Quaker Valley set to face top two teams in Century Conference
The big boys are coming.
The Quaker Valley football team's toughest two-game stretch of the season will begin Friday, when the Quakers travel to play South Fayette, the No. 2 team in the Tribune-Review's Class AA rankings.
Things won't get much easier from there, as Quaker Valley will play at defending Century Conference champion Seton-La Salle the following week.
“South Fayette is absolutely for real,” Quaker Valley coach John Tortorea said. “We've scouted them a number of times, and it just seems that every week, they progressively get better.”
South Fayette made its biggest statement of the season last week, as the Lions (5-0, 5-0) pounded Seton-La Salle, 51-12. The lopsided loss dropped Seton-La Salle from No. 2 to No. 8 in the Tribune-Review rankings.
Quarterback Brett Brumbaugh will lead a potent South Fayette offense against Quaker Valley. The sophomore threw for 374 yards and four touchdowns against Seton-La Salle, bringing his season total to more than 1,200 yards and 18 touchdowns.
But Tortorea knows the Lions' playmakers don't stop with Brumbaugh. Pitt recruit Zach Challingsworth (25 catches, 570 yards, seven touchdowns) leads a talented group of receivers that also includes juniors Conner Beck and Justin Watson. All three surpassed the 100-yard mark against Seton-La Salle.
“They can find windows on the field, and all week we're going to be teaching our secondary guys and our linebackers to close these windows and try to make them as small as they can,” Tortorea said. “Sometimes, (Brumbaugh) gets these big open windows where he can just chuck the ball down there, and it just seems that all their receivers are wide open. So our battle cry for the week is going to be less is more — let's close down those windows and see if we can't make him fit it into some tight places.”
To do that, Tortorea said his defense will need to do a better job than last week, when the Quakers (2-3, 2-3) gave up a season-high in points in a 40-36 loss to Steel Valley.
Quarterback Patrick O'Malley passed for 184 yards and four touchdowns in that game, and two Ironmen running backs rushed for more than 100 yards as they built a 40-14 lead and withstood a furious Quakers rally.
Tortorea said the team will focus this week on preventing big plays and will try to mix up some coverages in an attempt to make life more difficult for Brumbaugh.
“We're going to try to put some pressure on him,” Tortorea said. “You can't sit back and let him pick you apart, and you can't go after him every time because they have an answer for everything. So you've got to be smart about what you do.”
If the Quakers can at least minimize what South Fayette does offensively — the Lions average just more than 50 points — their offense might be able to put up some points and make things interesting.
Quakers quarterback Burke Moser led the team's comeback attempt against Steel Valley, throwing for 187 yards and three touchdowns and adding a touchdown on the ground. Sophomore Dane Jackson added a 37-yard touchdown run.
“We can definitely put up some points,” Tortorea said, “(but) right now, I don't know if we're ready to have a shootout against the No. 2-ranked team in the state.”
One thing Tortorea doesn't doubt is his team's will to win. Quaker Valley had a chance to complete the comeback against Steel Valley after Moser's 16-yard touchdown pass to Jackson with less than a minute left, but the Quakers failed to recover the ensuing onside kick.
“I don't believe in moral victories at all — it's either you win or lose,” Tortorea said. “But just in high school sports, what those kids showed — how hard they wanted to fight back — we as coaches talk about it all the time, but to see it in a real-life situation, they just made us proud. The whole school was proud of how hard they fought.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.