South Fayette out to avenge last season’s playoff loss to Aliquippa
Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac doesn’t shy away from questions about the Quips’ championship aura.
He relishes it. Embraces it. And makes sure that everyone who plays for and against his team knows about it.
“I don’t know if there is a mystique, but the truth of the matter is that we do play on it,” Zmijanac said. “We play on the fact that a lot of these kids are nephews and cousins and grandsons and sons of people that have played there before, and they are expected to play at a certain level. I don’t know if it’s a mystique, but there is a heritage that you have to uphold.”
Aliquippa (12-0) has been in 21 WPIAL championship games and has won a record 13 titles. The Quips have played at Heinz Field each the past two years and will make their third consecutive trip to the finals Saturday. They will face South Fayette (12-0) at 1 p.m.
Conversely, the Lions haven’t been able to string together great seasons like Aliquippa. South Fayette has not played for a WPIAL football championship since 1967, and their only titles came in 1936 and 1964, when they were awarded the crown on Gardner Points.
To establish a tradition, though, the Lions know they have to go through Aliquippa.
“You have to get over that hump, and your measuring stick is always against Aliquippa, and that’s why they are who they are,” South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said. “Any Double-A school has to measure up to them, and we’re excited for the challenge.”
South Fayette got a taste of what it means to play Aliquippa last season, when the top-seeded Lions were sent packing by the No. 9 Quips, 47-34, in the second round of the Class AA playoffs. The coaches reviewed tape of that game this week, but they did not show it to the players.
“We looked at it as coaches as we always do and do that before every game,” Rossi said. “The kids watched it enough on television last year, and they understand.”
Perhaps an even larger obstacle will be for South Fayette to avoid getting caught up in playing at Heinz Field for the first time.
“Aliquippa has played there the last two years, so their kids are used to it, and hopefully in pregame we can get it out,” Rossi said. “But no matter how much you talk about it, they’re going to be in awe when they come out of the tunnel.
“Hopefully, they’ll able to put it aside and, once the whistle blows, I don’t think it will be a problem.”
It will help that South Fayette has senior quarterback Christian Brumbaugh leading the team onto the field. Brumbaugh is currently fourth on the WPIAL’s all-time passing list and has 2,723 yards this season.
Defensively, though, the Quips present a challenge for any team. Aliquippa has a senior-laden starting lineup that has given up only seven points in three playoff games.
“We play a bunch of sophomores and freshmen, and the seniors that we do have play a pivotal role in our development,” Zmijanac said. “If you don’t play defense at this point in the season, you’re not going to win.
“What I see about (South Fayette) is that they’re a really good football team .This is a great football team with a great group of kids who won a state championship in basketball, they’re 23-1 in football the last two years and this is one of those great groups of kids that comes along.”
Still, South Fayette has yet to defeat Aliquippa. But the Lions certainly learned a valuable lesson after losing to the Quips last year.
“Every team knows that they are who they are, and they’ve won all those championships, and we’re trying to win our first in 46 years,” Rossi said. “That’s history. It’s hard, especially last year with the mystique and everything because we had never played them before.
“But we’ve played them now, and this year it’s just kind of exciting.”
Playoff history — The Quips have won 13 WPIAL titles, more than any other program. They were the Class AAA champions in 1952, 1955, 1964, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1989, and won Class AA in 1991, 1996, 2000, 2003 and 2008.
Coach — Mike Zmijanac is 147-26 overall in his 14 years as the Quips’ head coach. This will be his sixth finals appearance in the last 11 seasons, and he has three WPIAL Class AA titles.
Best 2010 victory — The Quips preserved their undefeated regular-season record and clinched the outright Midwest Conference title with a 20-14 overtime victory against Beaver on Oct. 15.
T 78 Emanuel Williams 6-0290so.
G 65J’Waymon Stone5-8275jr.
C 56 Shaiya Harmon5-8195sr.
G 75 Zachary Hooks6-6285sr.
T 76 Tywon Hughes5-11250sr.
TE 85 Kevin Johnson 6-3190sr.
WB 29 Haetaun Mathis 5-9165sr.
SE 9 Davion Hall5-8155jr.
QB 15 Mikal Hall5-11155jr.
RB 26 Darius Walker 5-9175sr.
RB 35 Richard Lowe 5-10170sr.
RB 4 Ben Cobb 5-8180sr.
K 42 Marquis Jenkins5-9190fr.
DE 35 Richard Lowe 5-10170sr.
DT 75 Zachary Hooks6-6285sr.
NT 70Jaleel Fields6-0220fr.
DT 73Edward Mitchell5-11245jr.
DE 22 Chris Ingram 5-9175so.
LB 18 Donald McKenzie 5-9220sr.
LB 52 Celo Chavis5-7195so.
CB 4 Ben Cobb 5-8180sr.
CB 29 Haetaun Mathis 5-9165sr.
S 26 Darius Walker 5-9175sr.
S 9 Davion Hall 5-8155jr.
P 29 Haetaun Mathis 5-9166Sr.
South Fayette (12-0)
Playoff history — Through their long and storied past, the Lions have been in the playoffs a number of times but have only won two titles, in 1936 and 1964, when they won Class A crowns. In 1936, they defeated Aspinwall, 20-7, and, in 1964, they were awarded the title on Gardner Points. They have not appeared in the finals since a 7-6 loss to Crafton in 1967.
Coach — Joe Rossi came over from Riverview and has a record of 58-33, including a 32-10 mark with the Lions. He has not coached in a WPIAL championship game.
Best 2010 victory — On Oct. 21 in a televised matchup against previously undefeated Seton-La Salle, South Fayette clinched the Century Conference title with a 42-25 victory over the Rebels.
WR 21 Tyler Challingsworth 6-0 165 sr.
TE 17 Eric Myers 6-1 205 sr.
LT 73 Nick Faraci 6-2 285 sr.
LG 69 Tyler Chabali6-0 240 sr.
C 62 Keith Hitlan 6-1 195 jr.
RG 61 Nick Guyan 5-11 210 jr.
RT 60 Sean Lacinski 6-3 285 jr.
WR 8 Tyler Patterson 6-2 175 jr.
WR 10 Zach Challingsworth 6-3 175 so.
QB 7 Christian Brumbaugh 6-4 200 sr.
RB 24 Jeff Davis 5-11 175 sr.
FB 25 Trevor Fiorentini 5-10210 jr.
K28 Tyler Yee 5-7 145 jr.
DE 61 Nick Guyan 5-11 210 jr.
DT 73 Nick Faraci 6-2 285 sr.
DT 44 Brian Haney 6-0 150 sr.
DE 62 Kevin Hitlan 6-1 195jr.
OLB 1 Tanner Courtad 6-4 205 sr.
ILB 17 Eric Myers 6-1 205 sr.
ILB 25 Trevor Fiorentini 5-10210 jr.
OLB 11 Zach Fisher 6-0 180 sr.
CB 2 Mike Fetchet 6-0 150 so.
FS 21 Tyler Challingsworth 6-0 165 sr.
CB 29 Ben Meredith 5-8 145 sr.
P10Zach Challingsworth 6-3 175 so.