Quaker Valley’s young, battle-tested roster ready to rebound

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020 | 12:01 AM


There are just three seniors on the Quaker Valley football roster this fall.

Typically, that would be cause for concern.

But the Quakers’ underclassmen are more experienced than most their age and have been game tested against some of the best teams WPIAL Class 3A has to offer.

“The junior group is really talented,” coach Ron Balog said. “A lot of the sophomores got to play as freshmen. We are young, but there are some talented football players there. If we can keep these young guys doing the basics through camp and the beginning of the season, I think they’ll progress well and I think they’ll perform well.”

Many of the underclassmen saw significant playing time a year ago when Quaker Valley started 0-5 and finished 2-7. Injuries were a major reason for the struggles, and the team was down to less than 20 healthy players at midseason.

A bright spot, however, was that younger players got key varsity reps against the likes of perennial powers Central Valley, Beaver Falls and Aliquippa in the Tri-County West Conference.

Some of those foes remain as PIAA and WPIAL realignment slotted Quaker Valley into the Class 3A Northwestern Six Conference this season with defending WPIAL champion Central Valley, Hopewell and Keystone Oaks, as well as newcomers Ambridge and Avonworth, the WPIAL Class 2A champion.

The Quakers also will play Aliquippa in a nonconference contest.

“The conference doesn’t get any easier (by adding Avonworth),” Balog said. “Central Valley is probably the odds-on favorite in Triple-A. Ambridge is coming down from 4A, so we’ll see what they do.”

Junior Patrick Cutchember will get the keys to the Quakers’ offense. He led the team in rushing (493 yards) and receiving (228 yards) last season and scored four times. He will start the season taking snaps under center.

“He’s one of our two or three best football players,” Balog said of the third-year starter. “He’s going to play a lot of quarterback for us, some running back. Defensively, he’ll be one of our inside linebackers.

“He’s a really talented kid. Very shifty, very skilled runner, great hips, that makes him elusive. He’s just a guy who’s tough to bring down.”

Juniors Jamir Steffey and Nate Dicks also will carry the load on offense, along with sophomore Gavin Eshenbaugh. All carried the ball last year, and Balog credited each with getting stronger and better in the offseason.

Balog also expressed excitement about junior Mason Diemert, who played wide receiver as a sophomore last season after being away from football since middle school. He also picked off eight passes as a free safety.

“He’s gonna play a little quarterback, as well,” Balog said. “He’s 6-5 and we’re going to use him in a lot of different spots. He’s very talented.”

As for those seniors, all three of them will be anchors on the offensive line — Dustin Grimm (5-9, 220) and Nate Nelson (6-2, 240) return to the starting lineup.

“We expect big things out of those two guys up front,” Balog said.

And, QV also welcomes back senior lineman Ryan Kroner, who didn’t play last season but will be a key cog up front.

“We expect some really good stuff out of him up front,” Balog said.

On defense, Nelson will anchor the defensive line, with Dicks, Eshenbaugh, Cutchember and sophomore Jakub Pickett at linebacker and Diemert and Steffey solidifying the defensive secondary.

Schedule

Coach: Ron Balog

2019 record: 2-7, 1-6 in Class 3A Tri-County West

All-time record: 239-348-14

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, at Avonworth*, 7

9.18, Brentwood, 7

9.25, at Aliquippa, 7

10.1, Central Valley*, 7

10.9, at Hopewell*, 7

10.16, at Keystone Oaks*, 7

10.23, Ambridge*, 7

*Class 3A Northwestern Six Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Michael Aspiotes*

43-98, 520 yards, 5 TDs

Receiving: Patrick Cutchember

15-228 yards, 4 TDs

Rushing: Cutchember

86-493 yards, 4 TDs

*Graduated

Fast facts

• Quaker Valley was outscored 251-28 in its first five games last season but just 109-98 in its final four games, including wins over Waynesburg and Beaver.

• The Quakers claimed their only WPIAL title in 2017, defeating Aliquippa, 2-0, at Heinz Field. They also went on to win the PIAA Class 3A championship.

• Balog is in his third season as head coach at Quaker Valley. He spent the previous two season as an assistant coach at Central Catholic.

• Quaker Valley returns 10 players with starting experience on both sides of the ball.

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at bhartlep@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TribHSInsider.

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