HERSHEY, Pa. — As an eighth-grader sitting in the bleachers at Hersheypark Stadium, Brett Brumbaugh watched his brother Christian’s accomplished South Fayette career end in unspectacular fashion, a 50-14 loss to West Philadelphia Catholic in a PIAA championship.
He remembered the pain he saw, the kind that comes with falling one game short of a career-long goal.
With that thought in the back of his mind Sunday, the youngest Brumbaugh, the most recent product in a decorated lineage of quarterbacks, was able to do something none of this brothers and no quarterback in South Fayette history had been able to do.
Brumbaugh threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns, breaking Christian’s single-season WPIAL passing yardage record, and the Lions (16-0) won their first PIAA Class AA championship with a 41-0 victory against Imhotep Charter at Hersheypark Stadium.
“Looking back on this a couple years from now, it will settle in and we’ll realize that it was something special we did,” Brumbaugh said. “We’re going to be able to reminisce for the rest of our lives.”
The 41-point margin was the largest in PIAA Class AA championship history.
Brumbaugh broke his older brother’s record in spectacular fashion, connecting with senior Justin Watson on a 64-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter that gave South Fayette a 21-0 lead.
The moment itself was special, particularly with Christian watching on the sideline providing the same support and guidance he has throughout Brett’s career.
“Without him, I couldn’t have done this,” Brumbaugh said. “It’s part of him, too.”
As he has been throughout the season, Watson was on the receiving end of many of Brumbaugh’s completions. Watson finished with six catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns, bringing his season totals to 1,568 yards and 21 touchdowns.
At its best, watching the South Fayette offense is akin to witnessing a machine with all its parts are working in efficient harmony.
From the game’s early moments, that reality was evident.
On their first possession, the Lions went 64 yards in 13 plays, a drive that ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Brumbaugh to Watson. Just more than two minutes later, on the first play of its next drive, South Fayette’s lead doubled to 14-0 after a Brumbaugh touchdown pass to Logan Sharp.
By the time Brumbaugh broke his brother’s record, the Lions had a 21-0 lead not even 13 minutes into the game against a team that had not lost by more than eight this season. That lead grew to 35-0 by halftime, tying a PIAA championship record for most points scored in a half and invoking a constantly running clock for the second half.
“When we’re moving like that, there’s just no way you can beat us,” Watson said. “When we come out as hot as we did, there’s no way you can stop it.”
The Panthers (12-3), who came into the championship averaging 47.1 points and 303 rushing yards per game, were shut out for the first time this season and were limited to 23 yards on the ground. Only once did they get inside the South Fayette 20, and they were called for 16 penalties.
Things just never came together in their first appearance in a PIAA championship.
“I can sit back and I can complain about this or complain about that,” Imhotep Charter coach Al Crosby said. “But when you get your butt kicked, you get your butt kicked. You just have to sit back and say, ‘You know what, it happens.’”
The shutout marked the 13th time in 16 games that the South Fayette defense held an opponent to fewer than 20 points.
As South Fayette coach Joe Rossi gathered his team after the game, he spoke of the history his players shared. Many of them grew up together and played together well before high school. As Rossi put it, they “grew up green and white.”
For years, the goal of players such as Brumbaugh and Watson was to win a PIAA championship for the school they had always followed. With their coach and a record-setting offense leading the way, that dream was finally realized.
“There’s nothing sweeter,” Rossi said. “It’s just tremendous.”
Craig Meyer: email@example.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG. First Published December 15, 2013 3:42 PM