It’s a coach’s worst nightmare.
And it is almost impossible to recover from it.
For Pleasant Valley and Blaec Saeger, the unfortunate ordeal came to them on Friday evening.
The Bears turned the ball over on their first four possessions against Whitehall in a Class 5A District 11 semi-final game, and the Zephyrs took full advantage en route to a 49-14 victory.
Whitehall scored all four times after PV fumbles to take a 27-0 lead just nine minutes into the game.
“It’s hard to beat a midget team with four straight turnovers in your first practices, let alone a Lehigh Valley team like Whitehall,” Saeger said. “And they made us pay.
“We moved the ball really well, and that was the hardest part. It’s not like we got stuffed. We moved the ball almost at will and then we kept shooting ourselves in foot.
Not only did the second-seeded Bears cough up the ball, but due to returns and a penalty, Whitehall started three of their first four possessions inside the red zone.
Nigel Linton converted two to short-range touchdowns and added a third on a 26-yard flurry. Another short pitch resulted in a 13-yard strike from Trey Dogmanits to Braden Bashore.
“I don’t know if that was us taking out what they usually do with the back dive and having to go out there, what we saw on film, they didn’t really do a ton “, Zephyr coach Matt Senneca said of the mistakes. “Any time you can create four turnovers in defense, especially in a quarter to start the game, and give us the short position on the pitch that we had, that’s huge – especially in a district game like this. -this.
“You win the field position battle and you win the turnover battle, you have a really good shot at winning the game.”
Whitehall’s attack proved they didn’t just need a small pitch to score.
After the Bears (7-4) got on the scoreboard, rushing for 65 yards in 11 games, the third-seeded Zephyrs unleashed their fast offense.
Fela Olaniyan had 33 yards, the last of which was for PV when he took the lead, making it 27-7. But less than two minutes later, Whitehall (6-5) was back in the end zone.
Three points from Linton and a 30-yard pass to Bashore set up Dogmanits for his 4-yard total that brought the margin down to 27 points.
After a reversal on downs by PV, the visitors only needed seven plays to cover 44 yards and extend the advantage. Dogmanits again found Bashore, this time on a third-and-19 call, for a 25-yard touchdown with less than two minutes left before halftime.
“We know what those valley teams are… you have to play perfectly to beat those teams and we didn’t,” Saeger said. “We had opportunities. But even though we didn’t return the ball, their attack is so dynamic… I don’t know if we could have done much to stop them, they are so fast.
Even when Whitehall used their subs to start the second half, their attack kept clicking.
On the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Jermel Mumford broke free for a 40-yard run.
PV had another score, as a 68-yard run from Olaniyan set up his second 1-yard TD. The senior finished with 129 yards on 17 carries.
“You shut him down, and I feel like you’re putting their offense in a tough spot, but that’s easier said than done,” Senneca said of Arsenal’s triple-option offense. Olanyan and the Bears. “The kid runs hard and he comes off the ball really hard. You go against an offense you never see and it gives you challenges, but I was happy with how our kids stepped up.
Saeger was also pleased with his players’ efforts this season as the Bears posted their most wins since 2016.
“It’s been a fantastic year,” Saeger said. “This group was the first unit to go through the four years with us … They kept growing, through the COVID mess in sophomore year, and this group made the playoffs for three years. They don’t know what it’s like to end the season in week 10. That’s something considering they were freshmen, they watched us go 0-10.
“It was the band that said it wouldn’t happen again. They walked into the weight room, and they were just tough, hardworking kids. They were great fun to train.
UP NEXT… As Pleasant Valley’s season draws to a close, Whitehall returns to action on Friday when they take on top seed Southern Lehigh in the 5A title match.
TOUGH CONNECTION … Dogmanits found Bashore five times in the game for 110 yards. “Trey had a good game tonight,” Senneca said. “It’s just a matter of which receiver he’s going to choose, because we have a few good ones. And that was Bashore tonight.
GOODBYE … Besides Olaniyan, who finished the season with 1,170 yards and 13 touchdowns, there are 21 other seniors on the roster who played their last game Friday night.