Semifinal in Class AA matches up run vs. pass

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This season, Washington and South Fayette had two of the best offenses in the WPIAL. Although the results have been the same, the methods could not be more different.

Whichever offense, the high-powered South Fayette passing attack or Washington's Shai McKenzie-led run game, finds the most success Friday at Chartiers Valley likely to will get a ticket to Heinz Field to compete for the Class AA championship next week.

"Both teams have worked their butts off to be in this position," South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said. "It's just another game; it just has a little more meaning."

The road to this game has been long for Washington (11-0), a program that went 1-8 as recently as 2008. But the Little Prexies have built themselves into one of the premier teams in Class AA, with their backfield playing a big part in that ascension.

A junior, McKenzie is the leading rusher in the WPIAL, having gained 2,363 yards on 173 carries (13.7 yards per carry). Rossi said McKenzie is the "best kid I've had to coach against" this season. He has played a central role for a Washington offense averaging 44.5 points per game.

"He's definitely going to be a big factor in the game," Washington coach Mike Bosnic said.

The passing game will factor into South Fayette's success Friday.

The Lions (11-0) have averaged 49.1 points per game by utilizing a quick-strike offense based around a set of key players.

Quarterback Brett Brumbaugh, a sophomore, is the WPIAL's leading passer with 2,583 yards and 36 touchdowns. Three of the team's receivers have at least 450 receiving yards, with Zach Challingsworth, a Pitt recruit, leading the way with 1,087 receiving yards.

"For the general fan intrigued of seeing the two contrasting styles in a playoff game, it's going to be well worth the price of admission," Rossi said.

Jeannette vs. Aliquippa

Aliquippa and Jeannette met in Heinz Field in the last week of November last season, with the Quips defeating the Jayhawks, 14-7, to capture the Class AA title.

The stakes are lower this time, as Aliquippa and Jeannette, two of the most consistently successful programs in their class, play in the Class AA semifinals Friday at Peters Township.

Despite the recent history between the two programs, Jeannette coach Roy Hall insists that revenge is not motivating his team.

"I don't think that it's much of a factor," Hall said. "If anything, we know each other a little more and have great respect for each other."

The Quips (11-0) and Jayhawks (10-1) have shown flashes of dominance throughout the season. Jeannette has scored at least 40 points in six games, two of which have come in the playoffs.

Few, if any teams, though, have been as overpowering as Aliquippa, which averages more than 50 points per game and has held opposing teams to 3.8 points per game. It has not lost to a WPIAL opponent since falling to South Fayette in the 2010 WPIAL Class AA championship.

But even with such accomplishments to their name, the Quips know that they can't afford to look ahead.

"Every game is different, every team is another challenge," Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac said. "If you get to this point, there really are no bad teams left."

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Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com and Twitter: @craig_a_meyer.


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