If Pleasant Valley wants to repeat as the Mountain Valley Conference champions, its quest to do so will begin this Friday night.
The MVC schedule gets under way this weekend, as Pleasant Valley travels to Lehighton in the TIMES NEWS Game of the Week. The Indians should enter the matchup as the slight favorite having won its last two games after opening the season with a close loss to Marian. Meanwhile, the Bears are coming off a tough loss to Wyoming Valley West and will be looking to get back on track this week.
The Bears were the co-champs of the conference with East Stroudsburg South last season after going 5-1. The Indians finished 2-4 in the MVC in 2010, but have a core group of players back ready to make a run at the crown. Where each of these two teams will finish is yet to be determined. What is certain is that their journey begins Friday.
"This game is the first round of the MVC championship fight," said Pleasant Valley head coach Jim Terwilliger. "Our guys are preparing for this game extremely hard. Lehighton is a tough football team and has a veteran squad.
"They are 2-1 and we are 1-2, so obviously the chips are going to be slightly against us here. But we are going to prepare and we are going to play Friday night. We have to do our jobs and do them a hundred miles an hour. I think our guys are going to be up for the task."
Lehighton enters this week's matchup coming off a big 41-0 win over Panther Valley last week. The Indians lined up Jacen Nalesnik in the 'Wild Cat' and rushed him seven times for 106 yards and two scores. Nalesnik also caught a ball for nine yards and completed his only pass attempt for 24 yards. In a sense, he does everything for the Indians' offense.
Although Lehighton does present the spread offense, the Indians haven't thrown it around that much. They attempted just eight throws last week and have only 45 pass attempts on the season to 86 rushing attempts. It must be noted however that they have been without their starting quarterback in Josh Agosto thus far. Anthony Farole, a running back-slash-wide receiver who is 21-for-38 for 300 yards and three touchdowns on the year, will start under center yet again this week.
"Agosto will be out again this week, but he is getting close," said Lehighton head coach George Ebbert. "Farole has been getting more comfortable and everyone is becoming more comfortable with him. He has been doing a great job.
"We will be looking to get Nalesnik the ball. He is our 'Rob Getz.' We also want to control the ball. When you are playing an offense like Pleasant Valley's, sometimes your best defense is a good offense."
Getz will undoubtedly be the focal point of the Bears' offense. The senior tailback scored four touchdowns last Friday for the second consecutive week. He tied the school record for career touchdowns in the process and will be looking to break the record this weekend. He currently leads the TIMES NEWS area with ten total touchdowns.
Last week against Wyoming Valley West, Getz ran for 95 yards and two scores, caught six passes for 102 yards and a score, and even returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. In all he accounted for over 58 percent of Pleasant Valley's offensive yards and all of its scores.
"It helps having practiced against a spread offense all year," Ebbert said about his defense, which is fifth in the area in terms of yards allowed per game. "We don't have the personnel that they do, but we should be used to covering certain packages.
"The key it to limit Getz. He is going to get his yards, but we are hoping to take away the big plays. They do a good job of finding different ways to get him the ball all over the place."
Terwilliger noted that while his defense has gone up against a spread attack every day at practice as well, they can't always plan for everything. While it does help being familiar with the different formations, every spread offense has its own variants.
"Every spread offensive team is a little different," Terwilliger said. "Everyone has their own little quarks. I think that is the neat thing about those types of offenses.
"It is good to have some familiarality with the different sets and to know where the defense has to clamp down in certain formations. The idea of the spread formation is to take control of areas of the field and to find the mismatches and take advantage of the zones. Our guys have gone against that for a while now and they should have a good idea of what can hurt them."
Last year Pleasant Valley beat up on Lehighton at home and won 42-6. However, the Bears have lost a number of offensive starters from last year's team and posses a bunch of first-year starters. Conversely, both the Indians' offense and defense returns the majority of its starters. In some cases, the players have been on the varsity squad for two or three years.
Regardles, last season's contest won't mean much come Friday. This is the start of the 2011 MVC schedule and Ebbert is hoping his team can get off to a good start.
"Whenever you are entering league play you want to start off with a win," Ebbert said. "We want to play better every week and do our best, but you really want to play well in your first league game because that kind of sets the tone. Pleasant Valley is the defending champs so this would be a heck of a way to start."