South Fayette knocks off Imhotep, captures its first PIAA football title
HERSHEY — South Fayette's Justin Watson already had visited each end zone at Hersheypark Stadium, and the second quarter was just 15 seconds old.
“When we're moving like that, there's just no way you can beat us,” said Watson, who caught two of quarterback Brett Brumbaugh's three touchdown passes in Sunday's record-setting 41-0 victory over Imhotep Charter in the PIAA Class AA championship at Hersheypark Stadium. “When we come out as hot as we did, there's just no way you can stop this.”
In the process, Brumbaugh broke the WPIAL single-season passing record held by his brother, Christian. Watson, who had six catches for 126 yards, set the WPIAL mark for receiving yards in a season.
Brumbaugh's first 13 throws included three touchdowns and just three incompletions. The junior, who drew Imhotep offside six times, completed 18 of 25 passes for 299 yards to win the state title his brother chased in 2010.
“You know right from that first deep ball how he's feeling,” Watson said. “If he gets that first one connected, it's over.”
Watson's touchdowns covered 6 and 64 yards. Junior Logan Sharp had a 53-yarder. The Lions offense has averaged 45 points.
“If we're making plays, and we're in a rhythm, we feel like we can't be stopped,” Brumbaugh said.
The one-sided outcome wasn't the blowout some expected. The Lions decorated their hotel with copies of an article published on a Philadelphia television station website that projected a 50-6 South Fayette loss. But the story nailed one prediction: It wouldn't be competitive.
“We definitely had it pinned up all over our hotel,” Lions coach Joe Rossi said. “No one expected us to win.”
The winning margin was the largest in a Class AA final, eclipsing a 37-point victory by Mount Carmel over Shady Side Academy in 1998. South Fayette held a 35-0 halftime lead, enacting the mercy rule's running clock for the entire second half.
It was the first state football title for South Fayette (16-0), which lost here in 2010. Imhotep (12-3), a charter school with athletes committed to FBS schools, was the first Philadelphia Public League school to reach the PIAA championship.
“When you get your butt kicked, you get your butt kicked,” Imhotep coach Al Crosby said. “You've got to sit back and say it happens. If we had the opportunity to play those guys again, we don't know what the outcome would be. But today they were 41 points better than us, and I applaud those guys.”
The five first-half touchdowns tied a record for most points scored by a team in one half of a PIAA final. Lions kicker Brian Coyne needed just two quarters to tie a Class AA championship record with five extra points.
Junior J.J. Walker added a 4-yard touchdown run, and senior Conner Beck returned an interception 45 yards for another score just before halftime. Senior Grant Fetchet scored on a 9-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to cap a 99-yard drive.
A goal-line stand by South Fayette early in the third quarter preserved the shutout. Imhotep moved 79 yards on its first possession of the second half but couldn't score despite four snaps inside the 2.
Watson needed 105 yards to break the WPIAL receiving mark set by Seton-La Salle's Carmen Connolly (1,545) in 2004.
Brumbaugh entered Sunday needing 109 yards to break his brother's WPIAL passing record. Christian Brumbaugh, a quarterback for Williams & Mary, had 3,726 yards in 2010, when South Fayette lost the state final to West Philadelphia Catholic, 50-14.
“I couldn't be happier it was him to do it,” Christian Brumbaugh said. “At this venue, it's truly an accomplishment.”