Quaker Valley begins building project under new coach

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Tuesday, August 16, 2022 | 12:01 PM


Jason Cappa, who comes from a family of coaches and educators, was hired in April as Quaker Valley football coach.

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

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.

Cappa previously 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 and 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.

Quaker Valley’s new field boss inherits a program that’s gone 9-25 since winning WPIAL and PIAA championships in 2017.

“My expectations going into every season are always the same: teach fundamentals, train our players to become better athletes and football players, teach our athletes to compete at a high level and build positive relationships within our program,” Cappa said. “We have a lot of new faces and young players. We expect to get better every day, week and game with the mindset of a winner.”

The Quakers were 1-4 in the Class 3A Northwestern Six Conference and 2-8 overall in 2021 and have missed the playoffs the past three years.

Cappa welcomed 45 players to this year’s squad, including five returning starters on offense and five on defense.

Offensively, seniors Jakub Pickett (WR), Abe Djedid (OL) and Gavin Eshenbaugh (RB), sophomore Zack Djedid (OL) and junior Ethan Pesce (OL) are back.

Pickett was a first-team all-conference selection as a wideout last season, and Cappa had high praise for the QV athlete.

“Jakub is physically gifted, the hardest worker in the room, an excellent route runner with good speed and great hands, and he catches everything,” Cappa said. “He’s an aggressive player with fantastic leadership skills and is a very good student.

“The only thing Jakub needed to work on was his speed. He has a receiver trainer and a speed trainer that he’s been working with this offseason.

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Pickett is a fourth-year starter who has set goals of 600-plus receiving yards and 12 touchdowns this season.

“I am really excited about this year under our new head coach,” Pickett said, “and am very excited about how the summer has gone.

“I feel this season will be my best because of my athletic improvements in the offseason and the coaching staff. The first day coach Cappa was hired, I knew the whole program would turn around, and the way it’s looking right now, it will.”

Pickett joined the QV track program last spring, then competed for Evolve’s 7-on-7 program in the summer months.

“I ran track last year. It was my first year and really enjoyed it,” said Pickett, who plans to continue his football career in college. “I do a lot of volunteer work for football camps in my area.”

Defensively, Pickett (DB), Abe Djedid (DE) and Pesce (DL) were starters a year ago, as were sophomores Mackey Gartley (DB) and Jack Diemert (OLB).

“I have been impressed with the effort and attitude our team has had this summer,” Cappa said. “Our quarterbacks, senior Troy Kozar, sophomore Marcus Richey and two freshmen, Logan Benedict and Ben McHenry, have all done a great job learning the offense and being leaders on and off the field. Troy and Marcus are both very good athletes and quarterbacks and look to carry the majority of the first-group snaps going into camp.

“Jack Diemert did not start on offense last season but will be a big part of our offense both in the run game and pass game. Our offensive and defensive lines have a good amount of game experience, which helps when so much of the team is young.”

Other QV players who had significant game experience last season and will contribute on both sides of the ball this year include senior Nico Danko (TE/DE), sophomores Dominic Giles (WR/DE), Nico Cardinale (WR/DB) and Lance Burns (TE/LB), and juniors Chase Kretzler (OL/LB) and Aidan Fair (OL/LB).

One of QV’s team strengths is anticipated to be its line play, thanks to the likes of Abe Djedid, Zack Djedid, Pesce, Danko, Giles, Burns, Kretzler and Fair.

“We are working with our players to learn how to compete at a high level,” Cappa said. “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 focus on three intangibles — effort, mental toughness and accountability — that everyone can show regardless of talent.”

Due to WPIAL realignment, the Quakers are competing the next two seasons in the Western Hills Conference with Avonworth, Beaver, Hopewell, Seton LaSalle, South Park and West Mifflin.

Quaker Valley

Coach: Jason Cappa

2021 record: 2-8, 1-4 in Class 3A Northwestern Six Conference

All-time record: 241-361-14

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.26 at Freedom, 7:30

9.2 at Mohawk, 7

9.9 at Freeport, 7

9.16 Seton LaSalle*, 7

9.23 South Side, 7

9.30 at Hopewell*, 7

10.7 South Park*, 7

10.14 at West Mifflin*, 7

10.21 Beaver*, 7

10.28 at Avonworth*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Connery Bulger*

43-124, 463 yards, 7 TDs

Rushing: Patrick Cutchember*

131-645, 6 TDs

Receiving: Jakub Pickett

17-256, 4 TDs

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• Jason Cappa previously served the offensive and defensive line coach at Quaker Valley. He is taking over for Ron Balog, who resigned in February after making one postseason appearance in four years on the QV sideline.

• Cappa 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.

• Jakub Pickett ended up in double figures in the tackles-for-loss category from his defensive back position last year. He ranked among the team leaders in total tackles.

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