Quaker Valley’s Ricky Guss could not sleep Sunday night, his mind kept drifting to Friday and the Quakers’ matchup with undefeated Aliquippa.
It was a first for the senior quarterback, who admitted it’s usually the night before a game when his mind is racing.
“Last night was the first night in my life I couldn’t sleep on a Sunday night because of a game,” Guss said. “Come Thursday night, it will be tough to think about anything else besides the game.”
You can’t fault him, either. The Quakers and Quips are both 7-0, and Friday’s contest figures to be the hottest ticket in Beaver County. A conference championship and the inside track to the top seed in the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs are at stake.
It’s just the fifth time in school history the Quakers have won their first seven games. Head coach Jerry Veshio, who was an assistant on the last Quaker Valley team to start 7-0 (1983), is not surprised by the team’s current position.
“We’ve been singularly focused most of the year,” Veshio said. “7-0 is not something we didn’t expect. I think our kids believed they could do that, and I think they still believe we can go undefeated this season.”
With Guss at the helm, Quaker Valley has steamrolled its opponents, averaging 45 points a game. Last week, he rushed for three touchdowns and ran for another in a 41-14 win over Beaver Falls, giving him 30 total on the year and breaking the school’s single-season touchdown and scoring record.
Aliquippa has used a different formula in winning its first seven games, suffocating opponents with a defense that is conjuring historical comparisons. The Quips have yet to allow an offensive touchdown and only given up 10 points all season. They pitched their fourth straight shutout last week, blanking Clairton, 28-0. Clairton finished with just 17 yards of total offense and rushed for a -28 yards.
On the season, the Quips have surrendered just 33 first downs and are +9 in turnover margin. Opponents are mustering just 55 yards of total offense against a tenacious front seven.
“You can’t make mistakes against these guys,” Veshio said. “Aliquippa takes advantage of things you do bad, and when that happens, they pounce on you.
The Quips are accustomed to the spotlight. They’ve won 16 WPIAL championships and have reached Heinz Field an unprecedented nine straight years. The pressure and magnitude associated with Friday’s contest is what the program has come to expect under 21-year head coach, Mike Zmijanac.
Quaker Valley, on the other hand, has not won a conference championship since 1983 and never advanced to a WPIAL final. The Quakers are a senior-laden group, though, and Veshio believes they are ready for the moment.
“I think we know what’s ahead of us,” Veshio said. “We know what we’re capable of and it’s a privilege to be out here—the kids know that. And it’s also something I think they are ready to handle.”
“They’ve experienced a lot of things, and I think it’s something—the cameras won’t be too flashy for them.”
Guss echoed his coach’s thoughts, insisting his teammates have embraced the buildup to the game.
“The hype of it is one thing to look forward to,” Guss said. “We’re not going to let it bother us, but we like the attention of playing in a big game. It gets us excited.”
If the Quakers score a victory, Guss might have a hard time sleeping Friday night, too.