Running game carries South Fayette past Hickory and into PIAA title game
SLIPPERY ROCK — Grant Fetchet could've buried his head.
Instead, the South Fayette senior running back bounced back and buried Hickory.
Fetchet shook off a first-half fumble by running for 119 yards and a touchdown over the final 24 minutes, as South Fayette topped Hickory, 23-20, in a PIAA Class AA semifinal Saturday at Slippery Rock University's Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
“I was frustrated,” Fetchet said. “I really didn't get a clean handoff. I was juggling the ball when I was running with it. I fumbled it. Went in at halftime, got my head right and came back out and said, ‘I'm going to run the hardest that I've ever run.' ”
The determined display started with a 27-yard carry on South Fayette's first offensive play of the second half.
It also included a 37-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter — one with a nifty spin move — that gave South Fayette (15-0) a 23-14 lead.
Fetchet finished with 161 yards and a pair of scores on 21 carries.
“You can put your head in the ground and bury yourself. He didn't. He kept fighting,” South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said. “Got a nice spin move and made a tremendous play when we needed it.”
South Fayette, which overcame four turnovers, is back in the PIAA Class AA final for the first time since 2010 and will play District 12 champion Imhotep (13-1) at noon Saturday in Hershey.
“There's no better feeling,” lineman Ben Berkovitz said. “We have another chance to win it this time, so I'm excited for next week's practices. I'm excited to win ourselves a state championship.”
Much of South Fayette's success running the ball came because Hickory chose to play coverage on quarterback Brett Brumbaugh and his many weapons.
Brumbaugh completed 22 of 37 passes for 175 yards but didn't find the end zone. Justin Watson, needing 144 yards to break the WPIAL's single-season record, finished with five catches for 36 yards. Tight end Logan Sharp had four for 67.
“When we're dropping eight, nine and 10 in coverage, we were rolling the dice with that,” Hickory coach Bill Brest said. “That was one of my biggest fears coming into today — them being able to run the football. And they did. We stole their signals. We knew they were running the ball. They did a nice job executing.”
Quarterback Matt Voytik led Hickory with three rushing touchdowns. He also passed for 198 yards and led a late touchdown drive that he capped with a 1-yard run. But Conner Beck recovered the onside kick, and South Fayette ran out the clock.
The Hornets (12-2) led 14-9 late in the first half when they capitalized on Fetchet's fumble, and Voytik cut off of an Anthony Canone block for a 57-yard touchdown at 1 minute, 10 seconds of the second quarter.
South Fayette drove 84 yards on 15 plays for a touchdown on its opening possession, as Fetchet powered into the end zone from 4 yards at 6:16.
Voytik ran 57 yards untouched on Hickory's third offensive play to tie it at 7-7 just 1:28 later.
Berkovitz got a strip-sack on Voytik, who recovered his fumble in the end zone with Anthony Davidson touching him down for a safety early in the second period.
“I didn't know it happened at first, then I was pretty excited,” Berkovitz said. “He got by me, but I got a hand on the ball.”
The teams traded punts in the third before JJ Walker scored his 19th touchdown of the season, and Fetchet followed it on South Fayette's next drive with his 20th.
Not bad numbers for what many consider to be a pass-first offense.
“Everybody underestimates our run game,” Fetchet said. “Nobody ever takes it serious. We're always known for having a really strong passing game, but I think we can say that we balanced it out this year. People have to be aware of both.”