Last week the Pleasant Valley football team suffered a heart-breaking loss to Stroudsburg and squandered its opportunity to be the undisputed Mountain Valley Conference champ in the process.
Now, through an act of fate or coincidence, the Bears have been given one more chance to prove that they are in fact the best team in the MVC.
Pleasant Valley will host conference-rival East Stroudsburg South for the second time in less than a month this Friday when the two meet in the first round of the District 11 AAAA tournament. The Bears were forced to share the MVC crown with the Cavaliers following their loss the Mounties. This time the two teams won't just be squaring off in a regular season match-up. They will be playing for the right to move on to the district semi-finals.
"We have been given a second chance and this is a great opportunity," said Bears' head coach Jim Terwilliger. "We get to play the guys that we had to share the title with; the team that we had an identical conference record with. I tell the guys that every MVC game is a conference championship game, but this one takes it to another level. Without a doubt we look at this as the championship game."
Pleasant Valley knocked off East Stroudsburg South in dramatic fashion back on Oct. 22. Quarterback Derrik Walling hit Rob Getz for a 13-yard touchdown with 18 seconds left to give the locals a 40-35 victory. It was the first time since 2004 that the Bears had defeated the Cavaliers.
It was thought at the time that Pleasant Valley would go on to win the conference out-right with only Pocono Mountain East and Stroudsburg left to play. However, the Bears managed just 72 yards after halftime and let a 21-6 lead slip away to the Mounties. It was a very hard loss to take, but Terwilliger believes his team has moved on.
"I believe that it may have been a blessing in disguise," said Terwilliger. "I think it was an awakening and has us refocused.
"After such an emotional loss, a team can go either way. It can either crush you or re-energize you. I think it has refocused us on our goals."
The key for Pleasant Valley will be containing the three-headed monster of quarterback Michael Carmella and running backs Collin Hegarty and Kyshoen Jarrett. The Bears did a considerable job of that last time. Holding those three guys in check, along with stopping the Cavs on a fourth-and-short late in the fourth quarter, was the difference in the game.
While Carmella is definitely more than capable of throwing the ball (108-for-155, 1,625 yards, 21 TDs, 2 INTs), he is just as apt to scrambling and picking up big yardage (595 yards, 5.4 avg, 7 TDs). Carmella did a little of both in their last meeting. He connected on 12-of-19 passes for 220 yards and two scores and also ran for 72 yards and a touchdown. Most of his 72 yards came on his 48-yard touchdown scamper early in the game. Carmella was injured last week against East Stroudsburg North and did not return to the game. There has been no update on his status for Friday.
The Cavs' main-threat out of the backfield is Jarrett. Jarrett, who verbally committed to the University of Pittsburgh before the season, has big-play potential (1,128 total yards, 11.9 yards-per-touch, 8 TDs). Still, the Bears managed to hold him in check, especially in the second half. After picking up 100 yards on 13 carries in the first half, Jarrett totaled just six yards on six carries in the second. Limiting his big gainers will go a long way in helping in the Bears win the game.
"Our defense just executed the game-plan," said Terwilliger. "We played fast and with a lot of confidence. (The Cavs') big three play aggressive. We had to match their aggression and their speed and we did. Friday we will have to take on the challenge and do it again."
Hegarty will also carry the ball. He has rushed 54 times for 498 yard and six scores. He also has 324 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Last meeting he had a score through the air and on the ground on his way to totaling 147 yards on five touches.
Matt Walters is the Cavs' leading receiver, having caught 32 balls for 527 yards and 13 touchdowns. He had five grabs for 60 yards and a score last meeting.
Both teams enter Friday night's contest averaging over 32 points-per-game. As it did in the last meeting, this one may come down to who has the ball last.
"It has been a wild week and it is only Tuesday," said Terwilliger, whose team will be playing in its first district game since 1994. "I know there is going to be a lot of hoop-la about this game, but we need focus on what we need to do and do it well.
"Everyone is excited. The community has been thirsty for a successful football team for a while. We are glad to have been able to supply them with that and hopefully we can keep it going for at least another week."