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.
Breese defends heavyweight title at PIAA Championships
HERSHEY, Pa. — Move over Rod Wright!
Lakeview senior heavyweight star Sam Breese had a goal coming into the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships this weekend at Hershey Giant Center — besides winning a second state crown, that is.
WM knocks off Neshannock in PIAA playoffs
SLIPPERY ROCK — The notion of Trey Staunch sneaking up on opposing teams is laughable. At 6-foot-3 and approximately 225 pounds, the stout Staunch is not sneaking up on anyone.
However after posting a game-high 31-point, 18-rebound performance in West Middlesex High basketball team’s 76-66 PIAA Class AA playoffs opening-round win over Neshannock Saturday night, Staunch said opponents may have been overlooking the Big Reds.
Hickory girls 26-0, oust Johnstown
SLIPPERY ROCK — At Morrow Field House Saturday evening, the Hickory Lady Hornets kept the perfect season alive with a 63-37 state playoff first round win over the Greater Johnstown Trojans from District 6.
“It feels great to get the win (Saturday),” said veterans Hickory coach Jeanette Whitehead. “We’ve been at this place over the last few years and we’ve been sent home in the first round so it was a huge win for us. I’m very proud of our team effort."
KC girls roll past California in PIAA playoffs
SLIPPERY ROCK — Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball team was in the ’hood Saturday afternoon.
Led by senior Taylor Hood, the Lady Golden Eagles eased past California, 53-34, in the opening round of the PIAA Class A playoffs.
Lakeview's Breese to defend PIAA title
HERSHEY, Pa. — If you are Major League Baseball player, a .333 batting average is great. But in wrestling at the state tournament — not so much!
Out of the dozen wrestlers that Mercer County sent to Hershey for the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships, only four (.333) will reach the medal stand today — led by Lakeview senior Sam Breese who shoots for a second straight gold medal.
Farrell edges Montour, 60-57, in PIAA opener
Montour High boys’ basketball coach Adam Kaufman lamented another season-ending setback. However there are several hundred coaches across the Commonwealth who envy his program’s recent success and would trade places with him in a heartbeat.
But during Friday night’s PIAA Class AAA playoff opener, Kaufman & Co. could not overcome those streaky Steelers ... those survivin’ Steelers.
“ ... Hey, survive and move on,” summarized Steelers’ skipper Roland Shannonhouse following Farrell’s 60-57 win at Sharon High.
GCC ousts Mercer in 1st round of PIAAs
The Mercer Lady Mustangs were outscored 16-4 in the final quarter of the first round of the state playoffs by the Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions, ending their season Friday night 56-31 at Sharon High School.
Senior Lexie Arkwright had a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double performance for the Lady M’s. She also snagged three steals. Adelyn Cook and Haylie Glass each added 4 points for Mercer.
5 area matmen to quarterfinals in Hershey
HERSHEY — Mercer County matmen had mixed results on the opening day of action in the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center.
Only 5 of the county’s dozen entries — led by defending state champ Sam Breese of Lakeview (285) — won their preliminary matches to move into the tournament quarterfinals which begin at 9 a.m. today. However the other 7 lost their first matches, although 3 are still alive in the consolations heading into this morning’s action.
Coach Chad Mild's Big Reds are road warriors
West Middlesex High boys basketball team did not play its first home game until after the first of the year, but competing at New Castle, Farrell and Youngstown’s Covelli Centre has served it well.
Witness West Middlesex’s 55-54 win over Fairview in last weekend’s District 10 Class AA championship game — at Edinboro University’s McComb Field House.
Boys PIAA basketball preview boxes
Who: Farrell (22-3) vs. Montour (16-8).
What: Opening round.
When: 7:30 p.m. today.
Where: Sharon High’s Tiger Gymnasium.
Hickory, Mercer, KC girls PIAA playoff boxes
Who: Hickory (25-0) vs. Greater Johnstown (11-14).
What: PIAA Playoffs, 1st round.
When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Slippery Rock University.
Shannonhouse's Steelers set for statewide stage
With the approaching spring, a young man’s fancy turns to ... what else? The PIAA playoffs. And when Shenango Valley scholastic basketball aficionados think of the postseason they think of Farrell.
Recently at E.J. McCluskey Gymnasium, the banners above were blowing in the breeze — ’52 ... ’54 ... ’56 ... ’59 ... ’60 ... ’69 ... ’72 — swaying as sprinting players created a vacuum of air rising from the floor. Melodramatic maybe, but there’s a feeling at Farrell that harkens back to the heyday when playoff success was a rite of passage.
Breese eyes repeat at state mat tourney
There is no doubt that winning a state championship in wrestling is a difficult thing to do. Winning two is even tougher.
“There’s a target on your chest,” pointed out Lakeview High coach Tom Tingley in preseason this year, referring to his star wrestler Sam Breese who won a state heavyweight crown as a junior last year.
Obviously that target hasn’t bothered the Sailors big man who is a perfect 32-0 this season as he attempts to become only the 12th Mercer County matman to win multiple titles.
WRESTLING NOTEBOOK: It's a young group of county matmen headed to state
THERE’S definitely a youth movement in Mercer County wrestling as demonstrated by the group of 11 matmen who are advancing to the PIAA State Class AA Championships on Thursday.
Eight of the locals are underclassmen. The only seniors are Lakeview’s Sam Breese (285), Reynolds’ Levi Stoyer (145) and Jamestown’s Mohamed Messai (182).
Breese and Stoyer are the only returning state place-winners. Breese, who has verbally committed to Kent State University to wrestle next season, won the heavyweight class and is seeking a second gold medal. Stoyer placed 7th at 145 and wants to climb much higher on the medals stand.
Kennedy boys forfeit win, are out of playoffs
The PIAA basketball playoffs do not begin until Friday, but Mercer County already lost a team.
Kennedy Catholic High disclosed Monday the discovery of an academically-ineligible player, who competed in last Friday’s District 10 Class A consolation contest.
Kennedy Catholic edged Eisenhower in double-OT, 66-62, earning a berth in the statewide tournament. The Golden Eagles were to meet District 9 champion Ridgway Friday at Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium in the opening round; instead, Eisenhower will represent D-10 as its 3rd-place team.
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