West/North Xtra: Undefeated Quakers make statement

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL


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There were certain topics that were not allowed to be discussed around the Quaker Valley football team.

Speaking aloud specific words or basic numbers were strictly hush-hush and even forbidden.

"I told the guys we're not allowed to talk about the playoffs or mention our record," Quakers coach John Tortorea said. "It's been our rule all season."

That rule was broken soon after the undefeated Quakers (5-0, 5-0) picked up their fifth-consecutive win this season after knocking off Steel Valley, 14-7, last Friday.

"After Friday night, I let the team talk about our record and the playoffs," Tortorea said. "We've pretty much guaranteed a winning [regular] season and more than likely locked up a playoff spot.

"The kids deserve to enjoy the moment."

Tied with South Fayette at the top of the Class AACentury Conference standings, Quaker Valley is more than half way through one of its best seasons in years. The Quakers, who won a total of seven games combined the past four years, haven't experienced a winning season since they went 5-4 in 2008.

"There's so much I can say about these guys," Tortorea said. "There are some special kids here who deserve the best because of how much they have overcome.

"They were able to fight through the previous seasons and made a commitment to be successful. It's paying off right now."

The previous time Quaker Valley qualified for the WPIAL playoffs was in 1999 and the last time its football program captured a conference championship was in 1983.

"This school has been starving for a winner," said Tortorea, who is in his third season as Quakers head coach. "It has been great how the community, students and administration have embraced this team.

"We have some great kids who play for themselves, the school and their community. They play for the brand that we're trying to build right now and they've bought into it and have been enjoying themselves."

Because nearby Cornell High School disbanded its football program after the 2011 season, a handful of Cornell students have been able to play for the Quakers through a PIAA cooperative sponsorship agreement between the two schools.

Dane Jackson, a junior quarterback, attends Cornell and plays for the Quakers. Jackson has been a key to Quaker Valley's offense this season, leading the backfield in rushing with more than 600 yards and four touchdowns. He also has thrown for another 400-plus yards and eight touchdowns.

The Quakers, though, have a wealth of skilled players, including Jackson, junior running back Tre'won Marshall, senior running back Gennaro Trovato, senior fullback Aaron Cunningham and junior wide receiver Chris Conlan.

"We have the luxury of having five or six guys in the backfield and our guys up front make them look good," Tortorea said. "They do all the little things right, so our [skill guys] don't need a lot of room to run.

"We're not going to overwhelm or overpower you, so they have to be systematic up front. They stick to the game plan and play pretty close to perfect to execute as linemen."

Anchoring the Quakers' offensive and defensive lines as a center/nose tackle is Matt O'Neill. Tortorea also credits the efforts of senior linemen Marcus Coury, Sebastian Gordan, Eric Kley and John Benard as well as junior James Burnett.

"We have so many unsung heroes doing their job and that's our linemen," Tortorea said. "Our skill guys are flashy, but these are the guys who have been the backbone to what we are doing.

"Not too many things are said about linemen because of our skilled guys, but these guys have been the nuts and bolts of this team."

The Quakers play host to No. 4 South Fayette (5-0, 5-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Chuck Knox Stadium.

"South Fayette is known for their offense, but they probably have the best defense in Double-A right now," Tortorea said. "They're quick up front and they're fast. They do everything the right way and have a great coaching staff.

"They have a great program they built up and worked on it. We're trying to follow that as a blueprint. This week is our next step in continuing to build our program."

hsfootball


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