HERSHEY, PA -
The Quaker Valley Quakers finished off an improbable season with the school's first ever state championship with a 41-24 victory over the Middletown Blue Raiders on a snowy Saturday afternoon in Hersheypark Stadium in the PIAA 3A state football championship game.
Quaker Valley's head coach quit less than three weeks before the start of the 2017 season. So in steps Jerry Veshio, the school's public address announcer and former football head coach who had been retired for a couple decades. The Quakers had not only never won a state title, but have never won a WPIAL title as well. And now, with Veshio just stepping in for the 2017 season under these special cirucmstances, he has accomplished those two milestones that no Quaker Valley football coach had ever done.
After a regular season loss to Aliquippa as their lone loss of the year, the Quakers got their revenge and pulled off an immaculate 2-0 win over the Quips to win the District 7 and WPIAL title. After a bye in the quarterfinals, Quaker Valley took care of District 10 champion Sharon, 43-23, before defeating the previously undefeated District 3 champion Middletown.
This championship got off to a slow start as expected with the weather conditions. But with just under three minutes remaining in the first quarter, Quaker Valley running back Jordan Taylor broke free for a 34-yard touchdown run to put the Quakers up 7-0.
Just past the midway point of the second quarter, Middletown got a 55-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from Tre Leach that tied the game at 7-7. But on the next Quaker Valley drive, quarterback Ricky Guss connected with wide receiver Ethan Moore for a 66-yard touchdown, which gave the Quakers the lead for good.
Quaker Valley got two more touchdowns with under two minutes remaining in the half - first on a short 1-yard pass from Guss to Moore, and then a minute later on a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown by Andrew Seymour. With those two scores, the Quakers had a commanding 28-7 lead over the Blue Raiders at the half.
Taylor had another big touchdown run - this time from 35-yards out - early in the third quarter to ultimately ice the win and championship for the Quakers.
For Middletown, this was their only loss of the year (14-1) and their second straight loss in the 3A state championship game, having been defeated by Beaver Falls in 2016 by a score of 30-13. This was still a great season for Middletown and after losing the last two state championships, head coach Brett Myers and the Blue Raiders will hopefully make it "third times a charm" in the state championship game in 2018.
For Quaker Valley, they also finish 14-1 but get the win in the most important game of the year. For coach Veshio and his players, this will be a season to remember and perhaps there will be a movie or documentary produced about this magical season that ended in the school's first ever state championship.
Photo Credit: Christopher Brown