Bears take on Stroudsburg
The stakes can't get much higher than they are for Pleasant Valley heading into this week's showdown with Mountain Valley Conference rival Stroudsburg, the second TIMES NEWS Game of the Week.
With a win, the Bears (7-2, 6-1) will likely clinch a District 11 Class AAAA subregional playoff berth.
If Pleasant Valley can do that and East Stroudsburg South slips against East Stroudsburg North on Friday night, the Bears will share the MVC title with the Cavaliers.
But for any of that to be a possibility, Pleasant Valley needs to take care of business against the Mounties (7-2, 6-1).
"To be able to do what we want to do, we have to win this game," said Pleasant Valley coach Jim Terwilliger. "And we have to play well in all areas on Friday night to be successful."
Pleasant Valley and Stroudsburg split the season series last year. The Mounties took the regular season finale at home, but the Bears were victorious a week later in the district playoffs, also at Stroudsburg's Ross-Stulgaitis Stadium.
Both teams come into this year's contest with quite a bit of momentum, with PV riding a two-game win streak and Stroudsburg winning its last three contests.
The Mounties' offense has gone through tailback Gerald Douglas for much of the season, and for good reason. The junior has rushed for 1,310 yards and 16 touchdowns on 211 carries.
That production, along with quarterback Mike Nikorak's 881 yards passing and eight touchdowns, will surely keep Pleasant Valley's defense on its toes Friday night.
"We've preached being physical at the point of attack," Terwilliger said of the Bears' approach. "Schematically, I think we just have to be aware of where they are on the field.
"Mike Nikorak has a big arm and he can hurt you from all areas of the field. (Gerald) Douglas is a tough, hard-nosed runner, so we have to be physical with our front four and our linebackers to stop him."
Pleasant Valley will counter with a potent offense of its own that features a number of different playmakers fully capable of scoring in a variety of ways.
In their win against Allen just two weeks ago, the Bears relied solely on their ground game, allowing tailback Austyn Borre to rush for over 200 yards and four touchdowns in the first half of a 50-0 rout.
But in last week's win over East Stroudsburg North, PV showed it didn't forget about quarterback Brandon Leap, as the senior passed for over 280 yards and three touchdowns.
While Leap and Borre might be the well-known names of the Bears' dynamic attack, junior wide receiver/defensive back/kick returner Nyiem Nevarez has made his presence felt in all three phases of the game.
The dynamic playmaker was at it again last week against the Timberwolves, returning a kickoff for a 68-yard touchdown and catching an 8-yard touchdown pass from Leap in the second quarter. All while also playing solid defense all night.
Nevarez is second only to Borre (14) in touchdowns this season with 11.
Having a number of options on offense is something Terwilliger takes great pride in.
"With our offense, we have a lot of different guys that can do things with the ball," the coach said. "We want to have multiple options there and get those guys the ball.
"There are a lot of guys in that offense that can do some things. It's our job to be as dynamic as possible, create mismatches and execute when we have them."
The offense will be tested against a stifling Stroudsburg defense that has allowed only 15.2 points per game this season. The Mounties have also been opportunistic, scoring 14 points off turnovers in last week's win over Dieruff.
"Winning the turnover battle will be key," Terwilliger said. "That's one area that we've improved in over the last three weeks. We've been doing a better job of that and I think the onus should be on keeping the ball and being able to create some big plays down the field."
For a team that's been constantly improving, Terwilliger and the Bears hope they've saved their best for last.
"We want to play our best game this week," the coach said. "We want to have something to build on so we can get to where we want to go. One of our goals is to play a meaningful game in November. Well, Friday night's November 1st and this is a meaningful game.
"That's been the focus of our practices and our preparation. Stroudsburg's a good football team and we like to think we're a good football team. These are the games you play for."