SLIPPERY ROCK — Brett Brumbaugh brought Bill Brest back to reality.
Brest seemed, Saturday afternoon, momentarily lost in thought when a post-game question was posed. Perhaps it was because it had been 3 months since he had experienced the disappointment of defeat.
Brumbaugh-led South Fayette’s football team short-circuited a splendid season a step shy of the statewide stage for Brest and Hickory High with a 23-20 win over the Hornets in the PIAA Class AA western regional championship game.
“ ... We just ran out of time ... ” Brest assessed from Bob DiSpirito Field at Slippery Rock University’s Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
Brumbaugh’s brigade broke the Hornets’ hearts by erasing a 14-9 halftime deficit, snapping the Stingers’ 11-game win skein that had stretched from its lone prior setback, Sept. 6.
J.J. Walker went 4 yards on the 3rd period’s next-to-last play and Brumbaugh bagged Conner Beck with a subsequent 2-point conversion, forging Fayette to a 17-14 lead.
The play was set up when the teams traded turnovers within a span of seconds. Andrew Pryts recovered Hunter Hayes’ fumble at Hickory’s 17-yard line with 2:16 remaining in the 3rd. On the ensuing play, however, Hickory’s Charles Carr coughed up the ball at the 17, and it was covered by Fayette’s Ryan Schmider.
Only a junior, Brumbaugh has broken — or is on the verge of breaking — every single-game, single-season and career WPIAL passing statistic. But Brumbaugh, against Hickory, posted pedestrian numbers: 22 of 37 for 175 yards, an interception and 2 sacks.
However with the Hornets having to drop into coverage in order to contain Brumbaugh and 1,000-yard receivers Justin Watson and Beck, Grant Fetchet fueled Fayette.
With 10:20 remaining in the 4th frame and the Lions leading 17-14 Fetchet high-stepped to a 37-yard scoring sprint as South Fayette assumed a 23-14 edge.
“We knew they were gonna make plays, we knew that they might nickel-and-dime us, which was fine because of the potency of their type of offense,” Brest said. “Our game-plan worked again ... we just ran out of time.”
However, whereas Brest’s scouting reported noted South Fayette passed approximately 63 percent of the time, the Lions largely ran the ball after intermission.
Fetchet finished with a game-high 22-carry, 159-yard, 2-TD rushing performance, helping forge Fayette (15-0) to the PIAA championship game for the 2nd time in 4 years. Fetchet fashioned 118 yards rushing after intermission, while Brumbaugh brokered only a 6-for-12, 49-yard, 2nd-half passing performance. During the 1st half Brumbaugh burned the Hornets for 126 yards on 16-for-25 accuracy.
South Fayette finished with 391 total yards, but considerably more from its ground game (216) than Brumbaugh’s bevy of receivers (175). Also, offensively, it seemed as though the Lions left the field very seldom, running 77 plays from scrimmage.
“We, sometimes, are hard-headed and don’t want to run the football; we love throwin’ it,” related Joe Rossi, South Fayette’s head coach. “But they were dropping nine guys. So at halftime we said we’ve gotta come out and do a better job with our run-offense, and the second half, I think we did.”
“We got pressure on the quarterback; nobody could do that. We took some things away from them. Defensively, our kids played great,” Brest praised after Anthony Cannone copped an interception and fumble recovery and Zack Cirillo secured a pair of sacks, forcing 4 South Fayette turnovers.
“When we’re dropping eight, nine, sometimes ten in coverage, we were rolling the dice with that, and that was one of my biggest fears coming in — them possibly being able to run the football,” Brest admitted. “And they did. But we stole their signals. We knew they were running the ball, but they did a nice job executing.”
Fetchet and Brumbaugh benefitted from the Lions’ line of center Spencer Girman, guards Zach Radinick and Zach Walker, tackles Ben Berkowitz, Davidson and Jason Sears, and tight end Logan Sharp.
’Stingers’ signal-caller Matt Voytik vaulted Hickory to that 14-9 margin at intermission by turning a pair of read-options to the left into 56- and 26-yard 1st-half scoring sprints.
Those sandwiched a safety Voytik was forced to take 54 seconds into the 2nd stanza when the Lions mauled him for consecutive sacks off edge blitzes, the 2nd by end Anthony Davidson.
But from the time of Voytik’s 2nd score — with 70 seconds remaining in the 1st half — until his 3rd — a 4th-and-goal, 1-yard dive with 38.9 seconds left — the ’Stingers were not moving the sticks.
“We did have a little trouble moving the ball offensively,” Brest began. “And I also thought one of the keys was that we lost field position in the second half. (South Fayette) did a smart thing: They kicked into the wind, so they could get the wind in the fourth quarter. But we lost field position, and that was one of the biggest things in the game, I thought, in the second half.”
The Stingers’ first 6 second-half series ended in 4 punts, the aforementioned fumble, and on downs at South Fayette’s 32-yard line with 7:57 left.
Down 2 scores Hickory had life when Cirillo sacked Brumbaugh on a 4th-and-8 from the Hornets’ 26 with 4:06 left.
An ensuing 13-play, 74-yard drive resulted in Voytik’s plunge, drawing Hickory within 23-20. However Jordan Wombacker’s ensuing on-side kickoff was covered by Beck.
“They hit us with a couple sets in the first half, got number four (Voytik) loose on a couple unbalanced sets, which was nice design on their part. But we made some adjustments ... and played well,” summarized Rossi, who returns to Hershey with another Brumbaugh.
In 2010 quarterback Christian Brumbaugh and the Lions lost to Philadelphia-West Catholic.
“They’re just great, tremendous quarterbacks that have led us there,” Rossi related. “It’s just a great family of quarterbacks, there’s three brothers. They’re just tremendous and have done a great job.
“(South Fayette’s 11 seniors) set the goal at the beginning of the season to win a conference title, to win a WPIAL title ... there’s a lot of pride in that, and getting to Hershey with a chance to win a state championship,” Rossi added.
Unlike Rossi, however, Brest will bid adieu to his seniors, including Voytik, Cannone, Daulton Linton, De’Quan Lewis, Dylan Brenneman, Tyler Reardon, Zach Walters, Kenny Ezi-Ashi, Toby Alexander, Blase Hudson, Chase Brown, and Michael Steach.
“ ... It breaks my heart that they don’t get to go to Hershey,” Brest began. “They’re a great group of kids, champions on and off the football field. I’m just so proud of them.
“The winningest football senior class in the history of Hickory High School (43-9, including 12-2 this season), highest GPAs (grade-point-averages) of any team in the history of Hickory High School. ... We had great senior leadership this year, and, doggone it, I’m so proud of them and proud of the coaches,” Brest concluded.
SLIPPERY ROCK — Brett Brumbaugh brought Bill Brest back to reality.
Roundup: Wilmington track teams sweep WM
ä Wilmington 98, West Middlesex 51 — At West Middlesex, the visiting Greyhounds gave the Big Reds their first home, dual-meet loss in approximately 4 seasons according to Middlesex mentor Ed Pikna.
Cooper (400, 800, distance- and mile-relay legs), jumper Perrine and sprinter Scott (100, 200) gave the Greyhounds the giddy-up by winning multiple events.
HIGH SCHOOL SPRING SPORTS ROUNDUP
Baseball, softball and tennis teams were in action Monday as the nice weather allowed for high school spring sports action that has been limited so far by rain, snow and windy conditions.
Players relent, agree to play for reinstated football coach
Minnesota State University-Mankato's football team has ended its boycott of reinstated head coach Todd Hoffner, who successfully fought child pornography charges and other misconduct accusations that removed him from the job for 20 months.
Hickory track coaches near finish line
While the Shenango Valley lionizes legendary gridiron greats and hardwood heroes, the sport of track & field at Hickory High has resonated its relevance throughout District 10 and commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
For the better part of the last 3 decades that was due, to a great extent, to the efforts of Barb Dzuricsko and Mark Slezak.
More than 200 dual-meet victories combined between the girls’ and boys’ programs, 9 district championships (7 girls, 2 boys), 2 statewide runners-up berths and another pair of 3rd-place finishes, culminating in the Lady Hornets’ 2012 PIAA Class AA championship.
Their collective resumé would be envied by any coach, regardless of sport. Which makes this recent revelation regrettable: Dzuricsko and Slezak simultaneously will step down at this season’s conclusion.
SPORTVIEW: Cavaliers are example of how an owner impacts a team
WHEN LEBRON James vacated Cleveland for South Beach a few years ago, angry Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert declared that the Cavaliers would win an NBA championship before James and the Miami Heat.
How’s that working out, Dan?
Miami is seeking a third straight title this postseason while the Cavaliers are headed for the golf courses. Pretty sad.
Roundup: Trojans, Hounds win team titles at WM Invitational
Wilmington High girls and Greenville boys dominated the annual Big Red Track & Field Invitational Thursday afternoon in West Middlesex.
A half-dozen girls’ and 7 boys’ teams competed.
Wilmington overwhelmed the female field, as the Lady Greyhounds garnered almost twice as many points as runner-up Lakeview (236-5 to 133.5).
Roundup: WM diamondmen edge Reynolds, 6-4
ä West Middlesex 6, Reynolds 4 — At Transfer, the Big Reds snapped a 4-all tie by plating a run in the 4th inning and another in the 7th in a 2-run win over the Raiders.
Mark Colella earned the mound win in a relief appearance for WM. No pitching stats were submitted.
Roundup: Hickory, Wilmington softball teams win
Paced by Chelsea Marriott’s muscle, Hickory High hammered 4 home runs Saturday afternoon en route to a 19-1 rout of Sharon.
At Wengler, Marriott mauled 2- and 3-run round-trippers to right-center and straightaway center field, respectively. Her Lady Hornets’ teammates Hannah Gallagher and Morgan McBride mustered 3-run bombs, also.
Fired coach in Mankato unjustly accused of visiting porn sites
Minnesota State University-Mankato officials wrongly accused former football coach Todd Hoffner of viewing pornography sites on his work computer before firing him last May, a state arbitrator has disclosed.
Roundup: Hickory track coaches to step down following season
Hickory High track & field co-head coaches Barb Dzuricsko and Mark Slezak announced they will step down at the season’s conclusion.
Dzuricsko and Slezak, who led the Lady Hornets to the 2012 PIAA Class AA crown, jointly made the announcement via e-mail late Wednesday.
Roundup: Devil diamondmen roll past Sharon
An old-school baseball bromide states that, early in any season, pitching is always ahead of hitting. However Sharpsville shunned that axiom Wednesday afternoon.
The Blue Devils banged 15 hits, and Sharpsville short-circuited Sharon, 16-4, in 5 innings.
Roundup: Hounds, Hornets notch track sweeps
ä Wilmington 116, Reynolds 44 — At New Wilmington, the host Lady Hounds were led by Rikki Brumbaugh (4x8, 4x4 relay legs, 400- and 800-meter runs); Hannah Drake (long, triple jumps, 4x4 relay); Allison Baldwin (4x8 and 4x4 relay legs); Lexi Brumbaugh (1600-, 3200-meter runs, distance-relay leg), and Tessa Sikora (high jump, 200-meter dash, sprint-relay anchor).
SPORTVIEW: Pirates, Indians fans looking for big things this year
LIFE IS GOOD if you are a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates or Cleveland Indians. At least for now!
Heading into Saturday, both teams were 3-1 and looking pretty sharp. Since both made the playoffs last year, there are high expectations for both clubs. But in baseball, every year is a new season and there are no guarantees.
Still, it’s always nice when your favorite teams get off to a good start. In too many seasons, Pittsburgh and Cleveland fans were only talking about the NFL draft because hopes were bleak for their baseball teams.
Hickory's Arbanas 1st team All-State; KC's Hood 3rd team
ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) — Teams from the WPIAL won three of the four PIAA girls basketball championships this year, and southwestern Pennsylvania is turning out to be just as dominant when it comes to postseason honors.
Pittsburgh-area programs produced seven of the eight major award winners on this season’s Sports Writers Pennsylvania High School Girls Basketball All-State Team, including all four players of the year.
WM's Staunch named 2nd team All-State
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Finishing on the winning side in a championship game — or coming mighty, mighty close — scored plenty of points with the panel that selected Pennsylvania’s all-state boys’ basketball team.
Especially when it came time to choose those — whether players or coaches — who claimed the top individual awards.
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- Roundup: Wilmington track teams sweep WM