Coaches dread playing from behind.
Just ask Lehighton's George Ebbert.
After his team gave up a pair of scores early in Friday's Mountain Valley Conference contest with Pocono Mountain East, the Indians were forced to play catch-up.
As it turned out, they played it all night long.
The Cardinals built 14-point leads on three different occassions and eventually held on for a wild 35-28 victory.
"It's horrible when you have to dig yourself out of a two-touchdown hole all the time," said Ebbert, whose team dropped to 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the conference. "That's the way the whole game went.
"The kids responded well. They fought to the end, but once you get yourself in that rut it's hard to get out."
Joey Fogel's 41-yard touchdown run on a draw play allowed PM East its second 14-point bulge at 28-14 midway through the third quarter. Lehighton, however, responded with a 10-play drive that resulted in a one-yard scoring run by Jacen Nalesnik early in the fourth frame.
With the Indians attempting to draw even later in the period, Pocono's Jake DeJohn intercepted a Josh Agosto pass and returned it 50 yards deep into Lehighton territory. On the Cards' next play from scrimmage, Devyn Popa hit paydirt from 10 yards out to boost the lead to 35-21 with 4:17 to play.
"At the time of the interception we thought that would seal the deal," said PM East mentor Phil Dorn. "This was one of those games, though. We came into a tough atmosphere, and Lehighton has tough kids. They weren't going to go down without a fight. We stressed that all week and they proved us right."
Agosto, who returned to the lineup for the first time this season after having an earlier elbow injury, did all he could to bring his team back.
Moments after the ensuing kickoff, the senior quarterback threw his third touchdown of the night. After scrambling away from pressure, he heaved a 55-yard scoring strike to Nalesnik. That pulled Lehighton within 35-28.
"This quarterback is the best quarterback in our conference, and I've been saying that for two years now," said Dorn. "He can throw the ball 65 yards downfield."
"Josh did a great job in his first game back," said Ebbert. "That's what he brings to the table, him and Nalesnik. That combination, it's just a quick-strike how many times. You can't rely on the bomb all the time though, and that's where we get in trouble."
Agosto finished 17-of-29 for 226 yards, with 11 of those catches and 191 of those yards going to Nalesnik.
"They have good athletes especially at the skill positions," said Dorn, whose club improved to 3-2 and 2-0 in the MVC.
The Cardinals managed to pick up a key first down down the stretch and looked like they might run out the clock, but a fumble and recovery by Joe Oriel gave the Tribe one final shot with 1:35 to play.
A big sack by Luke Haney and a desperation heave that fell to the turf prevented a final comeback attempt.
"They did a great job in doing what they had to do," said Ebbert. "Our defense did a great job up to this point in the season but tonight they got the big plays when they needed them."
Two of Pocono's big play occurred early in the contest to stake them to an advantage.
A fumble recovery deep in Indian territory resulted in Popa's one-yard score and a 21-yard strike from Charles Mann to Ryan Sickler put Lehighton in its early hole.
Agosto and Nalesnik hooked up twice, though, to tie the contest only to have Mann hit DeJohn with a 22-yard TD pass right before the half.
"We just made too many mistakes," said Ebbert, whose team has lost three games by a combined 16 points. "Our first quarter was awful. And we had to start throwing the ball. We've had a lot of close losses this season."