South Fayette's spread offense and quarterback Brett Brumbaugh had been close to unstoppable through the regular season and the WPIAL playoffs. But a question was what would happen to Brumbaugh and that vaunted passing game if the Lions had to play in poor weather?
Brumbaugh and South Fayette gave a resounding answer Saturday.
Not cold weather, strong winds, a snowy field nor Aliquippa's talented defense could slow South Fayette's passing game as the Lions won the WPIAL Class AA title with a 34-28 victory against the Quips at Heinz Field.
Brumbaugh, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior, finished with 315 yards passing, completing 16 of 35 passes and also throwing for two touchdowns. He came close to the record for most passing yardage in a title game at either Heinz Field or Three Rivers Stadium. He also became only the fourth quarterback in WPIAL history to pass for 3,000 yards in a season. He is 188 of 302 for 3,096 yards.
"I'm 6-4, so I can try and get up higher with passes and cut through the wind," Brumbaugh said. "[South Fayette assistant coach] Andrew DiDonato had been saying to me Tom Brady does it every week in Foxborough [Mass.] with the Patriots so I should be able to cut through the wind, too."
Brumbaugh's 315 yards were 6 yards short of the record for a title game at Three Rivers or Heinz Field. Seton-LaSalle's Bill Stull completed 19 of 35 for 323 yards in 2004 and second on the list is Brownsville's Mike Patitucci, who completed 23 of 43 for 320 yards in 1997.
Brumbaugh's receivers also were big in his success as he threw for 215 yards in the first half. Justin Watson finished with six catches for 130 yards and Conner Beck five for 112 yards.
"I thought about the wind some in pregame because my deep balls were a little wobbly," Brumbaugh said. "We stuck to our intermediate game, though, and I didn't really think about the weather once the game started."
South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said: "He was outstanding and we had kids who made plays. Aliquippa was throwing a lot of heat, but our offensive line gave him time and that's what it's all about. You give him some time and one of those four kids we have at receiver is going to get open."
Playing for grandma
Central Catholic's Luigi Lista-Brinza rushed for 136 yards and scored two touchdowns to help Central Catholic defeat Woodland Hills, 27-7, in the WPIAL Class AAAA final.
Lista-Brinza played with his grandmother, Dolly Moore, on his mind. Moore is battling cancer.
"They said she is pretty much on her death bed, but she's still fighting," Lista-Brinza said. "She said she was going to watch on TV and she said for me to get three touchdowns. I only got two, but I played my heart out for her."
Lista-Brinza is from McKees Rocks, home of Sto-Rox. He watched a number of his friends on the Sto-Rox team lose in the Class A final for the third consecutive season. Lista-Brinza almost attended Sto-Rox three years ago.
"It was a hard decision," Lista-Brinza said. "But I guess it's a good outcome now. It was sad watching [Sto-Rox] lose. I was watching from the locker room."
Colbert's pep talk
Before North Catholic left for the short trip to Heinz Field for the Class A final, the Trojans ate breakfast at the school and got a pep talk from Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, a former North Catholic player.
North Catholic quarterback P.J. Fulmore said: "He basically said, 'Don't think too much about being a champion. Think about what you have to do about being a champion.' "
The Sto-Rox-North Catholic game didn't have much pace -- because of penalties. The teams combined for 22 penalties, the most in one championship game played at Heinz Field or Three Rivers Stadium.
Sto-Rox was penalized 15 times for 99 yards. The 15 penalties is the most by any team in a title game at Heinz Field or Three Rivers.
Williams' final stats
Sto-Rox's loss to North Catholic ended the splendid career of Sto-Rox quarterback Lenny Williams. He finished with 11,559 yards, the most by a WPIAL player. He threw for 8,508 yards (best in WPIAL history), completing 479 of 833. He also had 102 career touchdown passes and finished with 3,051 yards rushing.
According to the WPIAL, attendance for all four games was estimated at 17,500. The WPIAL hopes to draw at least 20,000, but WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley wasn't displeased, considering the cold weather and snow for part of the day.
Check this out
* Sto-Rox lost in the Class A title game for the third consecutive season. The previous team to lose three consecutive times in the Class A final was Western Beaver in 1977-79.
* North Catholic's Fulmore tweaked a hamstring on a long run early in the fourth quarter. He only carried the football one more time the rest of the game and was limping in the locker room after the contest.
"But I should be OK [for the PIAA playoffs]," Fulmore said.
* North Catholic coach Bob Ravenstahl wore shorts on the sideline during the game. "It's a tradition," he said.
His son, Pittsburgh lame-duck mayor Luke Ravenstahl, attended the game and also wore shorts on the sideline in support of his father.
* Central Catholic coach Terry Totten on Graham Adomitis' touchdown: "Graham owes a 'gasser' Monday for celebrating in the end zone."
For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: email@example.com, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.