STROUDSBURG – The Pleasant Valley football team had a number of things go against it Friday night.
Unfortunately for the Bears, there were just too many things and they couldn't battle back from all of them.
Pleasant Valley fought back from a 21-point deficit in the first half and managed to tie the game before halftime. The Bears then went down in the third quarter and had three fourth-quarter possessions in Stroudsburg territory. Sadly, the locals couldn't cap any of those drives with touchdowns and fell to the Mounties 27-21 in what was the Mountain Valley Conference championship game.
"The kids fought," said Pleasant Valley head coach Jim Terwilliger. "We came up on the short end of the stick, but when you play good football teams and you are one or two plays away – you can't give up the big ones in the first half.
"We can't go down 21-0 and expect to be in the championship game. The kids fought and fought back to get in position, but at the end of the day we have to look into things and clear things up so we can be in position to win."
Things couldn't have started out worse for Pleasant Valley as it fell behind by three touchdowns by the 9:57 mark of the second quarter. But the Bears were resilient once again, as they managed to tie the game at 21 heading into halftime.
Josh Thornton capped a ten-play drive with a one-yard touchdown run to start the comeback. Stroudsburg then attempted to go for it on fourth-and-one at its own 36 and was stuffed. The Bears turned it into seven points seven plays later when Brandon Leap found Sekou Jones in the front corner of the end zone.
Following a three-and-out by the Mounties, Pleasant Valley set up shop at the Stroudsburg 42-yard-line with 30 seconds to go. Four plays and 27 seconds later Andrew Romeo pulled down a jump ball at the goal line to tie the game right before halftime.
After Stroudsburg's third touchdown, Pleasant Valley out-gained its opposition 159 to 13 and had all of the momentum heading into the break.
Stroudsburg scored on its second possession of the second half when Mike Nikorak hit Donovan McDonald for the duo's second touchdown of the night. However, the extra point was blocked and made things very interesting.
Pleasant Valley then put a 14-play drive together, but had it stall at the Stroudsburg six when Leap was stopped short of a first down. The Bears got the ball back quickly when the Mounties fumbled three plays later, but were stymied again when Leap's fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
With time winding down, Pleasant Valley forced Stroudsburg to punt and started what would be its final drive at its own 30 with 2:07 to go. The Bears worked the ball down to the Mounties' 34-yard-line, but were shut down for good.
On second down, Leap was sacked in bounds for a loss of three. The devastating thing for the Bears was that it kept the clock running when they didn't have any timeouts. Leap was forced to clock the ball and was left with a fourth down. Pleasant Valley called for a hail-mary, but its attempt was knocked down to end the game.
"Offensively, you have to score when you are in the red zone," said Terwilliger. "That was our Achilles heel tonight. We clammed down when we got in the red zone and didn't execute the way we had to execute.
"The greatest thing about that though is that we at least get a chance to play next week. Hopefully we can look at this tape and get better from it."
The loss will be undoubtedly tough to take for Pleasant Valley. Friday night marked the second time in three years that the Bears let the out-right title slip through their fingers in Stroudsburg. Fortunately, they will have a chance to get the bad taste out of their mouth next week when they play in their district playoff game.
"Two years ago and this year are totally different years," Terwilliger said. "I thought this year's team fought hard. We fought. We put ourselves behind the eight ball early, but this team isn't going to give up.
"We have an opportunity next week. We aren't going to lay down for anybody so I look forward to being the underdog right now."