Quaker Valley won its WPIAL title in a battle of wills. Its PIAA semifinal was showcase of skills.
Quarterback Ricky Guss accounted for all six QV touchdowns — four passing and two rushing — and was 14 of 24 in the air for 203 yards, and the Quakers are on their way to a first-ever PIAA football final after defeating Sharon, 43-23, in the Class 3A semifinals Friday at Martorelli Stadium in West View.
Guss also ran for 75 yards on 18 carries for the Quakers, and receiver Isaiah McNair had 110 yards of offense, including touchdown catches of 11 and 32 yards.
The Quakers (13-1) will go for the state title against the winner of Saturday’s semifinal between District 12 champ Conwell-Egan and District 3 champ Middletown at noon Dec. 9 at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey.
It was a far cry from the Quakers’ last game, the one-of-a-kind 2-0 win over Aliquippa in the WPIAL final Nov. 18 in which the offense gained just 55 yards. This time out, the Quakers were successful moving the ball, amassing 412 yards of offense and punting just once.
“It felt really good, but really, it felt normal, because that’s usually what we do on offense and defense,” McNair said. “We’re happy with the way we played.”
“It was definitely good to get it back rolling again,” Guss said. “Their defense is really good, but I feel like once you’ve played Aliquippa, you go on to another defense and makes it seems like they’re a level down because you’re so used to Aliquippa’s line and how fast they are on the outside.”
Sharon (10-4), the District 10 champion, didn’t get this far without its share of standout athletes.
Receiver Ziyon Strickland had eight catches for 168 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a highlight-reel grab over a defender that went for a 57-yard touchdown and cut Quaker Valley’s lead to 29-16 in the third quarter. Bruising running back Jordan Wilson added 129 yards on 24 carries, and the Tigers posted the second-highest point total allowed by the Quakers this season.
“When I scouted them last week, I knew (Wilson) was a beast, and I talked to our coaches about it. But we didn’t game plan (for Wilson),” Quakers coach Jerry Veshio said.
“We played the same way tonight for most of the game — they had a couple of drives on us where we didn’t do what we were supposed to do defensively — but we did exactly the same thing we did against Aliquippa, against (Seton LaSalle back) Lionel Deanes and against the kid from Beaver.”
That formula for success, Veshio said, begins with gap control by their defensive line, led by starting tackles Jake Pesicka and Jacob Kolessar and ends Andrew Seymour and Oliver Funk. That frees up their linebackers to make tackles and allows the Quakers to use speed to their advantage, which they did against a Sharon team that would have fit in nicely with the top squads from QV’s regular-season schedule.
“It was basically like playing another Beaver County game,” McNair said. “Everybody in Beaver County is strong opponents, and they’re tough players. Sharon had some real good players, but it was like most of our games in the Beaver Valley Conference.”
But the Quakers’ big men have athleticism, too, and Funk showed his on Sharon’s second drive of the game.
The senior defensive end showed good instincts to intercept Sharon quarterback Lane Voytik on a screen pass, and Funk returned the ball 25 yards to the 14-yard line to set up the first Guss-to-McNair touchdown that opened the scoring.
The Quakers never trailed, but Sharon grabbed momentum with an 8-yard scoring pass from Voytik to CJ Parchman that cut the lead to 14-10 with 29 seconds until halftime.
Quaker Valley responded by opening the second half with a nine-play drive, capped by a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Guss. After forcing Sharon to go three-and-out, QV increased the lead to 29-10 when running back Jordan Taylor took a fourth-down screen pass 30 yards for a score.
Taylor finished with 66 yards rushing on eight carries, and McNair and Ryan Jackovic caught fourth-quarter touchdown passes to send the Quaker Valley faithful back to Hershey, just three weeks after their boys soccer team captured a state title there.
“I love that everybody from our community that has a kid, has friends, has family — everybody’s here,” Guss said. “They’re all enjoying this, and they all get a little piece of this victory. It’s amazing, but their ultimate goal is to get one more. That’s we want, and that’s what we want to give everybody.”
Voytik finished with 201 yards on 11-for-16 passing after a late 74-yard pass to Strickland that ended the scoring.