Cappa looks to build on ‘solid foundation’ with Quaker Valley football

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Sunday, April 24, 2022 | 9:01 AM


It’s time. Actually, it’s his time.

Jason Cappa is ready and focused.

After serving as a Quaker Valley football assistant as the offensive and defensive line coach, Cappa is primed to step up as the Quakers’ new head coach.

And it’s all systems go for the 45-year-old Cappa.

He was hired April 13, replacing Ron Balog who resigned in February after making one postseason appearance in four years on the QV sideline.

“I’m extremely excited and honored to be hired as the head football coach at Quaker Valley,” Cappa said. “Through the leadership of our administration and school board, there is a high standard of excellence at QV academically, athletically and in the arts. I will continue this excellence holding our players and coaches to that same standard.

“Coach Balog did a nice job laying a solid foundation of our players working hard and doing things the right way. My immediate plans are to increase our numbers to be able to play JV games with the intention of developing our players fundamentally and improving their football skills. I plan to meet with coaches and stake holders from all levels of QV football from youth all the way to alumni.”

Cappa, who comes from a family of coaches and educators, also held coaching positions at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Riverview, Shady Side Academy, South Allegheny and Penn Hills Charter School of Entrepreneurship.

He attended Riverview in Oakmont, where he was a standout athlete in football, basketball and baseball. He was the first all-state football player in school history as a tight end/linebacker.

Cappa continued his career as four-year inside linebacker at Clarion and was a member of the school’s NCAA Division II Final Four team.

His father, Jake, was a coaching legend in football at Riverview from 1986 to 2001, leading the Raiders to three WPIAL Class A finals in four years.

The elder Cappa, who died in 2014 at age 68 following an eight-month battle against liver cancer, has been honored by several halls of fame. He was inducted into the Alle-Kiski Sports Hall of Fame in 2001, East Boros Sports Hall of Fame in 2006 and Pennsylvania Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2013.

Three of Cappa’s sons — John, Jason and Jeff — played for their father and currently are involved in education and coaching.

Jeff is Jason’s twin brother. He is a middle school teacher at Wissahickon and now an assistant football coach at Central Bucks West. John, formerly a baseball and football coach at Shady Side Academy, has joined Jason as a QV assistant.

Jason Cappa has groomed two athletes in his family. His son Jake, 23, played football for his father at Riverview. His daughter Alyssa, 19, is a sophomore pitcher on the Alderson Broaddus softball team.

Cappa has been with the QV school district since 2019. He is a paraprofessional in the life skills classroom at the high school and serves as the middle school softball coach.

He has a degree in elementary education with a minor in athletic coaching from Clarion. He also has a master’s degree in educational leadership and is working on a master’s degree in special education.

“I come from a family of teachers and coaches,” Cappa said.

QV’s new head coach inherits a football program that’s gone 9-25 since winning WPIAL and PIAA championships in 2017.

“We are excited to welcome Jason Cappa to our athletic team as our new head football coach,” Mike Mastroianni, QV’s athletic director, said. “We look forward to the development of our program under his leadership.”

One of the QV football team’s strengths in 2022 is anticipated to be the line play. More than half of the 11 returning starters will be linemen (coached by Cappa).

“My early expectations are to develop a winning mentality through small victories this offseason,” Cappa said. “We are working with our players to learn how to compete at a high level. Our player expectations are to improve as a player, person and student.

“Expectations are from a character and attitude standpoint in terms of how you compete. We will focus on three intangibles — effort, mental toughness and accountability — that everyone can show regardless of talent.”

Cappa has been a finalist for the head coaching position at several other schools, including Apollo-Ridge, Deer Lakes, East Allegheny, Gateway, Kittanning and Penn Hills. He served as field boss at his alma mater in 2014-15, posting 4-5 records both seasons with the Raiders.

Cappa’s coaching philosophy is well thought out and ties in education with competing on the gridiron.

“My basic coaching philosophy for running a football program is to create an environment where all members of the program — coaches, players, administrators, faculty and parents — feel as though they are an important part of the system,” Cappa said. “We will teach athletes to practice and compete to their fullest potential, and to put forth their greatest effort at all times in the classroom, on the field and in the community.

“Football is one of the greatest classrooms in the world. Football in the academic environment should not interfere with academic progress.”

A component of the QV football squad that offers hope for 2022 is a strong freshman class.

“In my four years at Quaker Valley, this was my largest freshman class,” Balog said. “There are a lot of good football players in this group (of nine). Jack Diemert and Davin Gartley had terrific seasons and started nine games apiece.

“Dominic Cox-Giles, Thomas Debelak, Sebastian Safran and Marcus Richey all started games and played well. Nico Cardinale, Lance Burns and Ty Kretzler took valuable snaps, as well. The sky’s the limit for this group as a whole.”

QV played in the Class 3A Northwestern Six Conference in recent seasons, along with Central Valley, Avonworth, Keystone Oaks, Ambridge and Hopewell.

The Quakers were 1-4 in the conference and 2-8 overall in 2021 and have missed the playoffs the past three years.

Senior Patrick Cutchember, a four-year starter and the WPIAL wrestling champion at 189 pounds, led QV in rushing and scoring last season.

He ran behind an offensive line that included senior tackle Tommaso Floro, junior tackle Abe Djedid, sophomore guard Ethan Pesce, senior guard Amir McCracken and sophomore center Zach Djedid.

Cutchember was selected to play defensive back for the Small School West team at the East-West all-star football game May 29 at Bishop McDevitt in Harrisburg.

Jakub Pickett, a junior, was Quakers’ leading receiver in 2021.

Defensively, Cutchember, Diemert, Floro, Pesce, Pickett and Djedid and senior Nathan Dicks were team leaders in tackles.

The WPIAL drew up new conferences for the 2022 and ‘23 football seasons.

The Quakers are competing in Class 3A again this fall. Conference opponents are Avonworth, Beaver, Hopewell, Seton LaSalle, South Park and West Mifflin.

“I am very familiar with many of the teams in our conference from coaching against them last season,” Cappa said. “My staff and I are focused on building our program to compete at a high level so we can compete with of all the great teams in our conference. There are great coaches and excellent teams in our conference that I have a lot of respect for.

“We are focused more about how we develop our players and our program.”

The QV football program already has taken two major steps in its development process with the hiring of Cappa and the formation of an assistant coaching staff.

“We do have a staff together,” Cappa said. “Some coaches are from the previous staff along with staff members from within the district, and a couple other coaches are from outside of QV that have many years of coaching at other successful programs.”

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