Morrisville – Often the hardest task facing a football team is overcoming the defeatist attitude accompanying a long losing streak. The Morrisville Bulldogs entered their traditional Thanksgiving showdown with Bristol carrying just such a monkey on their back.
The Warriors, who have bested Morrisville for the last 16 years, seemed primed for another big win when the two cross-county foes met for the 85th time in a rivalry dating back to 1928. Bristol sported a 5-1 record in the Bicentennial League while Morrisville had managed just one league win against five losses. The ‘Dawgs had lost their last four games of the regular season while the Warriors looked strong until being ousted by Valley Forge in the District playoffs.
Early game action of this year’s rivalry hinted at a lopsided affair similar to the 2015 meeting where Bristol prevailed by a 38-0 score. Eric Bell, Bristol’s junior running back, fueled the Warriors’ attack. On the game’s first play from scrimmage, the 5’ 6,” 160-pound speedster took an inside handoff and, finding the middle of the defense blocked, bounced to the outside and raced 70 yards for the score.
Bristol would strike again with 8:49 left in the first quarter. This time, their defense did the damage when defensive tackle Danny Collins stripped the ball from the grasp of Morrisville quarterback Felix Feliciano and raced 63 yards to paydirt.
The feeling of ‘here we go again” might have plagued previous Morrisville’s teams. This year’s group proved far more resilient and refused to give into what seemed like an annual rivalry jinx.
The ‘Dawgs turned to a short passing game with quick screens to their wide receivers being the featured mode of attack. With only seconds left in the first quarter, Feliciano would hook up with Domierre White for a 10-yard scoring strike, narrowing Bristol’s lead to 12-6.
The Warriors had the answer for the Morrisville score, once again calling on the mercurial Eric Bell, who responded with a 4-yard scoring burst off left tackle. Bell would finish as the game’s leading rusher, carrying the ball 16 times for 196 yards.
Morrisville coach Derrick Savage continued to go with an air attack. With the scoreboard clock reading 4:14 left in the half, Feliciano once again fired a scoring strike. This time, he hit junior running back Zeke Kershaw on the right side of the end zone to narrow the margin to 18-12 at halftime.
Despite heavy pressure throughout the game, Feliciano would manage to connect on 11 of his 22 passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns. Kershaw would complement the ‘Dawgs passing game, rushing 19 times for 59 yards.
Whatever Bristol coach John Greiner said at the half inspired his youthful Warriors as they started the third quarter, marching 59 yards on 11 plays to expand their lead to 24-12. Warriors quarterback Parker Kelley capped the drive by sneaking in from one yard out. The red and white clad battlers seemed to ice the game when Bell tallied on a 32-yard run with 9:32 left in the game.
Morrisville, however, refused to surrender. James Williams gathered the ensuing kickoff in on his 29 yard line, cut across the Bristol pursuers and raced 71 yards to score. With 2:48 left in the game, Morrisville inched even closer. Once again, Feliciano found Kershaw with a 23-yard quick out pass, narrowing the margin to 32-24.
When the ‘Dawgs’ defense held, forcing a Bristol punt, it looked as if the string might finally be broken. Bristol defensive back Samir Brisbon ended any such dreams however when he intercepted a Feliciano pass at midfield. Three kneel downs later, Bristol had prevailed once again, 32-24.
Though not quite getting the monkey off the back Morrisville had given every indication that this historic rivalry is far from over.
Bristol 32, Morrisville 24
(Nov. 24 at Morrisville)
Bristol (6-4) 12 6 6 8 — 32
Morrisville (2-9) 6 6 0 12 — 24
B — Bell 70 run (kick blocked)
B — D. Collins 65 fumble return (run failed)
M — White 10 pass from Feliciano (pass failed)
B — Bell 4 run (pass failed)
M — Kershaw 3 pass from Feliciano (kick failed)
B — Kelley 1 run (run failed)
B — Bell 32 run (Courtney run)
M — J. Williams 71 kickoff return (pass failed)
M — Kershaw 23 pass from Feliciano (pass failed)