Quaker Valley clinches 5th playoff berth in program history

Nathan Smith
| Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Quaker Valley football team's playoff drought has been quenched.

With a 14-7 win over Steel Valley on Friday, the team improved to 5-0 overall and in Century Conference play. And thanks to wins over South Park, South Allegheny and the Ironmen, Quaker Valley mathematically clinched a postseason berth — the fifth in program history.

“It feels great,” quarterback Dane Jackson said. “I wouldn't want to be with any other team. We're going to continue to fight.”

The win over Steel Valley was a change of pace from what many have seen from the Quakers this season. While the team rattled a 43-point per game average over the first four weeks of the season, the win over the Ironmen was a defensive struggle.

“We had an off night on offense,” Quaker Valley coach John Tortorea said. “I have to give credit to Steel Valley. They took some stuff away from us. They fought us hard. They are a great football team. This was a must have win. And we got it.”

The Quakers struck first on what appeared to be a broken play. Jackson collided with a teammate in the backfield but the junior was able to turn up field for a 65-yard touchdown run to give Quaker Valley a 7-0 lead it carried into halftime.

Steel Valley forced a Quakers three-and-out on the opening drive of the second half that led to a short punt. The ball gave the Ironmen starting field position on the Quaker Valley 40, and they took advantage as Derek Taylor scored on a 34-yard run.

The momentum from the touchdown was halted on the ensuing kickoff as Chris Conlan returned the ball 65 yards to the Steel Valley 30-yard line. Eleven plays later, Aaron Cunningham pounded in from 1 yard to put the Quakers up, 14-7.

“It felt good to put my team up,” Cunningham said. “But I knew we weren't done yet, and we had to finish it up on defense.”

The Ironmen had chances to score in the fourth quarter. On their first drive of the frame, a DeWayne Murray touchdown run was called back on an illegal formation penalty, and Brendon Caldwell tripped after making a catch with no Quaker Valley defenders between him and the end zone.

Late in the fourth, a bad snap on a Quakers punt gave Steel Valley the ball on the Quaker Valley 12-yard line. But on fourth down, quarterback Connor Stevens was stood up and the Quakers regained possession.

“Our defense won it for us (Friday),” Tortorea said. “We can win in different ways. We have now given up only seven points in the last two games. I am so proud of our defensive staff and how the kids are playing.”

The seven points given up is the best two-game total for Quaker Valley since the team surrendered 13 points to Seton-La Salle and Steel Valley during the 2008 campaign.

The Steel Valley win was the beginning of a trek Quaker Valley hasn't been on in more than a decade. The team is guaranteed a spot in the WPIAL postseason and with South Fayette and Seton-La Salle coming to Leetsdale the next two weeks, the Quakers are in contention for the Century Conference crown.

It is a new experience for the Quakers, and they are enjoying every minute of it.

“It is really fantastic,” Cunningham said. “I wouldn't pick any other team than my guys. We're rallying together and making plays when we need to. I can't even explain it with words.”

It might be a good thing the defense was tested against Steel Valley because it will have its work cut out for it this week against South Fayette, ranked No. 2 by Trib Total Media.

The South Fayette offense is averaging 52.2 points per game — the highest total in the entire WPIAL. The attack is led by junior quarterback Brett Brumbaugh, who has thrown for 961 yards and 12 touchdowns. His top target has been Penn commit Justin Watson, who has accounted for 470 yards and seven touchdowns. Running backs Grant Fetchet and Jared Walker have combined for more than 600 yards and 17 touchdowns.

The defense isn't lacking for the Lions either. The team is surrendering only surrounding 6.2 points per game — behind only Shady Side Academy in Class AA.

South Fayette had a statement win as it downed previously unbeaten Seton-La Salle, 45-3, last Friday. The Lions jumped ahead 28-3 in the first quarter and never looked back.

The Lions have won the previous three games against QV, by a combined 144-24 score. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on Friday at Quaker Valley's Chuck Knox Stadium.

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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