Due to Pleasant Valley's spread offensive attack, most opposing defenses don't have a choice but to play the Bears' receivers one-on-one.
When that happens, quarterback Derrik Walling and wide receiver Rich Irving know that they have an immediate advantage.
So was the case last Friday night when Lehighton traveled to Pleasant Valley. With the Bears having three or four receivers lined up on the outside the majority of the time, the Indians were forced to man-up with their secondary. That left Irving, who stands at six-foot with great leaping ability, matched up with smaller defenders. That scenario can be explained with one word: mismatch.
Irving ended up with nine catches on the night and made them in a variety of ways. Sometimes he jumped up over his defender and snatched balls over his head. Other times he disregarded his own body and laid out for diving grabs. Then there were times where he simply made the catch, turned up field and racked up plenty of yards. In the end he totaled 168 yards and two touchdowns en route to helping his Bears improve to 3-1 with a 42-6 beatdown of their MVC foe. For that, he has been awarded the TIMES NEWS Player of the Week.
"Our offense was really clicking that night," said Irving. "The offensive line gave Derrik a lot of time to get the ball up to me. Fortunately I was able to make some plays.
"Lehighton tried to play a Cover 1 most of the time. I just feel like if somebody is matched up one-on-one with me I am going to take them."
Up until last weekend Irving had been relatively quiet for the first three games of the season. He had just nine receptions for 76 yards and a TD, with five of those grabs coming against Wyoming Valley West. Still, thanks to the Bears' run-and-gun style on offense, any player can rise up on any given night.
"Our offense is designed to spread the ball to a lot of people," said Pleasant Valley head coach Jim Terwilliger. "I don't think we have a bunch of high-statistical people. I really don't care much about stats. Richie put up some nice ones Friday night as a result of just making plays.
"The saying goes, 'Big time players make big time plays in big time games.' Well, he made some big time plays Friday night."
Before Terwilliger arrived at the start of 2009, Pleasant Valley was a run-first, run-second type of offense. The Bears' offense was centered around the option in the early part of the decade and later developed into the Power-I. It wasn't until Mike Falcone's last year as coach that the Bears tried out the spread offense. However, even then they mostly just ran out of the formation.
From 2006-08, Pleasant Valley ran the ball 67 percent of the time. Last year that number changed dramatically. In 2009, the Bears threw on 239 of their 464 plays (51.5 percent). This year their run-to-pass ratio is 124:66, but that is largely due to two blowout victories in which the Bears passed the ball just 25 times combined.
"It's a lot of fun knowing that we are going to come out and shoot the ball around," said Irving. "I know that I am one of the go-to-guys in this offense so I always have to be ready. It definitely makes it a lot more fun."
Irving, who also plays on the basketball team, says some of the skills he has learned on the hardwood have transferred over to the football field.
"It definitely helps being a two-sport athlete," Irving said. "Basketball is a lot of jumping and hand-eye coordination, so it works both ways. Plus, facing competition in any sport all year long is a good experience."
Irving will continue to be a main-stay on the Pleasant Valley offense as the Bears vie for their first MVC title since 2004 (tri-champs with East Stroudsburg South and Stroudsburg). So far, he likes where he and his team is headed.
"We felt that after the first game that we had to bounce back," said Irving. "We had to prove that Pleasant Valley is not one of those teams that are going to sit around and not do anything again. We feel that we have a great squad and we are looking to more forward from here."