SWIFTWATER – In a game marred by nine turnovers and 157 yards of penalties, the winner of the Old Oaken Bucket was decided by a single extra-point attempt.
Down 14-0 at halftime, Pocono Mountain East stole all of the momentum in the second half and mounted a comeback on Pleasant Valley. Thanks in large part to three second-half turnovers by the Bears, the Cardinals managed to score a touchdown with just over 30 seconds left to come within a single point of tying the game.
That's when Marquis Brown, Pleasant Valley's 6-5 defensive end, came to his team's rescue.
Brown blew through the line, put his hands in the air and blocked Pocono Mountain's game-tying attempt. Everyone on the Pleasant Valley sideline, from its players to its fans in the stands, erupted as the Bears won 14-13 and retained The Bucket for the fourth consecutive year.
"In my head I was thinking that I was going to block it," said Brown, who also had a forced fumble and a sack on the night. "There was a little hole between the center and the guard. It wasn't that big. I probably couldn't fit through it, but I pushed and went through with my hands up."
Pleasant Valley head coach Jim Terwilliger, who felt as if he had aged five years in five minutes, was very appreciative afterward.
"We have been preaching about offense, defense, special teams and the 12th man," said Terwilliger. "We didn't win it offensively or defensively tonight, but our special teams came and made a big play. And our sideline, and our 12th man, and our fans really came out tonight."
Things started out well for Pleasant Valley as it scored five plays into the game. Quarterback Brandon Leap hit Sekou Jones on a short in-pattern, who then made a tackler miss and sprinted 58-yards for the score. Leap would hit tight end Dakota Everett for a second score three minutes before halftime to give the Bears a 14-0 lead at the break.
However, things began to fall apart for the locals in the second half. The Bears threw three picks, missed a field goal and punted the ball away on their five second-half possessions.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals scored minutes before the end of the third on a Devyn Papa two-yard touchdown run to draw within seven. Nearly 13 minutes later they would score again on a 17-yard pass to come within a point of tying the game. Fortunately for Pleasant Valley, Brown blocked the extra-point attempt and had Nyiem Nevarez recover the onside kick to seal the win.
Jones led the Bears' receivers with three catches for 84 yards and a score. Andrew Romeo added four receptions for 81 yards.
"I knew it was going to be a hard fought game," said Terwilliger. "They always are with Pocono Mountain. You have to throw the records out with rivalry games.
"This game wasn't pretty by any stretch of the imagination. But it was a heck of a ball game and it was a heck of a way to keep the tradition of the Old Oaken Bucket alive."