Memo to the Mountain Valley Conference: The Lehighton and Pleasant Valley football teams aren't going to be push-overs in 2010.
In fact, they both plan to contend for the conference crown.
For the first time since 2007, both the Indians and the Bears will enter their annual match-up and first conference game with a winning record (2-1). That is not the only thing the two teams have in common either. Both teams' offenses and defenses are in the top three in the TIMES NEWS area in points for and against.
"I think it is going to be a great game," said Pleasant Valley head coach Jim Terwilliger. "Lehighton is well coached and they are going to be amped and ready to go. We will have to do the same.
"It is going to be an exciting game on both sides of the ball and will probably be back-and-forth all night long. It will come down to what team executed its game-plan better."
While Terwilliger brought the spread-offense to Pleasant Valley when he arrived in 2009, third-year Lehighton head coach George Ebbert decided to make the switch from the Power-I to the spread this season. So far it has been a good decision on Ebbert's part. His offense is averaging over 25 points and 339 yards-per-game.
Junior quarterback Josh Agosto has taken to the offense quickly. He has thrown for 612 yards and six TDs in three games and has also scrambled for two more scores. Perhaps more important is the fact that he has yet to throw an interception. Although Ebbert believes tailback Guiseppe Caruso and receiver Matt Rebovich are more than capable of catching passes, so far Agosto's favorite target has been tight end Jacen Nalesnik. The sophomore has hauled in 13 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns.
"Both of these young men are tremendous athletes," said Terwilliger. "I am just wowed with Agosto's arm strength. He can stop on a dime and throw the ball 40 yards down field. We have to be ready for his big-play capability.
"We know Nalesnik from last year and he is a big target. We will definitely have to have eyes on those two guys at all times."
The Indians have shown the ability to run the ball as well, as Caruso has carried the ball 48 times for 210 yards. He has run for a score in each of the first three games and has two receiving touchdowns to boot.
Meanwhile, the Lehighton defense will also have its hands full. Pleasant Valley has put up over 27 points-per-game (second in area) and benefits from the experience it gained in the offense last season. Ebbert knows how useful it can be when the quarterback is familiar and comfortable within the offense.
"They run a spread offense," said Ebbert. "We run a spread offense too, but this is our first year in the offense so they are a lot more comfortable with what they are doing. Josh is just now starting to become more comfortable whereas their quarterback (Derrik) Walling has a year under his belt.
"We have two films on them. Last week against Wyoming Valley West they mostly ran the spread, while against Honesdale the week before they were in the 'I-Formation.' Really it is two weeks and two different offenses, so we have to prepare for everything."
Walling will once again lead Pleasant Valley's passing attack and he is not afraid to spread the ball around. Eight different Bears have caught a pass so far, including Walling himself. Tailback Rob Getz is the leading receiver out of the backfield with 14 receptions, 117 yards and a score. Receiver Richie Irving is second on the team with nine grabs.
Getz is by far the Bears' most multi-deminsional player. Not only will he catch passes, but he will also run the ball and return kicks. Getz has scored five times so far this year (two rushing, two punt return, one receiving) and has a couple of interceptions on defense.
"We are going to go with our same defense," said Ebbert. "We will try to mix some things up by showing them different looks up front, but nothing major.
"With the spread offense, you try to get the ball to your best matchup. That is what they are going to try to do and that is what we are going to try to do."
The Bears won last year's meeting 37-15; however, they dropped the previous four by a combined score of 125-81. The goal for each team this year will be to get an early jump in the MVC standings.
"It looks like Pleasant Valley is the team to beat so far," admitted Ebbert. "Friday we will see how far we have come as a team.
"I said this last year when we were getting pounded and I will say it again, as long as we improve from week-to-week I will be happy. Obviously I want to win. I'm not a fool. But as long as we show improvement then I will be okay."