Quaker Valley football making strides during rocky start to season

Sunday, September 11, 2022 | 11:01 AM

It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the Quaker Valley football team in the early part of the season.

In fact, it’s been a bit rocky.

The Quakers started off with a 24-12 nonconference loss at Freedom in Week Zero. Their second game — scheduled against Mohawk — was canceled.

Mohawk called off its first two games of the season as authorities investigated hazing allegations.

QV sought a last-minute replacement but was unable to find an opponent.

The Quakers took a 0-1 record into their Week 2 matchup with Freeport. QV will host Seton LaSalle on Sept. 16 in its conference opener.

“Any loss is not in the plans of any coach,” said Jason Cappa, QV’s first-year field boss. “When over half our roster is brand new to varsity football, there will be some time to grow. We have taken big strides from when we began to where we are now. It’s all about getting better each day, week, and one game at a time.”

Quaker Valley trailed 10-0 after one quarter and at halftime in its season opener at Freedom.

Dominic Cox-Giles, a 6-foot-3, 204-pound sophomore TE-WR/DE, and Jakub Pickett, a 6-2, 190-pound senior wide receiver/defensive back, scored touchdowns for the Quakers in the fourth quarter.

Cox-Giles returned an interception 53 yards for a score, and Pickett caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Logan Benedict.

“We started off slow versus Freedom,” Cappa said. “We have a lot of new players on our roster. As a young and inexperienced team, we cannot afford to spot teams 10 points before we get going.

“Freedom is a well-coached, physical and disciplined team. I am very proud of our team’s fight-until-the-end attitude. It would be easy to point fingers and separate, but the guys stuck together and battled until the end.”

The Quakers’ starting quarterback is Troy Kozar, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior who hadn’t played football since his early middle school days.

“I was very impressed with our first-year quarterback, Troy Kozar,” Cappa said. “He did a great job keeping under control, making plays and moving around the pocket to create plays.

“Players like (linemen) Abe Djedid and Ethan Pesce, (RB) Jack Diemert and Jakub Pickett always play at a high level. (WR) Christian Brown had multiple catches and made big plays for us.”

Kozar also plays basketball at QV and was one of six juniors on the Quakers’ WPIAL championship and PIAA runner-up boys basketball team in 2021-22.

Kozar hasn’t played football since the sixth grade. He hopes to account for at least 1,000 total offensive yards on the gridiron this season including 700 passing and 400 rushing.

“My friend Jakub Pickett kind of helped talk me into playing football, and I decided to come out because I thought I could help the team,” said Kozar, who has a 3.9 GPA. “Some personal goals that I have are to give 100% effort week in and week out, have my teammates’ backs and help the team win on Friday nights. Creating good bonds and making every player comfortable around me is also a goal of mine.

“It was a tough loss to Freedom, but I’m ready to bounce back from that and improve and learn from my mistakes. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. It’s not going to be easy, but as long as we stay together as a family and persevere, it should be a fun and exciting year.”

Despite the season-opening loss and being sidelined from game action the following week, Kozar remains optimistic and foresees the Quakers’ untapped potential.

“My expectations are pretty high,” he said. “Growing and becoming better each week is an expectation that every player and coach on the team works toward. Other expectations I have are to play hard, have fun, win games and make the playoffs. We always talk about the importance of being good people, not just football players, and I hold myself and the entire team to this expectation.”

“I don’t really have much to say about not playing (against Mohawk). We were definitely ready to play and didn’t know whether we had a game or not until Thursday morning, so we just worked to get better throughout the week.”

Two top freshman prospects in the QV lineup are Benedict, listed as a QB/ATH/LB, and Kris Brown, an offensive/defensive lineman. Benedict completed 5 of 6 passes for 54 yards and one touchdown.

“Logan Benedict and Kris Brown played a lot of minutes,” Cappa said.

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

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.

Due to WPIAL realignment, QV is competing in a conference with Avonworth, Beaver, Hopewell, Seton LaSalle, South Park and West Mifflin.

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

Offensively, seniors Gavin Eshenbaugh (RB), Pickett (WR) and Djedid (OL) and junior linemen Zack Djedid and Pesce are returning starters.

Pickett was a first-team all-conference selection as a wideout last season. He is a fourth-year starter who has set goals of 600-plus receiving yards and 12 touchdowns this year.

Pickett led the team with 17 receptions for 256 yards and four touchdowns in 2021. He also finished in double figures in the tackles-for-loss category from his safety position and ranked among the team leaders in total tackles.

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

“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,” Cappa said. “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 received significant game experience last season and are expected to contribute on both sides of the ball this year include senior Nico Danko (TE/DE), sophomores Nico Cardinale (WR/DB) and Lance Burns (TE/LB) and juniors Chase Kretzler (OL/LB) and Aidan Fair (OL/LB).

QV’s signal callers have a tall group of receivers as targets in Pickett, Gartley (6-1), Cox-Giles (6-3) and Danko (6-4), along with Brown, a 5-6 scatback.

Pickett, Brown and Diemert had three catches apiece against Freedom.

Seton LaSalle, the Quakers’ opponent in their conference lid-lifter, lost a 38-7 decision to Perry and by a 56-24 score to Serra Catholic in its first two games.


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