Gorman: South Fayette has a ‘No Fly’ zone | TribLIVE.com
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South Fayette's Jack Relihan tackles Imhotep Charter's Tyliek Raynor for a loss during the second quarter of the PIAA Class AA state championship game Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, at Hersheypark Stadium.

While Brett Brumbaugh earns accolades at South Fayette for smashing state passing records, the Lions’ defense has a reason to roar.

South Fayette has 25 interceptions entering Saturday’s PIAA Class AA final against Dunmore, returning seven for scores.

Cornerback Jack Relihan and safety Ryan Schmider have caught more touchdown passes from opposing quarterbacks (five) than their own (four).

“When we score,” Relihan said, “it’s huge.”

Relihan and Schmider each had an 11-yard interception returns for a touchdown in the 44-14 semifinal victory over Hickory. The defense also had a safety to score as many points as the Hornets.

“Our defense is a staple of this team,” said Brumbaugh, who became the state’s career passing leader. “When our offense is rolling, they get a turnover. When a team puts their head down, that’s when they strike. The pick-6s are huge. When they get a pick, they want to take it to the house.”

That’s why Schmider wrote “No Fly Zone” on his taped wrists. Relihan has returned three of his six picks for scores, while Schmider has a pair.

“That’s what we’re about, to get the ball back into Brett’s hands.” Schmider said. “Any time our defensive backs or linebackers make plays, we say, ‘It’s the sharks.’ We’re out for blood.”

Dunmore runs for an average of 323.8 yards a game but passes for only 38.6, so South Fayette knows it will need an early lead for its sharks to score.

If South Fayette can get a double-digit edge, the Bucks will have no choice but to throw. That’s when the Lions turn into sharks, when passes become pick-6s and when the No Fly Zone requires a warning sign:

Swim at your own risk.

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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