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Quaker Valley’s senior class has a chance to be the winningest group to play football at the school.
Heading into the Quakers’ final regular-season game against South Park, the seniors accumulated a 29-13 record with WPIAL and PIAA titles under their belts. Also, they’ve helped the team qualify for the postseason in consecutive years for the first time in program history.
“That’s an awesome feeling knowing what the guys last year accomplished and the guys coming back this year did,” Quaker Valley senior Ryan Jackovic said. “It was cool to see all the work we put in behind the scenes paid off and we became something special.”
Unlike last year’s 14-1 run to district and state titles, this year’s team took a little longer to find its identity. That’s because graduation of a large and talented senior class from last year left this team with plenty of unknowns.
The team opened with an 18-0 win over Central Valley, but dropped the next three in a row to Aliquippa (59-6), Beaver Falls (25-14) and Elizabeth Forward (7-6) in a nonconference game called in the first half due to poor weather.
Quaker Valley responded in the fifth week with a 50-43 overtime win at Keystone Oaks. That victory was key for the Quakers.
“We had some injuries before that game and a lot of young guys went in. Pulling out a big win like that in overtime gave them hope, especially seeing that we could put up 50 points against a good team,” Jackovic said. “That was a turning point and really gave us some faith, especially to the younger guys, to see what we could be.”
After that win, the squad beat Waynesburg, 46-14, and fell to Beaver, 47-14, in a nonconference game in which it was missing four starters due to injury. Quaker Valley clinched a playoff berth with a 49-0 triumph at Hopewell.
“I think that this senior group knew getting back to the playoffs was well within our capabilities. We just needed to make it happen,” Quaker Valley coach Ron Balog said. “I am very happy. Until you really come together as a team and really do believe in each other and everyone is on the same page, it really doesn’t matter how much talent you have. It has to be about effort and attitude. If we have that, then we’ll be fine. This group has come together.”
Now that they have secured a postseason berth, the Quakers look forward to defending their WPIAL Class 3A title.
“Once you start playoffs, everybody is 0-0. Records don’t really matter in playoffs,” Jackovic said. “The team opponents saw early on will be different than the team we are now. We’ve changed a lot of players in and out, and I think we’re a whole different team with a whole different mentality.”
One thing remains constant for Quaker Valley — it has multiple playmakers. Quarterback Ethan Moore is a threat throwing or running the ball. Jackovic is the team’s top receiver. Dylan Moore and Demetrios Perez are two other top targets. Isaac Guss, Cameron Nelson and Smith Johnson have been active in the passing and rushing games.
“The main trigger guy there is Ethan. He is approaching 2,000 yards total offense between running and passing. He makes so many plays with his feet. Given time, he is extremely accurate throwing the ball, too,” Balog said. “Besides Ethan, there are three or four other guys making plays on offense. We’ve had a ton of contributors, which is nice.”
The variety of offensive options makes the team tough to game plan against.
“We spread the ball around a lot, which I love. It really keeps defenses on their toes,” Jackovic said. “With a lot of teams, you can just key in one guy. With us constantly switching in and out and having different guys running the ball and being involved in the passing game, teams can’t put their best guy on just one guy and hope that shuts everything down. We have a lot of guys who have stepped up. I think that’s a big advantage for us.”
The Quakers are excited for the playoffs.
“We know every game could be our last,” Jackovic said. “We know we will have to give our all and just have fun with it.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.