West Xtra: Quakers win ends drought in playoffs

Craig Meyer's High School Football Notebook

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For Quaker Valley, the road to success in football was long and arduous.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, the program was consistently mired with sub-.500 records and lopsided defeats among other barometers, all of which added up to a school that had not been to the WPIAL playoffs since the late 1990s.

But last Friday, the Quakers saw the end of that road rapidly approaching and with that reality facing them, they took full advantage.

With a 29-15 victory against New Brighton, they were able to collect their first postseason victory since 1999, the year which also marked the last time the program made the WPIAL playoffs.

"It was just a great sense of accomplishment," third-year Quaker Valley coach John Tortorea said. "We've been working for three years to get to that moment."

In the years since the Quakers last enjoyed postseason success, they went 25-96 from 2000-2012, a period of time that included six seasons with one win or fewer and just one winning season.

Heading into the fourth quarter, Quaker Valley trailed, 15-14, but it was able to score two unanswered touchdowns. Quarterback Dane Jackson led all players with 106 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

While the thrill of a long-awaited victory was undoubtedly sweet for the Quakers, the euphoria will have to be short-lived. On Friday, they will travel to Moon Area High School to take on two-time defending WPIAL champion Aliquippa in the Class AA quarterfinals. The Quips have outscored their 10 opponents this season by an average of 38.4 points per game.

The Quakers, however, are simply trying to enjoy their current position, one that would have been hard to imagine even five years ago.

"We're welcoming the opportunity and just trying to be who we are," Tortorea said.

Strong seasons end

A pair of teams from the West Xtra coverage area lost in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs, but the defeats marked the conclusion of notably successful seasons for two programs that have struggled over the past decade -- New Brighton and Moon Area.

After their loss to Quaker Valley, the Lions finished 6-4, the program's best single-season record since going 6-3 in 2002 and their first playoff appearance since 2003.

Even with their closely contested loss to West Mifflin, one in which running back Cole Blake rushed for 309 yards, the Tigers went 6-4, finished with their best record since 2005 and made their first postseason trip since 2006.

Although the strong seasons did not exactly come out of nowhere, they did come from programs that were not accustomed to a high level of success. From 2007-12, New Brighton went 14-40 while Moon went 8-51, a period of time that included a combined three winless seasons, no years with a winning record and no playoff berths.

Rangers finding way

Fort Cherry has consistently been one of the stronger programs in the Class A Black Hills Conference over the past 10 years, but postseason success has often eluded it. That is, until the past three years.

With their 13-12 victory against Carmichaels last Friday, the Rangers have now won at least one playoff game in two of the past three seasons. Prior to that span, Fort Cherry had gone eight consecutive seasons without a WPIAL postseason victory, a period in which it finished .500 or better six times and made the playoffs on four occasions.

The Rangers will look to make the WPIAL semifinals for the first time since 2001 with a Friday game against four-time defending WPIAL champion Clairton. The Bears won the regular season matchup between the two teams, 36-28, on Sept. 27.

Games of interest

Seton-LaSalle vs. South Fayette, 7:30 p.m., Peters Township High School -- The Lions have continued to do what they've done all season and seemingly every season for the past few years -- overwhelm opposing defenses with a flurry of points. With a 49-0 victory last week against Greensburg Central Catholic, South Fayette has scored at least 40 points in every game this season, including a 45-3 win against the Rebels on Sept. 27.

Mount Pleasant vs. Beaver, 7:30 p.m., Plum High School -- For anyone in the mood for two potent offenses, this may be as good of a quarterfinal game as there is. Both the Bobcats (42 points per game) and the Vikings (45.4 points per game) are among the top four teams in Class AA in scoring offense.

Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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