Steel Valley had been a rushing machine its first two games, with the Ironmen running for close to 1,000 yards and boasting two of the top six rushers in the WPIAL.
Friday, that machine lost one of its wheels, and another team that typically draws rave reviews with its offense earned an important win behind an outstanding performance from its defense.
South Fayette put the clamps on the WPIAL's top rushing attack, forced four turnovers and handily defeated host Steel Valley for the second year in a row, 42-7, in a Class AA Century Conference game at Campbell Field.
No. 4-ranked South Fayette (3-0, 3-0), the defending conference champion, remains in a tie for first place with Seton-LaSalle and Quaker Valley. No. 5 Steel Valley (2-1, 2-1) has not defeated South Fayette since 2006. A year ago, South Fayette hammered the Ironmen, 50-0.
Grant Fetchet and J.J. Walker both had three touchdown runs for South Fayette, which rushed for 187 yards.
Steel Valley's dynamic running back tandem of D'Andre Pickens and Duane Murray came into the game having rushed for 517 and 406 yards, respectively. South Fayette must not be one for past statistics, as the Lions limited the duo to 166 yards on 27 carries. They gained 131 yards on two of the carries -- Murray scored on a 72-yard run late in the game -- meaning they amassed only 35 yards on the other 25 attempts.
"That was the key," said South Fayette coach Joe Rossi. "We gave up the one big run, but he's going to get that. I'm just proud of them getting to the football.
"That's the thing against these guys. You have to stop those two. I thought outside of that one long run, we played pretty good defense."
Pickens, a senior, took his third carry on his team's opening drive down the right side for a 59-yard gain but injured his left ankle on the play. He returned and had six more carries but exited the game with about three minutes remaining in the first half. Pickens, who had rushed for 303 yards the previous week, finished with 78 yards.
Pickens stood on the sideline on crutches. Steel Valley coach Rod Steele said after the game he did not know the extent of the injury.
"We understand this is part of the game, but it hurts when you have a stud go out like that," Steele said. "You see what he's capable of doing. His [third] carry, lightning strikes. Right after that, the thunder hit.
"We had to rely on a freshman. I thought he came in and ran hard, but he gave up the ball a couple of times."
Murray fumbled three times, including twice inside the South Fayette 20. Murray ended with 88 yards on 18 carries, gaining more than three on only three of the carries.
Added Rossi: "[Losing Pickens] is equivalent to us losing [quarterback Brett] Brumbaugh. The game is going to change. He's their horse. I'm praying he's okay. Losing your horse hurts."
Brumbaugh, one of the top junior quarterbacks in the state, didn't have one of his best games. He completed only 11 of 23 passes for 152 yards and threw two interceptions.
"I thought our defense played great," Steele said. "We gave him multiple looks and we got to him."
Fetchet was the key cog offensively for South Fayette, rushing for 137 yards on 15 carries. He scored on touchdown runs of 25, 1 and 48 yards.
Fetchet's first touchdown came on South Fayette's opening drive of the second half and extended the Lions' lead to 21-0. Fetchet broke several tackles on the 45-yard run, which made the score 35-0 and invoked the Mercy Rule with 11:48 remaining.
"I just followed my blocks, hit a spin move and they didn't wrap me up," Fetchet said. "It was open field right after that. I just ran for the touchdown.
"That's as simple as it gets. Without the linemen clearing the big holes and doing their jobs, those would have never happened."
Walker was responsible for all of South Fayette's first-half scoring, as he found the end zone on a couple of 1-yard runs -- one with 1:34 left in the first quarter and the other with 8:10 remaining in the second. Walker added a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
First Published September 14, 2013 4:30 AM