DINGMANS FERRY – Down 21-6 and not playing very good football heading into halftime, it looked as if Pleasant Valley's outright title hopes would disappear into the mountain air.
As it turned out, the break and a chance for a restart couldn't have come at a better time for the Bears.
Pleasant Valley rebounded from a terrible first half to score 24 unanswered points and knocked off Mountain Valley Conference foe East Stroudsburg North, 30-21. The victory means that the Bears will play for the MVC championship next week at Stroudsburg.
"I told the guys that we have no time," Pleasant Valley head coach Jim Terwilliger said to his team at halftime. "We had wasted time, plays and opportunities in the first half. We put ourselves behind in a big way and we had no time.
"I said that we had to play the most inspiring football to get back in this game. I said we were going to have to score four more times and the guys really took to that. It was the most inspiring second half of football I have seen since I have been here. We needed to play like that. We wouldn't have been able to come back any other way."
Someone must have forgotten to tell Pleasant Valley that the game started at 7 p.m. because it looked lost in the first half. The Bears managed just six first-downs in the half and were outgained 229-121. Their only saving grace came in the form of a 21-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Leap to Andrew Romeo midway through the second quarter.
Terwilliger challenged his Bears team at halftime and they responded immediately. Pleasant Valley forced North into a three-and-out on its opening possession and scored on a fourth down ten plays later. On fourth-and-two at the five, Leap rolled out to his left and hit Romeo just inside the sideline for the score.
The Bears' defense then stepped up again and forced the Timberwolves into yet another three-and-out. This time Pleasant Valley wouldn't need a drive in order to score, as Tony Bell returned the punt 62 yards to the house. Leap hit Romeo for the two-point conversion to tie the game at 21.
"We needed a big play somewhere," said Terwilliger. "Whether it was getting a fourth down or going for two – whatever it was – we needed something big to happen.
"ES North played sound and we needed something to happen. Tony Bell really came through and made that play happen. It was a game-changer."
Momentum swung fully into Pleasant Valley's favor five plays later when North fumbled the ball away on its own 34-yard-line. Kicker Jordan Caffrey, who had been 0-for-4 on the year, nailed a 21-yard field goal to put the Bears up three.
Behind a 34-yard run, North drove down the field and found itself with a crucial fourth-and-seven at the PV 10-yard-line. The Bears' Dakota Everett got up and knocked down the pass on what looked to be a wide open touchdown for the T'Wolves.
Pleasant Valley moved the ball down the field, converted a big fourth-and-two at the North 27, and had Josh Thornton punch it in from four yards out two plays later. A Romeo interception on North's next drive sealed the comeback for the Bears.
"I am confident that we can always get back in a game because these kids never give up," said Terwilliger. "To be honest, we know what it feels like to lose because we lost that first half real bad. We got beat in every facet of the game. Fortunately it was a tale of two halves."