Frigid weather and snow already have made their way to Western Pennsylvania, but a showdown Friday at Montour might prove that it is not too cold for fireworks.
No. 2 seed South Fayette (11-0) takes on No. 3 Beaver Falls (9-2) in a WPIAL Class AA semifinal. There could be plenty of offensive fireworks. South Fayette averages a WPIAL-high 48.1 points per game. Beaver Falls scores 41.4 per game, fourth best in Class AA.
“It’s a conflict in styles. We know they like to throw it a lot. We like to run it,” Beaver Falls coach Ryan Matsook said. “It certainly presents a challenge to both defenses. I can’t say that I can predict what [the score is] going to be, but, with all of the weapons, I would expect some scoring.”
This will be the fourth year in a row the teams have met in the WPIAL playoffs. South Fayette won the previous three meetings, including a 35-21 victory in the quarterfinals last season. South Fayette quarterback Brett Brumbaugh threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns then, helping the Lions pull away after a 21-21 halftime tie.
Brumbaugh, a junior, threw for a WPIAL-record 463 yards in a 31-7 win last week against Seton-LaSalle. He is second in the WPIAL in passing with 2,529 yards and 29 touchdowns. Brumbaugh has a talented group of receivers led by Justin Watson and Conner Beck, and a 1,000-yard rusher in Grant Fetchet, who has scored a team-high 19 touchdowns.
Matsook said it won’t be easy trying to slow down Brumbaugh and company.
“Well, it’s awfully tough,” he said. “You almost have to have a mindset that teams take against the [New England] Patriots and Tom Brady. [Brumbaugh] sits back and handles his business. We have to be physical and we have to play fast on defense.
“We understand they’re going to make plays. If we make a mistake, we have to make sure one doesn’t lead to two and two doesn’t lead to three.”
Luckily for Matsook, he, too, has a stable of playmakers. Led by Damian Rawl (1,130 yards rushing) and Kahlil Caracter (633), Beaver Falls has rushed for 475 yards in the postseason.
Caracter, a transfer from Freedom, wasn’t eligible to play until the sixth game of the regular season.
The Tigers also have a talented quarterback in Dan Stratton, who has thrown five of his 17 touchdown passes the past two games. Wide receivers Sage Curry (West Virginia) and Elijah Cottrill (Akron) are Division I recruits.
“It’s so hard [to game plan for Beaver Falls],” South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said.
“You can’t dial into their run game because Cottrill and Stratton are good. Curry has caught touchdowns. It’s a matter of sitting down and figuring out what you want to hurt you least.”
Beaver County rivals meet
Playing in the same conference as Aliquippa, Beaver is more familiar with the Quips than most teams. That doesn’t mean that’s a good thing.
Beaver (8-3), the No. 12 seed, will try to end a six-game losing streak against No. 1 Aliquippa (11-0) and avenge an ugly regular-season loss to the Quips when the Midwestern Conference foes square off Friday at Ambridge.
Aliquippa, the two-time defending champion, will attempt to reach the final for the sixth year in a row. Beaver has not reached the title game since 1982.
The Quips jumped to a 29-0 first-quarter lead and scored all their points in the first half of a 50-13 rout of Beaver Oct. 25. Aliquippa’s Terry Swanson (126) and Dravon Henry (108) both rushed for more than 100 yards each, and the Quips held Beaver quarterback Alex Rowse, the WPIAL passing leader, to a season-low 110 yards.