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South Fayette overwhelms Karns City to reach state semifinals

| Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, 4:42 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
South Fayette's J.J. Walker scores against Karns City during the first quarter of a PIAA Class AA playoff Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, at Clarion.

Something South Fayette quarterback Brett Brumbaugh never had seen may indirectly have led to an offensive attack Karns City could not defend.

After the Lions' prolific passer tossed his first career pick-six and South Fayette ceded a rushing touchdown midway through the second quarter of Saturday's PIAA Class AA quarterfinal, South Fayette responded with 42 unanswered points.

The result was a 57-21 victory for the Lions at Clarion's Memorial Stadium.

“Nothing really changed. We just had to execute,” Brumbaugh said. “I know it was my first state playoff game. For a couple other guys, it was their first starts in state playoff games. We just needed to get it out of our system. We came back and responded.”

Trailing 21-15, South Fayette rattled off four touchdowns in the final 6:16 before halftime. The first two — a JJ Walker run and a Brumbaugh pass to tight end Logan Sharp — came 33 seconds apart.

The onslaught was so sudden and powerful that Brumbaugh jogged off the field at halftime with 320 passing yards and four touchdowns.

“We're definitely an offense based on rhythm,” said receiver Justin Watson, who finished with five catches for 71 yards and three touchdowns. “So once we get it going, it's hard for teams to stop us.”

District 10 champion Hickory will get the next crack at slowing the Lions (14-0) when the teams meet in the semifinals Friday or Saturday at a site and time to be determined.

Brumbaugh finished 18 of 33 for 340 yards and five touchdowns, leaving the game early in the third quarter after a 21-yard touchdown to Watson with 9:59 left in the period. Conner Beck had five catches for 146 yards and a score, Sharp four for 83 and a touchdown.

Walker ran for 36 yards and three short scores on three carries.

The loss ended Karns City's season at 12-2. The Gremlins, who won District 9, are 0-4 against WPIAL teams in the state playoffs, including a 51-15 loss to Aliquippa last fall.

“They're tired of WPIAL football,” South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said. “I told our guys, ‘You're going to get their best effort.'

“(Karns City) played hard. But we said if we could get up a couple scores, we thought they would start to think back to Aliquippa or to years past for them and not beating WPIAL teams.”

Tristan Rhoades ran for a pair of touchdowns to lead Karns City. He also returned a Brumbaugh pass 30 yards, something that happened to Brett's older brother, Christian, in the 2010 PIAA playoffs.

But after Rhoades' second run, a 3-yarder at 7:37 of the second quarter, Walker scored on a 1-yard run. Roman Denson picked off Karns City's Tyler Kepple, one of two interceptions for South Fayette's defense. Brumbaugh found Sharp, Watson and Watson again.

The rout was on.

“You coach all these years … it happens,” Karns City coach Ed Conto said. “I think there was a turnover, they scored two quick touchdowns, and it just went from there.”

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

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