West Xtra: Teams, individuals enjoyed great year

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A region of the city that is partially defined by not being home to a single Class AAAA school found a way to get its teams to the biggest stages this season.

Two teams from the West Xtra section -- South Fayette and West Allegheny -- won WPIAL championships, with the former of those also capturing a PIAA crown. Three others -- Central Valley, Aliquippa and Sto-Rox -- made it all the way to Heinz Field for a WPIAL title game before ultimately losing.

Even in a team-oriented sport such as football, success can often be defined by what team features the best players, a reality which is embodied in the West Xtra Fabulous 22.

Of the 22 players who made the cut, eight came from schools that won WPIAL championships -- four apiece from South Fayette and West Allegheny. Eight others came from WPIAL finalists. Many of the names on this list played pivotal roles in helping their teams reach the goal so many set out to accomplish at the beginning of the season.

Team success can often be a chicken/egg scenario: Do teams excel because they have great players or do the players look better because they're on a great team? But it's hard to deny the impact that so many players on this list had on the WPIAL this season.

Some of the selected players rewrote the record books, such as Sto-Rox's Lenny Williams, the WPIAL's career passing leader. Others, such as Aliquippa's Dravon Henry, who surpassed the 5,000-yard career rushing mark, were among the most coveted recruits in the country, the kinds of players who will be looked upon to be stars at the next level.

For those such as Brett Brumbaugh, that kind of attention from colleges, recruiting services and fans alike will come next season, though for him, that process has already begun.

Players on the Fab 22 are selected as the "best 22" regardless of their position or their school's classification. They were selected by the Post-Gazette's scholastic sports staff based on writers' observations, interviews with coaches, examination of statistics and balloting for all-conference teams.

Players from South Fayette, which is covered in both the South Xtra and West Xtra sections, were considered for placement on the West Xtra Fab 22.

Although there are only 22 players who make the cut from a coverage area that includes 26 schools, the final team is the product of a long process that takes into account so many talented players at different positions.

These are the 22 who earned the consensus approval of the Post-Gazette scholastic sports staff.

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