When Joe Rossi looks at film of Hickory High School's football team, his foe in a PIAA Class AA semifinal Saturday at Slippery Rock University, he sees shades of his own team at South Fayette.
Both are high-scoring teams that feature a number of talented players at the offensive skill positions, the kind that put up eye-popping numbers against seemingly overwhelmed opposition.
As Rossi puts it, "They're kind of like us."
But while offensive talent is a similarity, the defining characteristics of that talent are different, particularly at the game's most visible position -- quarterback.
Where South Fayette has Brett Brumbaugh, a more traditional drop-back quarterback who emerged as one of the to players in the state, Hickory has a dual-threat quarterback in Matt Voytik.
Aside from a six-point victory against Aliquippa in the WPIAL Class AA championship, the Lions have been largely untested this season, but the versatile Voytik could pose one of the biggest challenges South Fayette has faced.
"I think all defensive coordinators around find it really hard to prepare for a dual-threat quarterback," Hickory coach Bill Brest said. "Matt can do both of those and he's shown to be able to do both of those."
Through the Hornets' first 14 games, few teams have been able to contain their quarterback's dynamic skill set. This season, Voytik, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior, has completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 1,930 yards and has rushed for an additional 701 yards, averaging 6.1 yards per carry.
If Voytik's name sounds familiar to those around the Pittsburgh area, it's because it should. Voytik is the cousin of Pitt redshirt freshman quarterback Chad Voytik, who Brest said comes to Hickory games as often as he can to provide help to his relative.
Utilizing a read-option offense, the Hornets have excelled this season, going 13-1 while averaging 45.7 points per game, success that can at least be partially attributed to its star under center.
"You can tell he doesn't make a lot of checks at the line of scrimmage," Rossi said. "They do a lot of nice stuff with him running the football and he's made some big-time throws. He's made all the throws he's needed to and he's one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks we've seen."
The read-option offense that the Hornets run will be a test for the South Fayette defense, a unit that has faced similar offensive schemes this season, but not one with this level of talent. In particular, Rossi noted how offenses such as Hickory's spread out opposing defenses and force them to make smart decisions.
After allowing just 60 points in their first 12 games against largely overwhelmed opposition, the Lions' defense has performed well in the clutch the past two weeks. In the WPIAL championship, it held Aliquippa 19 points below its season average and then limited Karns City to 14 offensive points in a victory last Saturday in the PIAA quarterfinals.
Obstacles, however, still await South Fayette, something that will be perfectly clear Saturday as it hopes to advance to the state championship.
"You're playing better football teams and they're there for a reason," Rossi said. "Hickory is going to pose another challenge for our defense."
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG