Quaker Valley hoping to get physical against KO
The members of Quaker Valley's football team should remember very well what happened the last time they played Keystone Oaks, coach John Tortorea said.
And if they don't, he's more than happy to remind them.
“At halftime, Keystone Oaks thought it was wise to come over to our sidelines and start taunting us,” Tortorea said. “That's going to be our motivation this week. I know there's a new head coach (Matt Taylor) over there, but our kids don't forget. I'm not forgetting it.”
Tortorea said he hopes the memory of being disrespected in that loss last September will provide some fire for a Quaker Valley team that's sorely in need of it following a loss last week to McGuffey in a Century Conference game.
The Highlanders (1-2, 1-2) outmuscled the Quakers' defense, as running back James Duchi piled up 236 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Three other McGuffey players also ran for touchdowns against the Quakers (1-2, 1-2), who dropped their second straight game at home.
“Right now, if you look at our film, if you throw the ball on us — I don't want to say you're crazy, but we're having trouble stopping the run,” Tortorea said. “From here on out, I'm expecting teams to test us physically up front because we're just not getting it done right now.”
He said physicality wasn't an issue in the team's two scrimmages or in its opening-day win over South Park, but it began to slip in a Week 2 loss to South Allegheny and went away altogether against McGuffey.
The Quakers right now are missing outside linebacker Tre'won Marshall, who went down with a sprained ankle early in the game against South Allegheny.
While Tortorea said he hoped to get some good news on Marshall's availability this week, he added that the problem goes deeper than his absence.
“(Physicality) is a big concern,” he said. “I know we've got the kids who are capable of doing it — we don't have soft kids in any stretch of the imagination. We have tough kids playing football, it's just somebody needs to step up and make a play.”
Tortorea said sophomore inside linebacker Aaron Cunningham and senior defensive lineman Rocco Brown have stepped up as leaders for the Quakers' defense, and he expects that to continue. But he said more players need to follow their example.
The defensive struggles overshadowed another strong offensive performance from senior quarterback Burke Moser, who threw for 162 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score, and Cunningham, who piled up 123 yards on just nine carries in his second straight 100-yard performance.
When Marshall, Quaker Valley's starting running back, returns from injury, Tortorea believes his team will have a formidable offensive attack. But he added the Quakers will also need to minimize mistakes, as a dropped pass and fumbled snap loomed large in the loss to McGuffey.
“The kids that we knew would carry us this year right now are basically carrying us,” Tortorea said. “We've just got to clean up our act and quit turning the ball over.”
On the defensive side, Tortorea said it wouldn't “be an easy practice for the Quaker Valley football team,” as he planned toughness drills to help improve the team's physicality.
He also pledged to show the players the film of last year's loss to Keystone Oaks “over and over and over and over and over again” to provide the needed motivation for Friday night's game.
The Golden Eagles (0-3, 0-3) are struggling, coming off back-to-back shutouts, but Tortorea said they will still provide a good test for the Quakers' physicality.
“They're down a little bit, but they're always physical,” he said. “If they smell the blood in the water, they're going to jump on you — so hopefully we won't give them anything to jump on.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.