GREENSBURG, Pa. – South Fayette senior field general Christian Brumbaugh was less than enthused with the start to the PIAA AA Western Final.
His fourth pass attempt of the game had been intercepted by Forest Hills’ James McCombie and returned 59 yards for a touchdown. Worse yet was the fact the turnover thwarted a possession that had gained 37 yards and a pair of first downs.
But at this stage of the postseason, it’s all about how you respond.
“(Sure) I was a little upset at first,” Brumbaugh said. “But you’ve got to bounce back. I think we bounced back well.”
And by turning things around drastically, South Fayette bounced Forest Hills’ hopes of reaching the PIAA finals for the first time in 16 years.
Brumbaugh had another banner day, throwing for 365 yards and six touchdowns as South Fayette (15-0) rolled up 528 yards of offense and 25 first downs in a merciless 49-12 pounding of Forest Hills (13-2) in the PIAA AA Western Final played Saturday afternoon at Hempfield Area High School in Greensburg.
With the victory, the Lions will travel to Hershey next weekend to battle Philadelphia Catholic League AA powerhouse West Catholic (12-2), a 21-7 winner over previously unbeaten Lewisburg in the PIAA AA Eastern Final. West Catholic has won no fewer than 11 games in each of the last four seasons.
With his latest postseason passing effort, Brumbaugh only further cemented himself as one of western Pennsylvania’s greatest passing quarterbacks. He established the new WPIAL record for career passing yardage (formerly 6,741 yards) in the first quarter with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Josh Patterson. He surpassed the WPIAL’s single season passing record (formerly 3,310 yards) on his next completion – a 21-yard pass to Patterson. His final touchdown pass of the day – an 8-yard rope to, who else, Patterson, tied him with former Lancaster Catholic QB Kyle Smith for the state’s single-season record for touchdown passes (50).
Brumbaugh’s stat line, for both his season and career, is insane. In a good way. For the season, he’s completed 227-of-342 passes for 3,620 yards and 50 touchdowns. For his career, he’s thrown for 7,056 yards and 86 tochdowns.
“He’s everything you’d dream of in a quarterback,” said South Fayette head coach Joe Rossi. “He did make a commitment to William & Mary the other day. I don’t know why guys like Pitt and Penn State (hadn’t recruited him). I guess that’s why I’m a high school football coach.”
“When you play a 16-week season, that makes it possible for those things to happen,” Brumbaugh said when told he’d tied the single season TD pass record. “But there’s 11 guys on the football field and it starts up front with the front five.”
Speaking of the Lions’ offensive line, they blew open holes in Forest Hills’ defense big enough to fit some Mack trucks through.
“Our O-line just keeps getting better and better,” said senior running back Jeff Davis.
Davis benefitted greatly in the first quarter from the line play. By the time the first quarter was over, he’d run for 121 yards on just eight carries, including a 51-yard scoring run with 2:49 left in the opening quarter to push South Fayette’s advantage to 14-6. The Lions’ scored two more touchdowns before Forest Hills had a scoring answer of its own on Brumbaugh passes of 23 and 13 yards to Tyler Challingsworth.
An Anthony Unger 6-yard run would slice the Lions’ advantage to 28-12 with 6:14 left in the first half, but even then, the Rangers were never in the ball game.
In the first quarter alone, South Fayette outgained the Rangers 265 to 12 in total offense and had 12 first downs to the Rangers’ 0. By halftime, South Fayette had 336 yards of offense to Forest Hills’ 105.
After gaining a 35-12 halftime lead, South Fayette added two more second half scores – Brumbaugh passes of 16 yards to Zach Challingsworth and 8 yards to Patterson – to invoke the mercy rule and a running clock with 7:51 left in the game.
Six different South Fayette receivers – the Challingsworths, Tyler and Zach, Patterson, Davis, Tanner Courtad and Eric Myers – helped Brumbaugh account for 22 completions in 31 attempts. Tyler Challingsworth caught 7 passes for 133 yards and two scores; Patterson five for 85 yards and three scores; Davis four for 76 yards; Zach Challingsworth three for 32 yards and one score; Myers two for 17 yards; and Courtad one for 24.
Davis added 144 rushing yards on 13 carries and backup QB John Lerda’s only rushing attempt went for 24 yards. South Fayette finished with 163 rushing yards on the day.
Forest Hills was paced by Nick Dudukovich’s 55 yards on 11 carries. Unger added four rushes for 29 yards and Jeff Meier ran for 17 yards on six totes. Junior quarterback Justin Gdula, who had thrown 27 touchdown passes entering the game, finished 6-of-14 for 76 yards with an interception and a fumble lost. Forest Hills had just 167 yards of offense for the game and eight first downs.