BRISTOL BORO – It’s one of the oldest Thanksgiving Day rivalries in the state of Pennsylvania and this year, it’s going to take place right here in Bristol.
“It’s a big game that both sides look forward to each year,” said Bristol senior fullback Eli Moore. If you come, you’re going to see Bristol’s stands filled; you’re going to see Morrisville’s stands filled.
“It’s a big game to the community.”
“This is the game where you’ll get alumni from years ago,” added quarterback R.J. Collins. “Last year, there were more Bristol people at that Morrisville game than there are at our regular home games.”
Labeled as the fourth oldest rivalry in the Keystone State, the Thanksgiving Day gridiron rivalry between the two schools goes back to 1928 when the Warriors notched the first of nine straight wins over the Bulldogs. Bristol leads the all-time Thanksgiving series, 44-36-4 and has won 15 of the last 16 Turkey Day battles with Morrisville dating back to 1998 including last year’s 53-7 win at Robert Morris Stadium.
For Warriors junior tailback Daryl Mehn, it will be his first ever Thanksgiving Day game. A player who didn’t start until a week four win at Calvary Christian, Mehn put up over 600 yards rushing for Bristol this season. The junior was a welcome addition to Coach John Greiner’s Wing-T offense and a crew of running backs that featured Moore, sophomore Eric Bell and junior Parker Kelley, who was injured in the season-opening win over Kensington.
“I came in trying to be a leader and help the team get better and better, and get better myself,” said Mehn, who played for Glen Mills last season.
While the Warriors got themselves to district playoffs a fourth consecutive season, there was a time when that streak was in doubt. When Bristol lost a midseason matchup with DelCo Christian, it fell to 3-5 overall on the season. The Red & White rebounded however with ensuing wins over Valley Forge and Lower Moreland to close out a 5-5 record in the regular season.
“It was very important to the whole team and the whole town was looking forward to us trying to get those wins,” said Mehn. “There was a lot of pressure on our shoulders but we knew going into those games if we went in with a good mindset, we’d come out with a ‘W.’”
Unfortunately, for the second year in a row, the Warriors were outpaced in districts by Springfield. This year, Bristol lost 26-12 after drawing within a point in the fourth quarter on Moore’s 1-yard touchdown run.
After that, the Spartans clamped down on defense and Springfield QB Justin Hill tossed a 69-yard TD pass to Sheir-Ron Whittaker to expand the gap to eight points. Whittaker then sealed it with a 16-yard TD run.
Turnovers were a problem in the playoffs. With just two fumbles in all their previous games combined, the Warriors fumbled twice in the postseason duel including a late-game kickoff they failed to hold onto.
“I think we beat ourselves that game,” said Mehn. “We were fighting that game but turnovers were definitely a problem. Hopefully, that’s something the whole team can work on in the offseason and be ready for next year.”
For now, Mehn and company have a chance to even Bristol’s record out once more. A win on Thanksgiving would earn the Warriors a 6-6 mark for the season.
Bristol is sure to use all three of its backs – Mehn, Bell and Moore – in its ground assault against the Bulldogs. Mehn says the group feeds off each other.
“Us three, we push each other to go harder in each game,” said Mehn. “Eric will come up to me and say “I’m going to get more yards this game.’ We want to see who comes out of each game with the most yards so I’m always pushing for more yards any time I touch the ball.”
Of course, the quarterback might want some of that action, as well.
“I’m looking to make a statement in every game I play but it’s my last game and I want to go out with a bang and have some fun while I’m doing it,” said Collins.
NOTES: The Thanksgiving Day game against Morrisville has been cancelled more than once including 2001 when the Bulldogs failed to field a varsity team. The Warriors forfeited the game in 2012 because of a state playoff run and Morrisville passed in 2013 due to a lack of personnel.
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