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South Fayette's defense making the difference

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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Anthony Davidson (56) and South Fayette will seek their first WPIAL Class AA title since 2010 on Saturday. Its opponent, Aliquippa, has won the previous two.


Playoff history Aliquippa has won 15 WPIAL titles, including the past two.

Coach Mike Zmijanac is 188-29 in 17 years, with five WPIAL championships

Leaders Passing: Darrien Fields, 65-93-1,083, 16 TDs; Rushing: Terry Swanson, 115-1,544, 18 TDs; Receiving: Jyier Turner, 17-357, 3 TDs.

Starting offense

QB 14 Darrien Fields 5-9 151 jr.

RB 12 Terry Swanson 5-10 187 sr.

RB 6 Dravon Henry 6-0 181 sr.

WR 9 Patrick Anderson 6-3 184 jr.

WR 8 Jyier Turner 5-6 158 sr.

TE 87 Dennis Moreland 5-9 210 sr.

LT 75 Arrington Gipson 6-1 300 jr.

LG 77 Anthony Pope 5-10 304 jr.

C 64 Nayo Seaburn 5-6 256 sr.

RG 56 Phillip Bobich 6-0 226 jr.

RT 70 Jaleel Fields 6-2 287 sr.

K 87 Dennis Moreland 5-9 210 sr.

Starting defense

DE 70 Jaleel Fields 6-2 287 sr.

NT 75 Arrington Gipson 6-1 300 jr.

DE 76 Rashad Harmon 5-11 251 jr.

OLB 87 Dennis Moreland 5-9 210 sr.

ILB 18 Donovan Cobb 6-0 239 sr.

ILB 85 Dajon Perry 5-9 246 sr.

OLB 23 Kaezon Pugh 6-0 192 so.

CB 6 Dravon Henry 6-0 181 sr.

CB 8 Jyier Turner 5-6 158 sr.

FS 14 Patrick Anderson 6-3 184 jr.

SS 12 Terry Swanson 5-10 187 sr.

P 14 Darrien Fields 5-9 151 jr.


Playoff history South Fayette won WPIAL titles in 1936, 1964 and 2010, topping Aliquippa to win the most recent.

Coach Joe Rossi is 65-16 in seven seasons, winning the 2010 WPIAL title and reaching the PIAA Class AA final the same year.

Leaders Passing: Brett Brumbaugh, 172-267-2,781, 31 TDs; Rushing: Grant Fetchet, 136-1,103, 18 TDs; Receiving: Justin Watson, 51-1,205, 16 TDs.

Starting offense

QB 7 Brett Brumbaugh 6-4 200 jr.

RB 22 Grant Fetchet 5-11 170 sr.

FB 25 JJ Walker 5-9 180 jr.

WR 5 Justin Watson 6-3 195 sr.

WR 12 Hayden Orler 5-11 175 sr.

WR 26 Conner Beck 6-0 175 sr.

TE 1 Logan Sharp 6-3 205 jr.

LT 55 Ben Berkovitz 6-2 225 sr.

LG 57 Zach Radinick 6-2 200 so.

C 52 Spencer Girman 5-10 205 sr.

RG 54 Zach Walker 5-11 210 sr.

RT 56 Anthony Davidson 6-2 215 jr.

K 19 Brian Coyne 5-9 175 jr.

Starting defense

DE 56 Anthony Davidson 6-2 215 jr.

DT 55 Ben Berkovitz 6-2 225 sr.

DT 58 Bryce Christoff 6-1 225 sr.

DE 52 Spencer Girman 5-10 205 sr.

OLB 13 Ryan Schmider 5-11 175 jr.

ILB 25 JJ Walker 5-9 180 jr.

ILB 54 Zach Walker 5-11 210 sr.

OLB 12 Hayden Orler 5-11 175 sr.

CB 5 Justin Watson 6-3 195 sr.

CB 4 Roman Denson 5-11 175 jr.

FS 26 Conner Beck 6-0 175 sr.

P 26 Conner Beck 6-0 175 sr.

Top high school sports
By Jason Mackey
Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, 10:30 p.m.

Talk about the South Fayette football team, and the conversation will likely center around points scored.

How many? Perhaps.

The Lions' offense is anything but average.

But South Fayette's defense — and the lack of points scored against it — cannot be ignored when the Lions face Aliquippa Saturday at Heinz Field for the WPIAL Class AA title.

Often overshadowed by the gaudy numbers put up by quarterback Brett Brumbaugh, receivers Justin Watson and Conner Beck and running back Grant Fetchet, the Lions' defense has equally as much to do with South Fayette reaching the WPIAL final for the first time since winning the 2010 Class AA title.

“Our defense has stepped up, which gives Brumbaugh the opportunity to throw as much as he does,” defensive tackle Ben Berkovitz said. “We have a special group.”

Though undersized — Berkovitz is a 225-pound tackle, tied with Bryce Christoff for the heaviest on the team — the Lions' defense has been successful because of unselfish play.

Instead of worrying about tackles, Berkovitz and Christoff try to consume as many blockers as possible, enabling middle linebackers Zach (99 tackles) and JJ Walker (112) to get the credit.

“Because Berkovitz, Bryce, Spencer (Girman) and (Anthony) Davidson are willing to take up two men instead of saying, ‘Hey, I'm going to go make the play,' that lets us linebackers fly around and make the stops,” Zach Walker said.

Sure worked during a 35-7 semifinal win over Beaver Falls, a game in which the Lions held Damian Rawl and Kahlil Caracter to 62 yards on 20 carries.

But an even more daunting task awaits in trying to stop Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson, two backs who've combined for more than 9,000 career yards.

“We just have to do what we did the other night, which is tackle,” Rossi said. “We never gave those kids extra yards.”

If South Fayette is able to shut down Henry and Swanson, that will force quarterback Darrien Fields to test South Fayette's secondary of Gateway transfer Roman Denson, Watson and Beck.

Beck has excelled in run support with 57 tackles. Watson and Denson are solid in pass coverage. Linebacker Hayden Orler has four of South Fayette's 17 interceptions.

Overall, South Fayette (five shutouts) is allowing 95.6 rushing yards per game, 52.6 through the air and just five points per game, best in the WPIAL this season.

“I think it's going to be our offense against their defense,” Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac said. “Whether we can sustain drives, move the ball and score.”

Also hold onto it. Aliquippa fumbled four times in the 2010 title game while the Quips fell to South Fayette, 19-16. Three of them came inside the 20.

South Fayette didn't quite have that same effect on Washington's Shai McKenzie last year; he gashed the Lions for 293 yards and four touchdowns in the WPIAL semifinals.

That prompted Rossi to take over the defense from Darren Schoppe, who left for Bishop Canevin. Tim Sohyda (defensive line) also came aboard after spending the previous three years as head coach at Canon-McMillan.

Those changes, combined with South Fayette's unselfish play, have forced teams to not concentrate solely on the Lions' high-powered offense.

“I think the most impressive thing about them is defensively, believe it or not,” Zmijanac said. “They certainly haven't given up many points to anybody.”

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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