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Pleasant Valley rolls past PM East

SWIFTWATER - The Bucket is coming back to Brodheadsville.

For the first time since 2016, Pleasant Valley knocked off Pocono Mountain East to recapture the Old Oaken Bucket.

And the Bears did it in dominant fashion.

Pleasant Valley piled up 420 yards on the ground in a 42-0 rout of the Cardinals on Friday night.

For a program that returned to the District 11 playoffs after going winless a season ago, bringing the coveted piece of hardware home was just another sign that the Bears are headed in the right direction.

“This is what matters the most,” said second-year Pleasant Valley head coach Blaec Saeger. “I am so proud of what they’ve done. They have turned the program around. We’re not anywhere near where we want to be, but we aren’t where we were either. We’ve gotten out of it.

“We made it to districts; we got a win; we competed with Stroudsburg (in the regular season finale); we did a lot of things. But I told them, no one is going to remember any of that if you don’t bring home the Bucket. This is what matters. This is what matters to this town, this community. They came to play.”

Senior Jared Salazar paced a rushing attack that moved the ball at will. Salazar had 183 yards rushing on 27 carries, scoring twice in the second half.

“It just shows how much progress we’ve made,” said Salazar. “We didn’t even win a game last year, and now we’re out here bullying teams. It just feels amazing, and it gave our offense so much confidence.”

The Bears set the tone early with an 11-play drive that went 68 yards with quarterback Robert Papaleo punching it in from 11 yards out with 5:55 to play in the first quarter.

Pleasant Valley forced a three-and-out on PM East’s first possession, and again put together a long scoring drive.

The Bears marched 88 yards, with Papaleo plowing in from seven yards out. Jack Kaye’s extra point made it 14-0 with 1:33 to play in the opening quarter.

Papaleo finished with 98 yards rushing on 16 carries.

Pleasant Valley had 25 first downs to four for Pocono Mountain East.

“This was the night they’ve been waiting for,” said Saeger. “We did a lot of good things this year, but this was the big one. There was no denying them tonight.

“They came out and they were the better team, and they showed it.”

The Bears hung with Stroudsburg three weeks ago before fading in the second half and falling 41-21.

And against top seed Nazareth in the Class 6A quarterfinals, they moved the ball and flashed glimpses of what was possible.

They put it all together against East on both sides of the ball.

The Cardinals, who played for a Class 5A title last week, were held to 98 yards of total offense.

“We fully expected them to be able to move the ball, and we knew it would be a challenge,” said Saeger. “They’ve progressively gotten better and had a real nice game against Whitehall (a 52-7 loss in the 5A final).

“I can’t pinpoint what it is, but our guys played with a lot of emotion, a lot of heart, a lot of guts and a lot of toughness. That’s what these kids, this team and this school are built on.”

Papaleo hit Ryan Blass, who had an interception on the Cardinals’ second drive, for a 17-yard score, with Kaye’s extra point pushing the lead to 21-0 with 5:18 left in the first half.

PM East moved the ball to the Bears’ 25 on its next drive, but the Bears forced a fumble inside the red zone to end the scoring threat and keep the three-score lead.

An 8-yard scamper by Acen Winckler later in the third pushed the advantage to 28-0.

Salazar scored both of his touchdowns in the fourth quarter. His first came from a yard out to make it 35-0 and put the mercy rule into play.

The senior added a 3-yard plunge with 2:06 remaining.

For the upperclassmen, going out on a high note with the Bucket in hand is all they could ask for in a rivalry that crosses generations.

“I’ve had family playing in this Bucket Game, and they had almost the same route we did,” said senior Chris Frable, “It makes me proud to bring it back and remember my family.”

STREAKS … Pleasant Valley had won eight straight in the series before East won three in a row.

BLANKED … The shutout was the second of the season for the Bears, who also defeated East Stroudsburg North 43-0 earlier this year, Saeger’s first win as head coach.