‘Everything was strange’ for South Fayette football this season

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Sunday, November 22, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Since coming to South Fayette in 2007, coach Joe Rossi has turned the Lions into a perennial power. It’s a program that has won four WPIAL and two PIAA championships in those 14 years.

However, something strange happened to South Fayette this fall. Its season ended before the calendar changed from October to November.

The Lions qualified for the WPIAL Class 5A postseason, but because of the condensed seven-week regular season, the playoffs began Oct. 30.

Was it strange not practicing or playing football in November for the first time since 2008?

“Everything was strange in 2020,” Rossi said. “I was proud of our kids who battled all season against top competition in this extremely difficult conference.”

South Fayette finished in third place in the tough 5A Allegheny Six Conference and ended up with a 4-4 overall record after losing its playoff opener to top-seeded Pine-Richland, 47-7.

“The Lions learned a lot moving up in classification,” Rossi said. “We were in every game until our playoff game and won some big games. To be one of eight teams in the 5A playoffs says a lot to these kids and coaches.”

The four victories for South Fayette were conference wins over Moon, Bethel Park and West Allegheny along with a season-opening victory on the road against Dover, Ohio.

“Our conference wins were big for us,” Rossi said “Any conference win in this league is hard to come by.”

South Fayette was schedule to open the 2020 season at Peters Township, but because of some covid-19 related issues at Peters, the game was bumped back two weeks and the trip to Ohio took its place in Week 1.

Like every football team, dealing with the pandemic was a major obstacle in the 2020 season.

“Covid was the biggest obstacle,” Rossi said. “Having to lose many of our traditions and battling covid each week to ensure we were on the field was tough. The kids did a great job doing their part.”

Rossi was proud of his entire team, but especially the seniors. It was a group that was part of the most recent South Fayette championship run two years ago when they were sophomores.

“We had many players who had a great year and will move on to play college football next year,” Rossi said.

They include Ryan O’Hair (Miami Ohio), Shay Aitken (Grove City), Blaise Fincham (Grove City) and Jackson Lotinsky (Oberlin).

Several other players who plan to play next fall at the next level remain undecided about their college choices. They included Joey Audia, Bryce Spolnik, Naman Alemada, Logan Pitetti and Ryan McGuire.

Another undecided senior is Joe Rossi’s son Charley. The younger Rossi led the team in receiving with 46 receptions for 711 yards and five touchdowns.

“It was bittersweet as we are excited to start a new chapter,” Joe Rossi said. “He leaves as the all-time leader in catches for a career since I have been here. Some pretty good players in that group of kids.”

Now the page slowly turns to another chapter in the program’s biography. The hope for South Fayette is that next season will be virus-free and that they can get back to the tradition of playing November football.

“Every year has us optimistic and excited to start the offseason and get going,” Rossi said. “The kids know how difficult 5A is, and they will work hard to keep us competing each season.”

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