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South Fayette hoping to leave lasting impression in Class AA

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For the Triubne-Review
South Fayette coach Joe Rossi leads practice Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, at South Fayette.
Randy Jarosz | For the Tribune-Review
South Fayette coach Joe Rossi works with Ryan Schmider at practice Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, at South Fayette.
Randy Jarosz | For the Tribune-Review
South Fayette quarterback Brett Brumbaugh works out at practice Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, at South Fayette.
Randy Jarosz | For the Tribune-Review
South Fayette's Nick Ponikvar works out t practice Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, at South Fayette.
Randy Jarosz | For the Tribune-Review
South Fayette's Camden Hoover works out at practice Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, at South Fayette.

With South Fayette preparing for a jump to Class AAA next year, the Lions have a clear goal in mind — going out on top in Class AA.

“Every year, one of our goals is to win the conference,” quarterback Brett Brumbaugh said.

“But being in our last year in Double-A and the Century Conference, it will be our last chance to get the Double-A ring.”

Brumbaugh returns after having a strong sophomore season, completing 63 percent of his passes (154 for 245) for nearly 2,900 yards.

The junior lost Zach Challingsworth — his top target in 2012 — to graduation but has plenty of weapons to keep the high-flying offense going strong and try to replace his nearly 1,200 receiving yards and 19 scores.

Senior Justin Watson, who had 592 receiving yards and eight touchdowns last year, is getting attention from MAC, Patriot League and Ivy League programs. Conner Beck also returns after a 457-yard, four-touchdown season.

“(Challingsworth) is hard to replace just because of the caliber of player he was,” Brumbaugh said.

“But we have some talented guys coming back. Hayden Orler has looked good. Logan Sharp is at tight end, which will be nice because we didn't use one much last year because of injuries.”

While the passing attack will be strong, opposing teams cannot sleep on the Lions' run game.

The team returns four of its top five rushers from 2012 — Grant Fetchet (932 yards), Nick Ponikvar (258), Zach Walker (163) and Jared Walker (134). The foursome combined for 27 touchdowns.

“We feel that when we need the tough yards, those guys can get them,” coach Joe Rossi said. “We also return four of the five staters on the offensive line, which we're really excited about.”

The defense was hit hard by graduation, losing all four linemen and three of four linebackers from 2012. Zach Walker (59 tackles) is the only returning linebacker.

Beck returns to the secondary after recording 51 tackles last season. Orler also is back in the defensive backfield after seeing playing time in key spots last season.

If the new faces on the defense can step up, the Lions could be on the fast track to a second straight Century Conference title.

“Our No. 1 goal is to win the conference,” Rossi said. “It will be our last chance to do it. To say we won the conference title four of the last five years would be a tremendous feat.”

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