh hooked up with Tyler Challingsworth on a 39-yard pass, catch and run for a 6-0 lead. The Lions covered the 88 yards in just 1:57, and also used a Jeff Davis 33-yard run to help set up the scoring play.
Aliquippa countered on its ensuing possession, as freshman Drayvon Henry crashed in from 3 yards out, capping a 3:37 drive.
“I thought we played very well defensively and we did well offensively, too,” Zmijanic said.
He was right. Aliquippa did amass 357 yards of offense – 224 rushing and 133 passing. The Quips moved up and down and up and down the Heinz Field turf, totaling 17 first downs.
“We’ve given up yards all year,” said South Fayette head coach Joe Rossi. “But we’ve found ways to get it done.”
And because it bent, but didn’t break, South Fayette took a 6-6 tie into intermission. The Lions broke that tie on the initial possession of the second half on a 5-yard scoring pass from Brumbaugh to Zach Challingsworth. Aliquippa would force Brumbaugh into an interception later in the period, but Tyler Challingsworth recovered a fumble at the Lions’ 17 yard line to thwart the threat.
South Fayette broke the Quips’ backs with a drive that began at the 8:26 mark of the fourth quarter. Using mostly power and pro formations, the Lions plowed their way 70 yards – all on the ground – to put the game out of reach. Trevor Fiorentini scored the title-clinching points with a 2-yard run with 2:25 left in the game.
“They’re a physical football team,” Brumbaugh said of Aliquippa, “but I think we came after them today.”
Senior lineman Nick Faraci agreed.
“We like to pound the ball up the middle,” Faraci said. “I think we did a good job up front. I think we have the best line in the WPIAL.”
“We showed we’re more than a passing team,” Brumbaugh said.
Rossi said South Fayette can execute the power running game.
“We’ve shown the ability to do that this season (like the playoff game with Ellwood City),” Rossi said. “We’ve pounded it when we need to.”
Brumbaugh finished with 147 passing yards, completing 12-of-23 passes, to give him 2,875 passing yards and 39 touchdowns this season. Davis ran for 85 yards on 18 carries and caught three passes for 25 yards. Tyler and Zach Challingsworth each caught three passes – Tyler finished with 54 yards receiving and Zach with 33.
Ben Cobb paced the Quips’ ground game with 107 yards on 18 carries. Henry added 55 yards on 11 totes and Darius Walker posted 47 yards on six carries. Junior field general Mikal Hall finished the game 9-of-16 for 133 yards. Leading receiver Haetaun Mathis caught four passes for 70 yards.
Winning the WPIAL title, Brumbaugh said, was great
“It feels great to accomplish this,” he said.