The Thanksgiving Day football classic between Morrisville and Bristol ranks as one of the oldest rivalries in Pennsylvania. This year saw Bristol emerge as a 23-0 victor in a game that provided both teams with ample challenges.
Not all the obstacles were provided by the valiant warriors on the field. After playing a long, grueling schedule both teams suffered from the inevitable injury bug, a fact that definitely hurts teams carrying only twenty-five men on their opening day rosters.
Morrisville ended its regular season almost a month ago with a crushing 47-0 loss to New Hope. Bristol beat Jenkintown for the District One Class A championship before losing to Lackawanna Trail in the opening round of states. They faced a two-week layoff. Every coach knows keeping players hungry through those extra weeks practice sessions can be brutal.
This, however, was the Bristol and Morrisville Thanksgiving game and both teams showed up ready to brave the elements and do battle on the gridiron. Morrisville got the ball first but could only generate three total yards of offense and were forced to punt.
Bristol, who had won 16 straight of these match-ups and held a 51-32-2 lead in the overall series, went right to work. Behind the hard running of AJ Brown, Mike Are, Tom Waters, and Lucas Bogarde, the Warriors staged a seven play, 47-yard drive that ended in the games first touchdown. Waters finished the march off by plunging in from 2 yards out. A Kevin Farrell extra-point kick gave the visiting team a 7-0 lead.
Morrisville’s next series seemed stymied deep in their own territory when a roughing the punter penalty gave them new life at the fifty yard line. Unfortunately for the hometown team, they misfired on an option play. Bristol’s Lynn Anthony picked the ball up and ran untouched to the endzone but the score was nullified by a Warrior holding penalty.
Keeping possession of the ball after the turnover Bristol went right to work. Employing dives, powers and reverses, they moved to the Morrisville13 yard line before an aroused Bulldog defense caused a turnover-on-downs. It was the first of four times that the Bulldogs would hang tough and force the Warriors to surrender the ball deep in Morrisville territory.
Bristol got the opening kickoff of the second half on their own 40 yard line. Sticking with a game plan partially dictated by the frigid conditions they utilized their ground game. Seven different backs would churn up 57 yards before turning the ball over at the Morrisville three yard line. The drive was not a total loss as the Warriors defense sacked Mekhi Crooks for a safety in the endzone.
The Warriors would dominate the ground game statistics rushing for 242 yards on 52 carries. Mike Are would lead all rushers with 110 yards on 18 carries. Lucas Bogarde was close behind with 73 total yards on 11 tries. Tom Waters did most of the tough inside work carrying the ball for 37 yards and two touchdowns.
Morrisville, on the other hand, could generate only 47 yards on the ground. Most of that yardage came on two big runs by Jim Williams and Jordan Sesar, who was playing quarterback for the first time in his high school career.
Morrisville seemed to get on the right track in the fourth quarter. Starting on their own ten, Sesar completed a nine yard pass Crooks. After two passes fell incomplete, Sesar took off on a 19 yard gallop. The Bulldogs then turned to their trick plays but a triple reverse ended in a fumble giving Bristol the ball deep in Morrisville territory. Five plays later Waters would plunge in from one yard out.
The Warriors would ice the game with 2:08 left on the clock. Appropriately enough, Chuck Collins, Bristol’s 325 pound guard, toted the pigskin in from the one yard line. After the game Bristol head coach John Grenier would say, “Chuck is a four-year player for us. He’s worked hard for us. The Collinses are a legacy at Bristol. We had RJ, the older brother, then Danny, and then Chuck. It’s fitting he scored the last touchdown.”
It is a rich legacy all around. Both teams had worked hard to keep this Thanksgiving Day tradition alive.