Turnovers happen in football. However, they don't become damaging, officially, until the opponent turns them into points. In Friday night's Mountain Valley Conference battle between Pleasant Valley and Pocono Mountain East, the Bears turned an interception and a fumble into 14 points in the third quarter to make a huge difference in this match-up, as they pulled out a 28-22 win.
Nick Huerta recovered a fumble and eventually, his team saw Nyiem Nevarez catch a TD pass. Four minutes later, Nevarez intercepted a Luke Hohenstein pass on his own 35-yard line and raced away for a score that turned a 14-10 Pleasant Valley lead into a 28-10 advantage, altering the complexion of the game and providing the winners with the momentum needed in order to pull out the victory.
"I think the difference tonight was the third quarter turnovers," Pocono Mountain East head coach Phil Dorn said. "They capitalized on them. At the end of the day, you look at the opportunities that you, as a team can capitalize on, and we didn't do it. They did."
"When you cause turnovers, those are game-changing plays," Pleasant Valley mentor Jim Terwilliger said. "We were able to capitalize on them at that time. Also, we were able to hold back the damage on our own turnovers earlier in the game."
As the Battle for the 'Ol Oaken Bucket began, it seemed as though sputtering offenses and sloppy possessions led to the scoreless first frame. However, things quickly changed in the second, as the scoreboard came to life.
The Bears (5-1) opened up the TD tally with a Brandon Leap-to-Nyiem Nevarez 38-yard scoring reception. That connection may sound familiar later, as the junior receiver was open consistently on the slot pattern.
However, the 'Cards returned the favor with an 80-yard drive resulting in Corey Castillon's five-yard scamper that tied the game at 7-apiece with two minutes before halftime.
The Bears seemed ready to take their turn in the scoring department, only to see a Leap interception give way to a 23-yard field goal by East with time running out in the second quarter.
"Pocono Mountain East has got some players," Terwilliger admitted. "I'm just proud of our guys for bearing down and battling hard for the entire game."
That they did, as they tacked on 21 points in the third session that went unanswered. Leap trotted in from the five, making it 14-10 Bears with 9:09 left. The Huerta fumble recovery on the East 20 yielded ideal field position, setting up Leap to Nevarez for a 16-yard TD less than a minute later. Pocono's ensuing drive brought on more heroics from Nevarez, as his 65-yard interception return made it 28-10 with 4:46 left.
The Cardinals showed their heart by fighting back the remainder of the game and even made things interesting late. Hohenstein connected with Michael Geoghegan down the right side of the field for one score and with 17 ticks left he found R.J. Sarajian in the right corner of the endzone that raised questions from the fans, as it seemed Richie Fourquet pulled away from Sarajian. However, the ruling stood and the onsides kick was recovered by Tom Ebinger to seal the victory.
The win marks the fifth straight year that the Bears have won the game and Terwilliger commented, "We had some great individual performances tonight, and we had some things to look at. But I think our whole team, from top to bottom, everyone has a role and they're a good group of guys and I love coaching them."
In the game, the Bears saw Nevarez and Leap catch the spotlight, as Leap was 13-20 passing for 152 yards and two TDs, while rushing 19 times for 129 yards and a rushing score. Nevarez, had three scores, while amassing 86 yards receiving. Teammate Austyn Borre also impressed, rushing 16 times for 95 yards.