South Fayette Lions football team looking to reclaim Century Conference title in 2012
South Fayette football coach Joe Rossi said the thing that sets his 2012 squad apart from last year's team is the experience level.
The sixth-year coach said this season's team is now seasoned after a 7-4 2011 campaign and compared the experience level to the 2009 and 2010 squads that went 25-2 with two conference titles, a WPIAL Class AA title and a PIAA title game appearance.
That is a scary thing to hear if your are an opposing team in the Century Conference.
“We had a lot of kids who were out there for the first time last year,” Rossi said. “If there are guys on the field ahead of them, they don't get to play a lot as sophomores or juniors. Now they have the game experience.”
The Lions will be guided on offense by sophomore Brett Brumbaugh.
The gunslinger — who is the younger brother of former South Fayette quarterback Christian and current Seton-La Salle quarterback Luke — was thrown into action last season to replace injured senior John Lerda.
While a freshman coming in late in the season might seem disastrous, it turned out to be the complete opposite. Brumbaugh went 2-1 — including two playoffs games with one win — and threw for 602 yards and seven touchdowns.
“With two of those games being in the playoffs, I think it should help me in the regular season this year,” Brumbaugh said. “It helped take away some of the nerves.”
In addition to getting bigger and stronger, Rossi said that Brumbaugh is beginning to develop more with the mental aspect of the game.
“Instead of settling on his first or second look, he is now in his third or fourth progression,” Rossi said. “He is understanding the playbook better.”
Brumbaugh will be eased into his first full season as a starter thanks to weapons across the field on offense. The receiving corse is being touted as one of the best in Class AA.
“We definitely worked on chemistry over the summer,” senior receiver Zach Challingsworth said. “We feel more comffortable now than we did at the end of last season. We reallythink the sky is the limit for the offense this season.”
Challingsworth will draw the attention of opposing defenses in 2012. The Pitt commit caught 48 passes for 704 yards, ran the ball 36 times for 250 yards and threw two passes for 48 yards.
He also handled punting duties and started as cornerback on defense for the Lions.
“I feel really humble that the coaching staff trusts me with that kind of role on this team.” Challingsworth said. “I like having my hands in everything.”
Challingsworth said that he has talked to Rossi about the chance that he will be double teamed during the season.
But the utility player said that if teams try that approach, they will pay due to the talent across the field.
“It will be hard for teams to do that and cover everyone else on the field,” Challingsworth said. “I will do whatever we have to do to get the win. If that means less passes, that is fine as long as we get the win.”
Seniors Connor Beck and Mike Fetchet and junior Justin Watson all got time at receiver last season and tight end Shane Girman caught 21 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns in 2011.
“The wide receivers are the best in the WPIAL,” said Shane Girman, who received all-conference honors last season for his play at tight end.
The running back stable is deep for the Lions in 2012. Grant Fetchet will get a bulk of the carries for 345 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Dylan Opar is also expected to see some carries. And Zach and Jared Walker will give the ground game a bit of power.
“The Walkers are good, hard-nosed runners,” Rossi said.
The run game will be boosted by a tough offensive line. Senior Jake Carey leads the group after receiving all-conference honors in 2011. He will be joined by returning juniors Spencer Girman, Bryce Christoff and Ben Berkovitz and sophomore Anthony Davidson. Tight end Shane Girman will be helping in the blocking.
“The offensive line is very underrated,” Shane Girman said. “They might not be the biggest line but they work hard and have been in the weight room all offseason.”
The defensive line will be boosted by the return of senior defensive ends Dylan Witt and Brad Haney. Carey will fill in at defensive tackle and the coaching staff will be able to call on Christoff or Allderdice transfer Aaron Gross — who is listed at 6-foot-3, 280 pounds. Opar and Mike Fetchet are expected to both see time at linebacker.
The defensive secondary will see Challingsworth and Beck return with Watson and junior Hayden Orler stepping in.
“We have all the confidence in the world,” Challingsworth said. “We hope teams try and pass on us and we quickly prove they can't.”
The deep talent pool will help the Lions as they battle their way through the Century Conference. Rossi said he expects a battle in the conference every Friday night as they try to reclaim the conference crown.
“Seton-La Salle is the team to beat,” Rossi said. “They took our conference title away form us. South Park is coming down from (Class) AAA so we know they will be good. Keystone Oaks has a new coach and will be good once they get the system running and Steel Valley is always good.”
The Lions started the season with a conference game as they host McGuffey Friday at 7 p.m.
The members of the team agree with their coach's sentiment that they will be tested every Friday night. But they have their sights set on returning to the glory of the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
“We want to go all the way,” Brumbaugh said. “We want to win the conference title, then the WPIAL title and then make a run at the state title. Those are the goals we set every season. That's how we do things around here.”
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-388-5813.