East Stroudsburg South and Pleasant Valley's annual matchup isn't a 'rivalry game' per se, but over the past two years it has had some serious implications on the Mountain Valley Conference race.
Since 2010, the Cavaliers and the Bears have entered their MVC battle separated by no more than a game in the standings. Two years ago both teams came into their week seven contest undefeated in the conference. Last year, although neither team had the season it envisioned, the Cavs and the Bears met with a 2-2 and 2-1 conference record respectively.
This year's match-up has the same feel as 2010's, as East Stroudsburg South (5-1, 4-1) travels to Brodheadsville to tussle with Pleasant Valley (4-2, 4-0) in the TIMES NEWS Game of the Week.
The MVC is wide open at the moment. Three teams (East Stroudsburg North, Stroudsburg and Pleasant Valley) are all unblemished at 4-0. East Stroudsburg South sits a half-game behind at 4-1. South's only loss came to Stroudsburg (31-28) four weeks ago. While the others have yet to play each other, a win for either the Cavs or the Bears would only improve their title hopes.
"From now on, they are all big games," said Pleasant Valley head coach Jim Terwilliger. "Our team has done a nice job of not preparing any differently from one team to the next. We have to understand and respect who East Stroudsburg South is.
"We have to understand that this game does have huge conference implications on who is going to be there in the end and that's where we want to be. At the same time we have to play East Stroudsburg South. We aren't playing their record. We aren't playing their stats. We aren't going to play Stroudsburg until week ten. We have to play East Stroudsburg South and beat who they are. I think our kids understand that."
There will be two players that the Pleasant Valley defense will have to key on come Friday night. They are junior tailback Niko Petrone and senior quarterback Tyler McLaughlin.
Petrone is listed at 5-7, 160 and is coming off of consecutive 200-yard games against Pocono Mountain East (28-216-3TD) and Dieruff (21-292-5TD). For the year he has rushed 92 times for 886 yards (9.6-yard average) and 12 touchdowns. That's good for an average of 147.7 yards-per-game. As a team, the Cavs have run for 1,279 yards and 18 touchdowns and average a little more than 213 yards a game.
While McLaughlin won't necessarily beat a team through the air, he is more than capable of throwing it around. The 6-1, 175 signal-caller has completed 59-of-113 passes for 789 yards (131.5 YPG) and eight touchdowns. He can also take off with his legs, as he has racked up 195 yards and two scores on the ground.
"They are two tremendous players," said Terwilliger. "Petrone is fast and extremely hard to tackle. McLaughlin I have seen now for a couple of years and is a great game manager. He takes care of the ball and does some nice things with his legs. They both pose a great one-two punch in the backfield."
Other notable skill players include tailbacks Craig Bonds (16-155-2TD rush) and Sherrod Ford-Cherry (10-55 rush, 12-185-3TD rec), though Ford-Cherry does most of his damage via the passing game. Zee Roberson (14-238-2TD rec), Bryan Nubile (10-128 rec) and Ryan Nazario (9-98-2TD rec) can also make noise while running routes.
After rolling over three teams before giving Wyomissing all it could handle two weeks ago, Pleasant Valley held on to beat Pocono Mountain East last Friday when it blocked the game-tying extra-point attempt in the waning seconds.
Since opening the season with four consecutive 100-yard games, freshman tailback Austyn Borre has been held in check the last two games (32-140 rush) after seeing a lot of loaded fronts.
That has put the onus on quarterback Brandon Leap. Leap has been somewhat inconsistent this year (59-110-1182-13TD-9INT). The junior lit up Wyomissing's top ranked defense for 294 yards and three scores, but then tossed four interceptions in last week's wild contest. He will need to bring his "A" game this week and Terwilliger fully expects him to do so.
"We are going to coach him the same way we have been coaching him," Terwilliger said. "He had a rough one, but guys that don't throw interceptions probably aren't playing. I suspect that he will be fine and I know that he can get it done. He is going to have the ball in his hands every play, so he is our guy."
The Cavs have taken the last two meetings between the two teams. South won last year 37-14 after topping Pleasant Valley in the District 11 playoffs the year before. However, perhaps the Bears' biggest victory under Terwilliger came during the 2010 regular season, when the locals scored in the final seconds to win one of the greatest games in recent history, 40-35.
If this weekend's game is close, which it figures to be, Terwilliger believes that last week's dramatic win will only help his team in future situations.
"Pocono Mountain East was a great game for us," said Terwilliger. "I thought they were a very underrated football team and I knew it was going to be a tough game. It was a great game for us to persevere at the end.
"That's what good football teams do. They win the games that they are supposed to win and they find a way to win the tough ones. That was a big game for us. It showed a lot about the guts of this team. We are going to need that when we get in tough games. It's always nice to blow people out, but it is nice to win the close ones too."