BRISTOL BORO — Give Bristol an inch, and it will take a yard.
Valley Forge Military Academy found that out the hard way Friday night when they visited the Warriors for a first-round District 1 Class AA playoff tilt. Several times, the Trojans gave the Warriors second chances, and they took full advantage to the tune of a slightly sloppy but still impressive 39-12 victory.
“We started out terribly,’ Bristol coach Leo Plenski said of his team, which committed three turnovers. “The good thing is we regrouped and started playing Bristol football.’
“When we play a full game, it’s going to be nice to watch,’ he continued.
Warriors running back Donte Simmons had another stellar performance to lead the Bristol offense, as he gained 188 yards in the opening half and added a pair of touchdowns in the process. The first followed a roughing the punter call against VFMA after it had stopped the Warriors on the first drive. Two plays later, Simmons got free and bolted down the near sideline for 71 yards and a score.
With the issue still in doubt late in the first half, Valley Forge attempted to go for it on a fourth-down play from inside the Bristol 30 yard line. A pass by Tyler Scott, though, was tipped and intercepted by Phil Krause, who had plenty of room to return it 45 yards.
That, plus a penalty, set Bristol up at the 15 yard line. On the next play, Simmons cruised to the end zone to give the Warriors a 20-6 halftime edge.
Despite their first half troubles, the Trojans hung in. Down 7-0, a bad Bristol snap led to a fumble recovery that VFMA recovered inside the Warrior 5 yard line. Quarterback Tyler Scott, took advantage with a one-yard touchdown plunge. Even then, however, they failed to get ahead after a two-point run was called back due to holding, and a subsequent attempt failed, keeping the score at 7-6 in favor of Bristol.
In the third quarter, the Trojans stopped the Warriors on their opening drive again. This time, they capitalized using an unbalanced, wide line formation known as the “pawcat.’ It worked to the tune of a 45-yard pass to Gavin O’Brien, which set up another 1-yard touchdown plunge that cut the Warrior lead to a single score.
But Bristol had an answer. On the ensuing drive, Warriors quarterback R.J. Collins completed a 19-yard pass on fourth down to Isaiah Carroll. That led to a 14-yard touchdown strike to a wide open Kyle Slivka-Fralin, their second scoring connection of the night, that stretched the lead again.
“At halftime, we figured everything out, and then, we dominated,’ said Plenski.
“Teams are going to look to stack the box to stop the run,’ Simmons also said. “That opens up the pass game.’
Two possessions later, VFMA tried the pawcat again, but this time, an errant throw by Scott was intercepted by Samir Brisbon and returned 44 yards for the final backbreaking score.
“He played big tonight,’ praised Fralin of Brisbon. “You can’t really call him a freshman. He started almost every game this year for us.’
Bristol’s final touchdown came with just 6:27 to go on a 1-yard dive by Jake Faight, who had 16 yards in the win.
Scott attempted 26 passes on the night, but completed just eight of them for 122 yards. Collins, meanwhile, connected on six of his 13 passes for 121 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Of the passing yards, 105 went to Slivka-Fralin, and that number could have been bigger if he had found several open receivers throughout the contest. Slivka-Fralin also just missed on a catch in the back of the end zone that would have been a score had he gotten a foot down inbounds before the other touched out.
“I usually have one-on-one coverage every game,’ said Slivka-Fralin, whose first touchdown came on a seam pass that found him wide open in man coverage with no safety help for a 61-yard strike.
“R.J. led me,’ he added about one of his scores. “That’s all they ask from me and that’s all I ask from him.’
The win improved the Warriors to 8-3 overall, two of which came over VFMA by a combined score of 93-12. Their accomplishments also includes an outright Bicentennial Athletic League (BAL) title at 6-0 with a game against Morrisville still to play. Even more importantly, though, Bristol snapped a two-game losing skid and advanced to the championship round of the Sub-region District 1/12 playoffs next weekend, when it will take on the winner of Saturday’s New Hope-Solebury and Springfield-Montco at a site and time to be determined.
“As long as we go hard, I see great things for this team,’ Simmons said.
A win in that matchup would mark the third straight district championship for Bristol and the first at the Class AA level, as the other two were in Single-A.
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