2013 PIAA Class AA Championship: South Fayette will try to slow fast opponent

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Note: This game has been postponed from Saturday until 1 p.m. Sunday because of weather conditions in Hershey.

Though the schools are separated by an entire state, when many look at Imhotep Charter's football team, they see more than a few similarities to Aliquippa.

Aside from the obvious success of both programs this season, they are both fast teams stocked with a slew of current or future Division I-A prospects. Led by deep and productive backfields, they both feature explosive offenses that average more than 45 points per game.

For South Fayette, the challenge is a familiar one. Three weeks ago, the Lions defeated the Quips in the WPIAL Class AA championship game, 34-28, at Heinz Field, denying Aliquippa its third consecutive title.

Now, they get to face the Panthers, an equally dangerous and talented team, this time with a state championship on the line.

"Speed-wise, you have to try to contain them," South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said. "You're not going to shut them down -- you just have to prevent the big play. Having that experience against Aliquippa helps."

When South Fayette defeated Aliquippa, it took down arguably the most talented team in the WPIAL, one that featured Division I-A recruits in Dravon Henry, Terry Swanson and Jaleel Fields.

For Imhotep Charter, there's no shortage of talent, either, as it has two current major conference commitments in defensive back De'Andre Scott (Arizona State) and offensive lineman Aaron Ruff (Temple).

That group doesn't even include a number of talented underclassmen who have contributed mightily to the Panthers' success this season.

As a team, Imhotep Charter, the District 12 champion and a charter school from Philadelphia, is averaging 303 rushing yards per game and has three players who have compiled at least 950 rushing yards each this season -- junior Nasir Bonner (1,199 yards), sophomore Ty Raynor (1,033) and sophomore Mike Waters (957).

Given that amount of youth at the skill positions, some may believe that this is a team that is a year or two away from truly being at its best. The Panthers, however, don't see it that way.

"These young men have experienced a lot of success before," Imhotep Charter coach Al Crosby said. "Those guys have been in the fire for some time. Hopefully, this isn't a year too early."

At least some of the pressure to neutralize Imhotep Charter will fall on the South Fayette defense, a unit that often gets overshadowed by the Lions' high-scoring offense.

For much of the season, it has been effective at slowing down potent offenses, a trend that has continued into both the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs.

After holding Aliquippa 19 points below its season scoring average in the WPIAL title game, South Fayette allowed only 14 offensive points to Karns City and limited Hickory to 20 last week, a season low for the Hornets.

Though the challenge of containing a talented team is familiar, the destination is not. South Fayette last played in a PIAA championship game in 2010, when the team's current seniors were freshmen. Much has obviously changed since that time, but the team is prepared to come away with what it was not able to get three years ago -- a state championship.

"The second time is always easier," Rossi said. "[The seniors] were freshmen at that age and none of them played, but they understand the process of what we went through to get to that game. It's a business trip for them -- last time they were almost in awe, but now it's business."

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

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