Quaker Valley seniors rewarded for effort with WPIAL championship

Saturday, November 18, 2017 | 5:51 PM

Sewickley police welcomed the buses as they returned from Heinz Field and escorted them through town.

Quaker Valley football was home, and for the first time, they returned as champions.

The 62-year-old school's first WPIAL football title, the result of a 2-0 win over Aliquippa on Saturday at Heinz Field, was the culmination of a program turnaround that has been years in the making.

This year's special group of senior players finally pushed QV over the line, exactly 75 years since the old Leetsdale High School team last had the area playing for a title in a 12-0 final loss to Bridgeville in 1942.

“After freshman year, (senior Oliver Funk) and I used to dream about this. We'd go down and watch the WPIAL games, and we'd talk about, one day we're going to be here,” senior Andrew Seymour said. “If we would have made those dreams public, people probably would have laughed and said that's a cute dream.

“Now to be able to say we've won a WPIAL championship here, it's just surreal. It feels like it's destiny because of all the hard work we put in. It's not a surprise, it was an expectation. To be able to put a banner up on the gym wall and replace that section championship in 1983 with a WPIAL championship in 2017, there's no better feeling.”

The Quakers went nearly a decade without a winning season into the 2000s before going 5-4 in 2008, led by coach Jeff Besong, a QV alum who previously had coached youth football. Not surprisingly, it was around that time the current Quakers seniors would have been starting to play in the youth ranks.

A playoff berth under coach John Tortorea in 2013, only the fifth in school history, was the previous high point of up-and-down seasons to come. That led to this season, in which a group of seniors who started together in the QV youth ranks made sure they got a taste of the playoffs and then some.

“This program has kick-started some things that I think will last for a little bit,” Quaker Valley coach Jerry Veshio said. “I think (youth football) is a vital part of any community's football program. We have a fine group of young men who take care of that youth program, and I think it's a tremendous asset to have when you have youngsters playing like that, and they're successful as well.”

Veshio, a life-long Quaker Valley man, knows a thing or two about success. His track teams have won nine WPIAL titles for the school, and as a football player, he was part of many successful seasons in the late 60s.

But by his own admission, Veshio said nothing he had done was quite like taking time out of his retirement to lead his alma mater's team on short notice in August. His postgame comments, which he began with “How ‘bout them Quakers?” quickly moved into a series of thank yous to his players, family and the community.

“(The players) are relentless in their effort and their pursuit of a championship, and they started back before I got involved. … They had a commitment to themselves, the community and their families to bring a championship to Quaker Valley,” Veshio said.

And as much as QV's title was a win for the community — Sewickley High's 1938 co-championship was the last time the community captured a football trophy — Veshio's comments reinforced that, first and foremost, the win belonged to his players for their dedication and teamwork.

“We play like brothers, and we always have each other's back,” senior Isaiah McNair said answering a question about the defense's performance. “When we're looking to our left and our right, we just have something other defenses don't. It's a must. It's like dogs, how they protect everyone no matter what, they'll risk their life for their owner. We're all dogs, and we'd risk our life for each other and fight for each other.”

“It feels like I'm playing with my blood brothers. Blood couldn't make us any closer,” Seymour said. “We have a bond we built throughout the years, and it's not about how well we execute, how conditioned we are, how strong we are. We care about each other so much, and we're willing to put anything on the line for each other.”

Matt Grubba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com

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