South Fayette had raced to huge halftime leads in just about all of its games, so quarterback Brett Brumbaugh rarely saw more than a series of action in the second half of games this season.
When given the opportunity last Friday, Brumbaugh made the most of it.
Brumbaugh threw for a WPIAL-record 463 yards in leading South Fayette to a 31-7 quarterfinal win against Seton-LaSalle. The win advanced South Fayette (11-0) to tomorrow's semifinals, where it will face Beaver Falls (9-2) at Montour.
Brumbaugh, a junior, broke the previous record of 457 set by Shenango's Rocco Colavecchia in 2006. Brumbaugh completed 31 of 52 passes and threw three touchdowns.
It was an interesting game for South Fayette, mainly because it was still a game once the second half began. The biggest shock was that Seton-LaSalle scored a first-quarter touchdown to take the lead. It was the first touchdown South Fayette had given up in the first half all season.
Coming into the game, South Fayette had outscored the opposition, 173-3, in the first half. The smallest halftime lead the Lions held in any of those games was 14 points. This time, the score was knotted, 7-7, at the half.
Brumbaugh was shaky in the early going, misfiring on some throws and basically just not looking like himself. That changed after halftime.
"[He was] just awesome, especially how much he struggled early," South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said. "He didn't start strong, but for him to bounce back and make some big time throws was awesome."
Brumbaugh is second in the WPIAL in passing, having completed 155 of 242 passes for 2,529 yards and 29 touchdowns. Brumbaugh has completed 64 percent of his passes and has thrown only five interceptions. As a sophomore, Brumbaugh was second in the WPIAL in passing with 2,823 yards, 37 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
South Fayette averages 48.1 points per game, the top mark in the WPIAL. The passing game weaponry includes a talented group of pass catchers led by Conner Beck and Justin Watson. Beck has 54 receptions for 663 yards. Watson has 44 receptions for 1,068 yards.
Against Seton-LaSalle, Beck had 11 catches for 137 yards and a touchdown, and Watson had nine catches for 183 yards and two touchdowns, including a hookup of 87 yards.
"Connor Beck and Justin Watson combined for 20 catches," Rossi said. "Our tight end, Logan Sharpe, has been tremendous. He missed some time, but is back and healthy. Having a tight end like that is nice. And we have another guy, Hayden Orler. It's certainly been nice. You can never focus on just one guy."
South Fayette will be faced with that same problem against Beaver Falls, which boasts a bevy of talented skill-position players. Beaver Falls runs the ball more than South Fayette, but the Tigers can pass the ball, too. The Tigers are led by quarterback Dan Stratton, running backs Damian Rawl and Kahlil Caracter, and wide receiver Sage Curry. The Tigers average 41.3 points per game and have scored 50 and 43 points in their two playoff contests.
South Fayette has knocked Beaver Falls out of the playoffs each of the past three seasons, including last year's quarterfinals. South Fayette won that most recent meeting, 35-21, with Brumbaugh completing 19 of 31 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns.
USC, Bears face familiar foes
Upper St. Clair will look to avenge a 42-20 loss to Woodland Hills in last year's Class AAAA semifinals when it takes on the Wolverines at Baldwin. Upper St. Clair (11-0) is one of only two teams to have defeated Woodland Hills (9-2), as the Panthers won at the Wolvarena, 16-10, in the season opener.
Clairton (10-1) squares off against Sto-Rox (11-0) in the Class A playoffs for the third year in a row. The past two meetings came in the championship game, with Clairton winning, 42-6, in 2011, and 58-21 last season. The Bears have won 22 consecutive WPIAL playoff games.
One of the more surprising results of the quarterfinals was McKeesport Area losing to Penn-Trafford, 35-20, in Class AAAA. The Tigers (10-1) had been cutting through opponents like a buzzsaw.
The Tigers had rushed for 492 yards in the first round and then faced a Penn-Trafford team it had defeated, 34-14, in the regular season. But for the first time all season, McKeesport wasn't the most physical team on the field. Penn-Trafford rushed for more than 400 yards in gaining the win.