Quaker Valley ready to quench playoff drought

Nathan Smith
| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

There are a lot of reasons for Quaker Valley fans to be excited about the Quakers' offense in 2013.

It will be led at the skill positions by a talented junior class.

Quarterback Dane Jackson, tailback Tre'won Marshall, fullback Aaron Cunningham and split end Chris Conlan combined to score 18 of Quaker Valley's 28 touchdowns last season.

But the seniors on the offensive line will be the deciding factor for the Quakers' success.

“If we don't block, our running backs and quarterback can't do anything,” center Matt O'Neill said. “We have been going over plays during the offseason. We have been playing together since midget football. This is our last year together.”

O'Neill — along with Sebastian Gordon, Eric Kley, Garrett Zeigler and Marcus Coury — will provide Jackson protection in his debut season under center. Jackson was the team's leading rusher with 534 yards last season.

“We will be more of an option-read team,” coach John Tortorea said. “We are going to utilize our skills as much as we can. A lot of our kids can take it the distance once they get the ball in their hands.”

Jackson, who replaces graduate Burke Moser, will be able to use his feet and arm to get yards, and Cunningham (5.5 yards per carry) and Marshall (3.5 yards per carry) should provide solid run support. Conlan led the team in receiving with 475 yards last year

“Our line should have done better for them last year,” O'Neill said. “All the guys are back, and (Jackson) should do a great job stepping in for Burke (Moser).”

The defense will switch to a 3-5-3 scheme, with the experienced linemen filling in up front and Jackson and Conlan coming in at cornerback.

“It will be pretty hard to throw on those two,” Tortorea said. “We want to stop the run and make teams throw toward our corners.”

Cunningham, described by Tortorea as the “heart and soul of the defense,” will return at linebacker after leading the team in tackles the last two seasons.

With a bulk of the 2012 team returning, Quaker Valley is setting its goals high. At a minimum, the team wants to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

“There is no doubt in my mind we can win a conference championship,” O'Neill said. “We missed playoffs by one game. There are a lot of guys coming back who took that personal. We think we can achieve something special.”

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