South Fayette blown out in PIAA Class AA title game
HERSHEY — This time, the school from Philadelphia left with the winner's trophy.
"We just fell apart too much, too early," South Fayette quarterback Christian Brumbaugh said through tears after Saturday's 50-14 loss to West Philadelphia Catholic in the PIAA Class AA title game — a bitter finish to the Lions' record-setting season.
Brumbaugh added another state record, this one for passing touchdowns in a season (52). But there was no perfect ending for South Fayette (15-1) like there was in March, when Brumbaugh helped the basketball team win a state title by defeating Strawberry Mansion of the Philadelphia Public League.
"We made it this far," Brumbaugh said. "I just feel bad we couldn't do it."
West Catholic (13-2) made the score lopsided with a 30-point second quarter that included touchdowns on four consecutive possessions. That helped West Catholic, the District 12 champion, set a record of its own: most yards in the Class AA state championship game. West Catholic had 530, surpassing the 506 Jeannette had against Dunmore in 2007. The only school with more in a state title game was Central Bucks West, which in 1998 had 533 yards in Class AAAA.
The 50 points also were a record for a Class AA winner, and the 36-point margin was the widest since 2006, when Southern Columbia defeated West Middlesex, 56-14, in the Class A title game.
The lopsided score made the experience even more painful, fullback Trevor Fiorentini said, because the outcome was obvious by early in the third quarter.
"It hurt the whole time," he said, "because we were only playing for pride."
The mercy rule — a running clock — was enacted with nearly 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and Brumbaugh was replaced by his backup, leaving him 98 yards short of the state's season passing record. Brockway's Derek Buganza had 3,824 in 2009.
"We wanted to get him out for safety concerns," coach Joe Rossi said. "He got dinged up pretty good. He took a good shot."
Despite his collision-caused headache, Brumbaugh wanted to stay in the game.
"(The record) didn't mean anything," said Brumbaugh, who was 11 of 28 for 111 yards and two touchdowns to sophomore Zach Challingsworth. "I didn't know what the record was. I don't care what the record is. I wanted to stay in and play my last series of high school football."
Brumbaugh said he faced more pressure from West Catholic than he had seen all season. He was sacked twice, fumbled once and was hurried on most throws.
"They threw so much at us," he said.
That was West Catholic's plan.
"You can't let Christian sit back there and throw the ball," West Catholic coach Brian Fluck said, "because he'll pick you apart. If we make him throw a little bit quicker pass, maybe he'll be off."
Tailback Jeff Davis, a 1,500-yard rusher, was slowed by a knee injury from his previous game, so West Catholic focused even more attention on Brumbaugh and his receivers. Davis had 11 yards on five carries; Fiorentini led South Fayette with 42 yards on nine carries.
"We knew they had a powerful defense and good skill players," lineman Nick Faraci said. "We were going to have to match up to their speed. It didn't go our way."
West Catholic won with speed. Running backs David Williams and Brandon Hollomon combined for 295 yards and three touchdowns, including an 81-yard run by Williams. Jaelen Strong-Rankin had 100 yards on two catches, both touchdowns, including a 75-yarder.
"They kept getting to the outside," said Fiorentini, who had a team-high seven tackles, tying him with Eric Myers. "We tried everything."
The game started well for South Fayette. An 8-yard touchdown catch by Challingsworth on the opening drive gave South Fayette a 7-0 lead with 7:37 left in the first quarter. And the Lions led, 7-6, in the second before West Catholic scored four touchdowns in a nine-minute span.
At halftime, South Fayette trailed, 36-14.
"We made a couple mistakes at the beginning of the game," Faraci said. "And it all started going downhill."