Every year since 1961, Pleasant Valley and Pocono Mountain East have met and competed for the right to hoist the Old Oaken Bucket.
The winner gets to keep the Bucket for a year. The loser is left pondering of ways to steal it.
The 51st installment of the rivalry will take place this Friday in Brodheadsville in the TIMES NEWS Game of the Week. And, as if the Bucket wasn't enough, the game has some added incentive for Pleasant Valley. The Bears must defeat the Cardinals this week if they want any shot of winning the Mountain Valley Conference championship. Needless to say, the game will have a major impact on Pleasant Valley's season.
Still, despite all of the underlying storylines, Pleasant Valley head coach Jim Terwilliger insists on taking it one game at a time.
"We are just going to prepare for Pocono Mountain East," said Terwilliger. "Other than the fact that every game we have played has been a must-win for a couple of weeks now, we just want to play. Let's get out there and not worry about records or what we have to do to get ourselves in to contention.
"I think if you look at all the numbers and the calculations – you just drive yourself crazy. Let's play East Friday night and let the chips fall where they may."
If Pleasant Valley (4-4, 2-2 MVC) can win its two remaining games against Pocono Mountain East (4-4, 3-1 MVC) and Stroudsburg (3-1 MVC), it will guarantee itself at least a share of the MVC title. Depending on how things turn out over the next two weeks, the Bears can either win the title outright, share it with as many as four other teams, or not have any part of it at all.
The Bears suffered a setback last week at the hands of East Stroudsburg South, but they still have enough firepower on offense to win their next two games. Sophomore quarterback Brandon Leap has played admirably in his first two starts, throwing for 423 yards and five touchdowns while completing 50 percent of his passes. He has also run for 68 yards.
Wide receiver Sekou Jones returned from injury last week and hauled in two catches for 41 yards and a score. His 6-2, 190 frame gives Leap yet another weapon to go along with running back Rob Getz and receiver Andrew Romeo. Getz leads the team in rushing and receiving and has racked up 1,197 total yards with 15 touchdowns. Romeo has caught 22 balls for 290 yards and five touchdowns.
"We have had an up-and-down rollercoaster of injuries this year and Sekou was one of those," Terwilliger said. "He is a big contributor to our offense. He gives our quarterback another look on the outside. We didn't play him in the first half last week because he just wasn't ready to get in. We did manage to get him some reps and he did a nice job. Hopefully he will build on that."
As for the Cardinals, they like to run their offense out of the shotgun most of the time. So far this year four different quarterbacks have taken snaps. Evan Fardella, East's starter, hasn't played since week one due to a collarbone injury and his status for Friday is unknown. Charles Mann and Tyler O'Neil had split time up until last week, when Steven Dienno came in in the second half. Dienno threw for 59 yards and a touchdown against a stout Dallas defense and may get the start this week.
Pocono Mountain's main horse is sophomore running back Devyn Papa. Papa did not play last week, but has totaled 512 rushing yards on the season. Two weeks ago he went for 164 yards against East Stroudsburg South (3-2 MVC). It is uncertain as to who will actually start for the Cardinals this week, but Terwilliger said he and his team are preparing as if Fardella and Papa will both play.
Pleasant Valley holds a 27-23 advantage all-time in the series. The Bucket hasn't left Brodheadsville since Terwilliger took over as head coach two years ago, as the Bears have won 35-13 and 24-19.
The game's tradition was new to Terwilliger upon his arrival, but he has since come to understand what it is all about.
"When I first got here I had no understanding of the Bucket and the tradition," admitted Terwilliger. "I have learned very quickly that this is a special thing.
"All high schools should have rivalries like this. Our whole school has a spirit week. I am sure (East) does the same. It is just neat to have that and it shows that high school football is important to a lot of people. It has been a lot of fun being a part of this."