Veteran leaders ready to set tone for Quaker Valley
Monday, August 21, 2017 | 11:00 PM
Only weeks after a surprise coaching change had Quaker Valley football in the headlines, the Quakers are back to business as usual on the eve of the regular season.
The Quakers open their season at 7 p.m. Friday with a nonconference home game against Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, and while a strong senior group would love to give the program a fifth straight winning season, their bigger goal is the first playoff appearance for QV since 2013.
Coach Jerry Veshio, whose first day leading the program after John Tortorea's resignation was Aug. 7, said he has been encouraged by much of what his team has shown thus far, which includes the team's lone scrimmage Saturday at South Side.
“It went pretty good. Performance-wise, based on what you'd expect of a first scrimmage, I'd say it was above average,” Veshio said. “But I'm looking at it from the standpoint that we still have a lot of work to do, because the potential for this team is considerable.
“I'd say it was a B or B-plus, but we're looking to be A or A-plus with our performance. We had some holding penalties that brought back a couple of touchdowns, but not a lot of procedure stuff and only one defensive penalty. They were mentally pretty good, and the physical part was there, as well.”
The Quakers have veteran leadership scattered across the field, which helps to provide leadership at each position. Up front, senior center Jake Pesicka again will handle the line calls, and fellow senior Oliver Funk is expected to play a key role in the line's success.
Speedy senior Isaiah McNair will be one of the Quakers' main weapons as both a receiver in the slot and a runner, while in the backfield senior Jordan Taylor expects to take on a big role as the team's fullback.
That fullback position became open with the move of Ricky Guss to quarterback, where he will be a dual-threat player in charge of spreading the ball around to the Quakers' many athletes. On the outside, he will have senior receiver Joey Peduzzi, who came on strong during the season last year and provides a big target at 6-foot-3.
“Ricky knows the offense well, and he understands what people's roles are,” Veshio said. “But a lot of other people (understand the offense), too. We've got a group that, in the two weeks we've been out there, has been focused, attentive and on task.”
Senior defensive end Andrew Seymour and Funk, a linebacker/end, will lead the charge on the other side of the ball. Guss last year was solid at linebacker and McNair returns in the secondary, as a number of Quaker Valley players are expected to start and play both ways.
“We're expecting very big things from (Seymour) this year. He's very strong, quick and intense out there, and he can battle with some of the teams we play against,” Veshio said.
Once again, the Quakers face a daunting challenge in the Beaver Valley Conference, where defending state champion Beaver Falls, Aliquippa, Central Valley and Beaver have been perennial powers.
With a maximum of three playoff spots available — and only two guaranteed — quality teams will be left out of the postseason, as was the case last year for fourth-place Beaver, which was ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL late last season, and the fifth-place Quakers.
Despite those challenges, Veshio said his team isn't worried about the past history of those powerhouse programs.
“The short time I've been around these guys and the coaches, they really believe (they can make the playoffs), but time will tell,” Veshio said. “If they come out well to start the season, I think you'll really see the confidence spike. I don't see our guys as arrogant, because they know they haven't proven anything yet, but they're confident.”
The opening-week matchup with North Catholic — itself a school with a state championship just four years ago, albeit in Class A — should provide the Quakers a stern test that should help them get ready for when conference play begins and playoff spots are on the line, beginning with the season's fourth game.
“We have to come out this week and know when we win, we have to keep an even keel. And if we lose, it's not the end of the world because we have nine more games to go,” Veshio said.
Matt Grubba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: Quaker Valley
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