By Matt Popchock


Oh, by the way, there are football games this weekend…and they start tonight.

For those of you who read this blog regularly, I apologize for the relative lack of football content this week, as compared to week’s past. Like everyone else, I’ve been distracted by the horrific events at State College. I’m more than willing to share my own thoughts on them in the next few days.

In addition, I’ve been busy working on jump-starting our PIHL hockey coverage, and saw an interesting contest between Mars and Serra Catholic in Class A Thursday night. Again, I’ll have more on that later, and keep reading the blog for more hockey items. Those will certainly increase in volume as soon as football season ends.

But for tonight, our focus is on the scholastic gridiron, which is good. We need a healthy distraction at the end of a mind-numbing week like this, and what better than the Friday night lights of the WPIAL. It’s the Quarterfinal round of the 2011 WPIAL Playoffs, as the district champion South Fayette Lions (7-3) take on the Seton-LaSalle Rebels (10-0) in Class AA action. Seton-LaSalle has won seven of the last ten meetings between these teams, including a 33-10 road victory three weeks ago that gave Rebels the 2011 Century Conference title en route to a perfect regular season.

Mr. High School Sports is blogging live from Peters Township Stadium throughout the night, providing updates on this playoff contest, and all the rest.

More to come…

6:57 – Both teams are warming up, and based on what we’re hearing freshman quarterback Brett Brumbaugh will appear in tonight’s game, despite some speculation that regular John Lerda, son of the former City League great, might return. This sets the stage for one of the most unique WPIAL playoff games in recent memory, hence my presence.

Though there is no central WPIAL football database to corroborate this, this marks the first time ever, to my knowledge, that two brothers will face each other as starting quarterbacks in the WPIAL Football Playoffs.

New full-time starter Luke Brumbaugh has had a great year for Seton-LaSalle, throwing for 1,121 yards and 12 TD’s during the regular season. Brett made his varsity debut as a starter in Week 9, going 13-of-14 for 228 yards against Quaker Valley. He struggled in the First Round against Beaver Falls, throwing just two TD’s against four picks, but still completed over half his passes and got his team the win.

They have another brother, Christian Brumbaugh, who, last year, became the WPIAL’s all-time leading passer while guiding South Fayette to its first district football title since 1964. Christian is currently a redshirt freshman at William & Mary.

Whose record did Christian Break? It belonged to Bill Stull, who quarterbacked Seton-LaSalle to its last WPIAL title in 2004 the same year he set it. Stull, who will be playing QB for your Pittsburgh Power this spring, has spent time with his former position coach, Seton-LaSalle head coach Greg Perry, as Luke Brumbaugh’s position coach.

I couldn’t make that up if I tried.

More to come…

7:15 – The national anthem has long since wrapped up, so let’s take a look at two of the possible x-factors in this game. One of the leading scorers in the WPIAL, Seton-LaSalle tailback Kevin Hart is the real folcrum of that offense. He’s getting much more D-1 interest these days, attracting Pitt, Toledo, North Carolina State, and Northwestern, among others; Hart will likely play the slot in college. Speaking of receivers, South Fayette boasts Zach Challingsworth, arguably the district’s top wide-out. He is drawing interest from Penn State, Toledo, WVU, and Villanova.

7:20 – A modest crowd on hand at both sides of the stadium, as we are moments before kickoff. It’s in the 40s here in western PA tonight…and the Penguins are playing for the first time in nearly a week, albeit sans Sidney, which is always a distraction in this town. Plus, Pitt men’s hoops is opening its season tonight, so the audience for high school football may be a little more fragmented than usual tonight.

Great to see former colleagues Matt Vandriak, and, one of my very own maternal cousins, Adam Hoerner, in the broadcast booth for the MSA Sports Network next door.

7:26 – Seton-LaSalle, the No. 3 seed, takes the field, followed shortly by South Fayette, the No. 11 seed. For what it’s worth, the turnout seems stronger on the South Fayette side.

7:28 – Coin toss. Rebels will take the ball, moving left to right on your computer or mobile device, in their home green unis. Lions in their road whites.

7:30 – We’re underway. Winner of this game plays either No. 2 seed Jeannette or No. 7 seed Shady Side Academy in the WPIAL Class AA Semifinals next Friday.

7:32 – Hart with 16 on his first 2 carries. Luke Brumbaugh hit Dylan Boccella for LaSalle’s first 1st down.

7:34 – Nick Sywyj (“sivee”) picks up a 3rd and short. Hart now with 26 on his first 5 carries.

7:36 – Another Sywyj 1st down run, LaSalle now in the red zone. Great ball control on this opening drive.

7:38 – 1st and goal for the Rebels. Hart running well both on and off tackle.

7:39 – UPDATE: 33 yard FG…Knoch leads TJ 3-0 early 1st.

7:40 – TOUCHDOWN LASALLE! Kevin Hart finishes what he started with a 1-yard power run up the middle for an easy score, his 30th total TD of the season. Dom DelGreco converts the extra point to cap a SIX-minute opening drive…well, about six, anyway. 4:50 left, 1st quarter, 7-0 Seton-LaSalle.

7:41 – Squib kick by LaSalle. Probably smart to try and keep it away from Challingsworth, the Lions’ main return man, as much as possible.

7:43 – Brett Brumbaugh’s first attempt, over the middle, is picked off by Jamie Miller, who is downed at the South Fayette 38. 3:50 left, 1st quarter.

7:44 – A few nice plays by Boccella in this game early on, as he makes another catch in a soft spot in the zone defense.

Speak of the devil…moments later, Mike Fetchet drills Boccella on a screen. South Fayette’s defense trying to wake up.

7:46 – Luke Brumbaugh gives it right back on a pick by Tyler Patterson inside the 20. 1:20 left, still 7-0 Rebels.

Can’t blame Greg Perry for wanting to mix it up and keep South Fayette guessing to make more room for Hart. But that throw, like Brett’s, is definitely one Luke wants back.

7:48 – Brett Brumbaugh is nearly picked off for the second time in two attempts. Both defenses seemingly settling into their own rhythm.

7:50 – UPDATES: 37-yd TD run by D.J. Moore…7-0 Central over Lebo in the 1st…Sto-Rox out to an early 6-0 lead over Brentwood.

End of 1st quarter…7-0 Seton-LaSalle, and you can thank the Rebels for the quickness of that period. Kevin Hart ate up most of the clock with some really nice running.

7:53 – UPDATES: Darin Franklin 30-yd TD…7-0 Gateway over Penn-Trafford late in the 1st…Ellwood City up 3-0 on GCC early…Knoch now up 10-0 on TJ late in the 1st…Central Valley storms out to an early 21-0 lead on Ringgold.

Mac Meaghan, by the way, hauled in a 52-yard TD pass from Ky Kenyon for Knoch’s TD.

7:54 – Zach Challingsworth’s punt was fumbled, but the Rebels recover, and Hart goes right back to work with an 11-yard run.

7:56 – Well, so much for the Brumbaugh versus Brumbaugh battle…so far the story of this game, as is often the case when LaSalle plays, is Kevin Hart’s running. He picks up 13 and a 1st down on 3rd and long, despite some stubborn “D” from the Lions. Dirt-simple play, right up the middle.

7:57 – UPDATE: Jeannete up 7-0 on SSA after a Demetrius Cox TD pass. Very interesting development: SSA’s Reggie Mitchell not playing…and not even in uniform.

Franklin Regional and Hopewell scoreless after one. 30 yards on 4 carries for Shell.

7:59 – UPDATE: Cox 52-yd TD run…14-0 Jeannette early 2nd.

8:00 – UPDATE: Sto-Rox up now 12-0 on Brentwood. Meanwhille, Hart continuing to put the Rebels on his back, running them inside the red zone. 4th down coming up at the Lions’ 13.

8:02 – Turnover on downs. Great pursuit by South Fayette, which bottles up Hart for a 6-yard loss with 5:40 to go in the half, same score.

8:04 – Let’s not sell LaSalle’s defense short. They make a nice recovery, forcing a 3 and out with 4:43 left in the half, 7-0 Rebels.

Only one completion for Brett Brumbaugh thus far, as the baptism by fire continues…

8:06 – UPDATES: Hopewell 7 Franklin Regional 0 (2nd)…Aliquippa 22 Wash. 0 (end 1st)…Darin Franklin punt return gives Gateway 14-0 lead over Penn-Trafford (2nd)…North Allegheny 14 Seneca Valley 7 (end 1st)…GCC 7 Ellwood City 3 (2nd)

8:09 – Timeout South Fayette. 2:55 left, 1st half. 7-0 LaSalle.

8:11 – PICK SIX! Nick Sywyj takes it 33 yards to the house for Seton-LaSalle right out of the timeout. DelGreco is wide right on his P.A.T., but fittingly, in a game now dominated by the defenses, the Rebels get a huge defensive score before the half. 13-0 Seton-LaSalle, 2:45 left, 1st half.

Brett Brumbaugh 2 of 10, 13 yards, 2 picks.

8:14 – A shot in the arm for South Fayette, as Challingsworth busts loose up the near sideline for a 40-yard run. Hart on the tackle (hey, who else?).

8:16 – Nick Sywyj with a big tackle for a 3-yard loss. He was in the backfield in the blink of an eye.

TOUCHDOWN SOUTH FAYETTE! Brett Brumbaugh with an 8-yard TD pass to Challingsworth on a timing pattern to the back corner of the end zone. Tyler Yee’s kick is good…and as poorly as the Lions and Brumbaugh have played, they’ve battled back and made it a ballgame. 13-7 Seton-LaSalle, 1:04 left, 1st half.

8:19 – Hart brought down by Shane Girman, who has had a nice half defensively, on the penultimate play of the half.

8:20 – Timeout Seton-LaSalle after Hart gets them just past midfield with 10 seconds left.

More WPIAL playoff updates coming shortly…

8:22 – It wasn’t the penultimate play. I spoke to soon, as Luke Brumbaugh misfired on three attempts before the clock expired. Halftime at Peters Township with the score: Seton-LaSalle 13, South Fayette 7.

We’ve seen a combination of good defense and bad offense, with both quarterbacks struggling…until Brett Brumbaugh’s TD pass. That was huge for South Fayette, and momentum is very much in the Lions’ den, to coin a phrase, as the South Fayette band plays.

More numbers from this game coming soon…

8:25 – UPDATES: Franklin Regional 7 Hopewell 7 (late 2nd)…Ellwood City 9 Greensburg C.C. 7 (half).

8:26 – UPDATES: Rochester 19 Avonworth 7 (just before half)…Aliquippa 22 Washington 0 (2nd).

8:28 – UPDATES: North Allegheny 21 Seneca Valley 10 (half)…Knoch 17 TJ 0 (2nd) after Dakota Bruggeman TD catch…Montour 10 W. Mifflin 0 (2nd).

8:29 – Rushel Shell has run for over 100 yards for the 39th consecutive game. Congratulations to Rushel, who, by doing so, breaks a national record that was previously held by Billy Sims since 1975.

8:31 – UPDATES: Matt Loughrane FG gets Penn-Trafford on the board, as Gateway leads 14-3 at half…Mitch Maczura’s FG gives Central a 10-0 halftime lead over Lebo…Jeannette up 21-0 on SSA in the 2nd.

In our game, Kevin Hart has 119 rush yards on 24 carries, and the Rebels’ lone offensive TD. Zach Challingsworth 2 carries for 53 yards. Luke Brumbaugh with 29 yards passing. Brett Brumbaugh with 26 yards passing and a score on just 4 completions. By the way, all 5 of Luke Brumbaugh’s completions have gone to Dylan Boccella.

8:38 – UPDATE: Knoch up 17-7 on TJ at the half, and Jeannette up 21-7 on SSA at the half, as the Indians get on the board before the gun.

8:40 – UPDATE: Sto-Rox 26 Brentwood 0 at the half.

8:43 – UPDATE: Aliquippa 29 Washington 0 at the half.

8:45 – UPDATES: USC up 14-0 on McDowell…Central Valley up 41-7 on Ringgold…Clairton 12 Springdale 0…Bishop Canevin 10 Fort Cherry 6.

Both teams warming up (not literally, though, as the temperature has definitely dipped, and we’re feeling it up here in the Eric and Mary Lou Hagman Memorial Press Box).

Second half thoughts? If I’m Joe Rossi, I tell my defense to stay its course, and keep making Kevin Hart beat them by himself. Furthermore, I give Zach Challingsworth more reps; when your offense is fighting for every yard, you put the ball in the hands of your best player. If I’m Greg Perry, my offensive strategy is hand in glove…simplify things for Luke Brumbaugh till he gets his mojo back by throwing to Kevin Hart. Hart had over 200 yards and was the key factor in the second half of the first meeting between these teams, so I want to get the ball in his hands any way I can.

8:48 – Second half kickoff goes to the Lions, moving right to left, and the way this game has gone, that’s important.

8:49 – Trevor Fiorentini, who had over 700 rush yards during the regular campaign, starts off with a short gain, then Challingsworth gets 23 on a catch-and-run up the far sideline.

8:50 – Firoentini keeps the momentum rolling with an 11-yard run into Rebel territory.

8:52 – UPDATE: Montour up 17-0 over W. Mifflin in the 3rd. Meanwhile, Jamie Miller, who had a pick earlier, sacks Brett Brumbaugh. First sack for either team.

8:54 – LaSalle’s defense stiffens and forces a Challingsworth punt after Chally can’t pick up the 1st down on a wildcat run…but he coffin kicks it to the 1 yard line. 8:54 left, 3rd quarter, Seton-LaSalle still ahead 13-7.

8:56 – Controversial call…Luke Brumbaugh given forward progress after it looked like South Fayette had him pinned for a safety. Fans audibly upset. Tough to tell from this vantage point.

8:58 – Hart, not giving up on the play, in typical Kevin Hart fashion, picks up the 1st down, then another.

8:59 – Nice open-field tackle by Challingsworth, as we have just our first flag of the night, believe it or not. Holding is the call against LaSalle, though it looked like a personal foul for pushing and shoving after the whistle.

9:00 – Another amazing run by Hart, 23 yards for a 1st down. He’s trying to take over this game like he did in Week 8.

9:01 – TOUCHDOWN LASALLE! Hart explodes through a hole, cuts hard to the left, and is gone for a 46-yard score. 31st TD of the year. So LaSalle takes advantage of the controversial call, and now they’ll go for two…timeout LaSalle.

Hart, by the way, had over 100 yards on that drive ALONE. 108, to be exact. Sean Dixon pulls in a shoe-string pass from Luke Brumbaugh and just barely gets across for two…21-7 Rebels, 5:23 left, 3rd quarter.

9:04 – UPDATES: Montour up 24-0 on W. Mifflin in the 2nd half. Rochester hanging onto a 19-14 lead on Avonworth in the 3rd.

9:05 – UPDATE: SSA cuts Jeannette’s lead to 21-14 in the 3rd. Meanwhile, Challingsworth gives the Lions solid field position to their 42 on the kickoff.

9:07 – Brett Brumbaugh hits Derek Yanosick, who makes guys miss for a 1st down pass midfield…but then B.B. gets picked off deep down the LaSalle sideline by Tom Rizza. Third turnover by the Lions.

9:09 – UPDATE: Rushel Shell opens the 2nd half with a long TD run; Hopewell up 14-7…Brandon Farrell 23-yd TD catch makes it 17-0 Central over Lebo. Jeannette answers with a long Shevontae Craft TD to make it 28-14 Jayhawks in the 3rd.

9:11 – South Fayette trying to strip Hart, but to no avail. This is turning into a carbon copy of Week 8.

9:12 – Hart now with 37 carries for 267 yards. Can’t say I blame major colleges for picking up interest in him. By the way, his dad is Mark Hart, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ CFO. Mark won a WPIAL title with Mount Lebanon.

End of the 3rd quarter. Seton-LaSalle in control, leading South Fayette 21-7.

9:15 – UPDATE: Montour up 24-0 after three…Pat Goff throws a TD pass, and Lebo cuts Central’s 3rd-quarter lead to 17-8…Clairton up 20-0 on Springdale in the 3rd.

9:17 – A holding call and a big tackle by Fiorentini on Hart essentially kill the drive early in the 4th. Hart will punt for the Rebels, who down the ball at the 11.

9:19 – UPDATE: Shell approaching the state rushing record as Hopewell now leads Franklin Regional 21-7 in the 2nd half.

9:20 – Brett Brumbaugh now 9 of 19 with a big 3rd down coming up…Challingsworth drilled immediately for a loss, forcing a punt.

UPDATE: Gateway leads Penn-Trafford 21-3 after 3rd.

9:22 – First South Fayette penalty of the night comes with 7 minutes left in the game, a defensive offside. Hart picks up the 1st down on the next play.

9:25 – Under 6 minutes left in the game. 3rd and long after a couple of tackles by Nathan Smith, which is one of the only things keeping the Lions in the game right now…

9:26 – Rebels punt near midfield after failing to draw South Fayette offside.

9:28 – UPDATES: Hopewell 21 Franklin Regional 14 (late 3rd)…Gateway 28 Penn-Trafford 3 (4th).

9:30 – South Fayette throwing out of the no-huddle now. They also get a sideline warning with 4:10 left…

9:31 – Suddenly the flags are coming fast and furious. Roughing the passer on LaSalle. Maybe an even-up call for the non-safety. Now a holding call against South Fayette.

9:32 – UPDATES: Ellwood 15 GCC 10 (midway thru 4th)…Aliquippa 29 Wash. 6 (4th).

9:33 – Timeout South Fayette. 3:30 left. Time ticking away on Lions’ WPIAL title reign in Class AA. 21-7 LaSalle.

UPDATE: USC leads McDowell 14-0 after three.

9:36 – Smith keeps South Fayette’s season alive with a big catch over the middle, inside the red zone…

9:37 – Timeout Seton-LaSalle. Brett Brumbaugh, not giving up, has that defense on its heels now. 1st and goal from the 7 when play resumes. 21-7 Rebels, 2:36 left in regulation.

9:38 – UPDATE: Knoch up 31-9 in the 2nd half…Quips up 29-6 in the 3rd…Rochester up 26-22 midway through the 4th.

9:40 – TOUCHDOWN SOUTH FAYETTE! Challingsworth with a beautiful leaping 7-yard catch in blanket coverage! But Tyler Yee pulls the extra point wide left on a bad snap. 21-13 Seton-LaSalle, 2:22 left in regulation.

Seton-LaSalle with a player shaken up on the P.A.T. Challingsworth not only did a great job coming down with the ball, but also getting a foot down in the side of the end zone as he fell.

These aren’t the WPIAL champs for nothing. We’ve got us a ballgame!

9:43 – Onside kick recovered by the Lions at midfield! 2:21 left…

9:45 – 1st and 20 after a holding call…a spot foul at the Lions’ 30.

9:46 – Good job by Challingsworth to break up a near-INT. 3rd and 23.

9:47 – INTERCEPTION by Tim Blair! Four INT’s on the night for Brett Brumbaugh to go with two TD’s…just like last week. That’s probably the ballgame with 1:47 left.

9:48 – First final of the night: USC defeats McDowell 21-14. Knoch beats TJ 31-9. N.A. beats Seneca 35-10, and…

RUSHEL SHELL IS NOW THE ALL-TIME LEADING RUSHER IN PIAA HISTORY. Hopewell and Franklin Regional tied 21-21 in the 4th.

9:50 – There will be a new WPIAL Class AA champion; Seton-LaSalle defeats South Fayette 21-13.

10:05 – Our condolences to the family of Kevin Hart, who couldn’t be with us on the radio tomorrow morning due to a death in the family. Hart, by the way, had 269 rush yards and two TD’s on 41 carries. Brett Brumbaugh was 18 of 34 for 150 yards, two TD’s, and four picks.

Luke Brumbaugh, who won the Battle of the Brumbaughs, will join us to talk about himself, his brother, and Seton-LaSalle’s win on “The UPMC Centers for Rehab Services High School Football Show” with John Phillips on 93.7 The Fan, which starts Saturday morning at 7:00.

Luke, by the way, went 7 of 15 for 54 yards and one pick.

I talked to the Rebels, and we’ll have more from them later tonight…

12:00 A.M. – Back at the office in Greentree. Before I proceed, a couple things.

First of all, as the clock runs out on Veteran’s Day, I’d just like to give a special salute to all my family, friends, and acquaintances who have served in the U.S. military, including the late Thomas Korenich and the late Ed Popchock Sr. Thank you, all of you, for your service.

Second of all, as a professional rule of thumb, I like to avoid horn-tooting as much as possible, but I’d just like to point out that, earlier this week, in this blog, I correctly predicted that Hopewell would lose, but Rushel Shell would still break the PIAA all-time rushing record.

I saw how that game ended. Let me just say this: I know for a fact I’m not the first person to watch a Hopewell game this year and leave scratching his head. Dave Vestal is an incredibly nice guy, in my experience, and a great ambassador to that program, but, in this instance, I think he tripped over his own two feet. Hopewell’s two final plays were incomplete passes…and neither was intended for Shell, per the P-G’s Mike White. I’m sorry, but if I’m a coach in that spot, and my season is on the line, I put the ball in the hands of my best player. I take a leap of faith that one of the best players in WPIAL history can get me those yards. Yes, Franklin Regional has a terrific defense that is probably expecting it…but expecting it is one thing. Going out and stopping it is another matter.

(Shell, by the way, finishes his high school career with 9,078 rushing yards and 110 total TD’s. I’ve seen him play in person, and I would definitely wager he is one of the most significant recruits in Pitt football history.)

Sorry, had to get that off my chest. Anyway, Seton-LaSalle will face No. 2 seed Jeannette in the WPIAL Semifinals next Friday at 7:30, at a site TBD. The Jayhawks beat Shady Side Academy, 35-14.

Here’s what the Rebels had to say after tonight’s win over the district champs:

Kevin Hart: Everybody played a great second half; wanted to come out and “pound the ball down their throats” after halftime. Brett Brumbaugh “is a player”; played well, and stepped up for his team. After the onside kick, Coach Perry told them to focus and just play good man-on-man defense. Felt like they were more in control as game went on, set the tempo thanks to great play from offensive line.

Greg Perry: Did you plan to run Kevin so much, especially in the second half, as you did in Week 8? “That’s been the game plan the last ten games. We weren’t going to chance anything, we knew we were going to ride our pony as far as he was going to take us.” Got some pressure on Brett Brumbaugh early on, but he played well for a freshman, and the play of Challingsworth really lifted that team. Knew it would be a tough, close battle Friday night. Doesn’t know much about Jeannette, but they’ll try and give Jayhawks a steady dose of Hart.

Be sure to check out the “Mr. High School Sports” blog for more WPIAL Football Playoff coverage this weekend, including early analysis of next week’s WPIAL Semifinal games!

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