MORRISVILLE – With plenty of team leadership last season, Morrisville competed in just about every single one of its games. However, the Bulldogs won just two of its 2016 gridiron duels. The combined deficit in five of Morrisville’s losses was 35 points.
The ‘Dawgs fell 8-0 to George School and also to Valley Forge Military Academy and lost by the same differential in their annual Thanksgiving Day tilt with neighboring Bristol.
“The theme of our season last year was that we moved the ball great from 20 to 20 and we just didn’t finish on offense,” said head coach Derrick Savage. “Defensively, we played phenomenally.”
“If it wasn’t for our defense, we wouldn’t have been in any of those games.”
The good news is that 25 players have joined preseason camp, the same number Morrisville finished with last year. The bad is that they lost some significant talent to graduation including WR/DB Braedon Alward, WR/DB Zamir Williams, OL/DE Joe Jacobs, RB/LB Demierre White, and inside OL/LB Nick Kremer. All were three-year starters and all five were captains.
“I like the way we’re coming together but we lost a lot in terms of leadership from last year from the senior class,” added the coach. “All five of them were captains so when you lose that type of leadership, it’s tough.”
The captains this year include quarterback Felix Feliciano, junior OL/DE Breon Hines, RB/DB Isaiah McDavison and FB/LB Amir Pack.
For most of last season, the Bulldog defense was near the top of the state in points allowed in single-A while the offense was near the bottom of the state in points scored.
“You’re not going to win many games when you’re doing that,” admitted Savage.
“We played competitively, which was a good step in the right direction,” said Savage. “But we were missing some type of mentality where we just couldn’t finish on offense.
“So that’s been the focus of our entire offseason – to be able to finish drives.”
The bad news is that Morrisville will have to improve the offense without the services of Alward and Zymir Williams, the top two receivers last season.
The new flankers are juniors Martin Williams (6-0, 150 pounds) and JaQuese Little (5-9, 160) along with sophomore Isaiah Rivera (5-8, 130). Of the group, only Little had varsity snaps last year. According to Savage, Williams and Rivera figure to be the starters with Little playing frequently in varying packages.
Carrying the football for the Bulldogs this season are seniors Isaiah McDavison (5-8, 160) and Amir Pack, (6-1, 210) along with junior Maleek Crooks (6-0, 145). McDavison figures to start at tailback while Pack will start at fullback.
“We are looking to get more out of our running game this year and also use our backs more in the passing game as well,” said Savage. “Each of these guys has a different skill set that will work well together.”
As with any other high school team, it all starts up front. The O-line is led by seniors Breon Hines (6-1, 185), Luis Colon (5-11, 265) and Givenson Charles (6-1, 205) along with sophomores Adam Schenk (5-11, 215) and Brian Strother, a 6-foot, 190-pounder who garnered all-BAL honors last season.
Strother will be expected to anchor the line, says Savage, while Hines will slide from tackle to guard, and Colon will slide from center to tackle. Schenk is a first-year starter at center and Charles will play the other tackle spot.
Hines is expected to lead the D-line back onto the field at Morrisville.
“Hines was playing the best of the group last year before injuries slowed him down,” said Savage. “He can be an all-league level player when healthy.”
He’ll have help from Strother, Aidan Newill, a 6-3, 270-pound junior and classmate Chandler Rich, a 6-1, 210-pound senior who did not play last season.
“Strother can be a force at end and Newill is a solid interior defensive lineman. Rich took a year off but is back and looks as if he hasn’t missed a beat.”
Pack and James Williams will lead the linebacking corps for the Bulldogs. Both were All-BAL at the position last year. They’ll have help from Charles and Maleek Crooks, a 6-foot, 145-pound junior.
“Pack and Williams play the outside spots and are solid against the run and the pass,” said Savage. “Williams’ football IQ is off the charts and he will be expected to anchor the group.”
McDavison, who earned All-BAL honors last season on defense, leads an experienced group in the backfield. He’ll have help from Little, Martin Williams, a 6-foot, 150-pound junior and Colin Sprague, a 5-10, 155-pound sophomore. Sprague and Williams are playing new positions but have looked good during summer workouts, says Savage.
“This is probably the group with the least amount of questions heading into the season. McDavison was all-league last year and Little was tied for the team lead in interceptions. All can help in run support and have tremendous ball skills once the ball is in the air.”
On special teams, Feliciano will handle both the kicking and punting duties after being named All-BAL at punter last year. Crooks will handle the primary return duties and is dangerous with the ball in his hands.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH
Felix Feliciano, Junior QB
At 6-foot, 195 pounds, Feliciano returns for his second year under center after finishing with a school record 962 passing yards last season.
“Felix has shown a tremendous amount of growth and maturity this summer and is slowly becoming the leader we expect from our quarterback,” said Savage. “We expect him to improve.”
DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH
Brian Strother, Sophomore, DE
At 6-foot, 190 pounds, Strother was a surprise last season and really came on towards the end of the year. He will be counted on to be a big factor at defensive end this fall.
“Brian has a tremendous work ethic and most importantly, a love and passion for the game of football,” said Savage. “We are very excited to see how he plays this year and continues to develop.”
HEAD COACH: Derrick Savage, 4th year
Aug. 25 Steelton-Highspire 7 p.m. at S-H
Sept. 1 Valley Forge Military Academy 7 p.m. at MHS
Sept. 8 George School 7 p.m. at MHS
Sept. 15 Delaware County Christian 7 p.m. at MHS
Sept. 22 Perryville 7 p.m. at MHS
Sept. 28 Lower Moreland 7 p.m. at MHS
Oct. 7 Jenkintown 1 p.m. at JHS
Oct. 20 Springfield Township 7 p.m. at MHS
Oct. 27 New Hope-Solebury 7 p.m. at NHS
Nov. 3 Wilmington Friends 7 p.m. at MHS
Nov. 23 Bristol 10:30 a.m. at BHS
LAST FIVE YEARS
TOP PHOTO: Morrisville football had one of the top defenses in Pennsylvania last season in Class A. (Steve Sherman – 21st-Century Media)