South Fayette must continue excellence with questions at quarterback

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Saturday, August 17, 2019 | 11:10 AM


It has been a golden decade for South Fayette football.

The Lions have four district titles to their name with the hopes of a fifth crown in 10 years and a second consecutive WPIAL championship this fall.

But for the first time in more than a decade, the strength of the program has become a question mark.

From Christian Brumbaugh at the start of the decade, to Luke Brumbaugh, to Drew Saxton and to Jamie Diven a year ago, South Fayette always has had one of the top quarterbacks in the WPIAL throughout the last dozen years.

Who will take over and how quickly he will develop is a worry for South Fayette coach Joe Rossi.

“Concern for us is how fast the QBs will have to grow up early in the season with stiff tests to begin with,” Rossi said. “Our offense is quarterback-driven, and our offensive staff will do a great job of making them feel comfortable early.”

The battle appears to be between junior Naman Alemada and senior Nolan Lutz.

In limited time last fall, Alameda was 7 of 15 passing for 76 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Lutz was a tight end who had seven receptions, two of which went for touchdowns. He also was the Lions’ leading tackler from his linebacker spot and is a captain on defense.

Quarterback isn’t the only concern for the new look Lions.

“(The year) 2018 was a group of seniors who worked hard to get where they went,” Rossi said. “They weren’t a group who had tremendous success in younger grades, but they worked hard and loved each other, which led to our success.”

South Fayette must replace a group of 18 seniors, nine of whom went on to play college football.

“The 2019 team must continue to show that same passion and love for the game,” Rossi said.

While there are holes to fill, junior wide receiver and the coach’s son Charley Rossi believes they will be good again.

“I feel that our team is very unique. Everyone talks about how many seniors we lost, but at the same time, we have a lot coming back. It may not be our most talented group, but I think we will surprise people with how balanced and dangerous we could be.”

Skill-position players the Lions will lean on early include senior running back Drew Franklin, the team’s leading rusher a year ago with 833 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Charley Rossi caught the winning touchdown in the WPIAL title-game win over Thomas Jefferson last November. He had 40 catches and was the team’s second-leading receiver with 613 yards.

One of the heroes from the WPIAL title game was asked if he feels pressure in helping a new quarterback adjust this fall.

“I would not necessarily call it pressure,” Charley Rossi said, “but definitely a huge responsibility. With both quarterbacks being inexperienced, it is important that they have someone to look upon as a leader and a player who has been in the heat of Friday nights.”

The offense up front will be led by seniors Dom Thomas and Que Franklin, who is also a heavyweight wrestler.

Junior wide receiver and defensive back Joey Audia made some key plays for the Lions last season, including a big return in the WPIAL championship at Heinz Field to set up a score.

“We are excited about competition and hunger at many positions,” Coach Rossi said. “The quarterback position battle during camp and the replacement of many lineman and wide receivers will be fun to watch. We have capable people who need to continue to grow and develop.”

Schedule

Coach: Joe Rossi

2018 record: 12-2, 7-0

All-time record: 483-372-39

Date, Opponent, Time

8.23, Upper St. Clair, 7

8.30, at Beaver*, 7:30

9.6, New Castle*, 7

9.13, at Greensburg Salem, 7

9.20, Hopewell, 7

9.27, at Blackhawk*, 7

10.4, Knoch*, 7

10.11, at Highlands*, 7

10.18, Ambridge*, 7

10.25, Montour*, 7

*Class 4A Northwest 8 Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Jamie Diven*

189-312-3,211 yards, 45 TDs

Receiving: Mike Trimbur*

57-1,096 yards, 16 TDs

Rushing: Drew Franklin

141-833 yards, 12 TDs

*Graduated

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