BRISTOL BOROUGH >> Following six long months, an official high school athletic event finally returned to the greater-Trenton area on Friday, Sept. 25 when Bristol hosted the Academy of the New Church in football.
While it was kind of a surreal scene with more fans watching the game from outside the stadium than in, the bottom line is scholastic athletics are back.
As for the game itself, Bristol came up short in its opener by the score of 28-6, but keep in mind it was against a New Church team (2-0) that was playing its second game and has been a very strong program over the last four or so years.
"They are good, but it's not an excuse,'' said Bristol's second-year coach Mike Ciotti. "We need to clean up some mistakes we made.''
Although the final score was not, it was a competitive game for much of the day with New Church holding a 7-0 lead at the half and 14-0 advantage after three quarters.
But as well as Bristol's defense played, it received very little help from an offense that had just three first downs in the first three quarters.
Furthermore, Bristol more or less handed New Church its first touchdown when a high snap from center allowed the Lions to take over on the Bristol 6-yard line. The visitors then opened the scoring on a 4-yard shuttle pass from quarterback Pat McCabe to Nate Bradley.
The seven-point lead stood until midway through the third quarter when Patrick McManus intercepted a tipped pass and returned it to the Bristol 9-yard line. Scoring the touchdown this time was Ryan Givhan, who raced untouched up the middle on a quarterback draw.
Givhan had entered the game when McCabe was injured running the ball in the second quarter, and as it turned out New Church may have benefited by the switch. By the time the game was over, Givhan also scored on two 11-yard keepers in the fourth quarter.
Trailing by the score of 21-0, Bristol did get some satisfaction on a 58-yard touchdown run around right end by Elijah Alexandre early in the fourth quarter.
When a penalty then backed up ANC to its own 10-yard line on the ensuing kickoff, it looked like Bristol just might be able to get back in the game.
Instead, Givhan threw a short pass to McManus, who did the rest by racing 82 yards to the Bristol 12-yard line. One play later Givhan raced in for his third touchdown.
In addition to having trouble running the ball, Bristol completed just one pass and was picked off twice. On the plus side, quarterback Shaquille Grimes showed nice moves running the ball and is sure to be a force as the season goes along.
"It's a luxury; we want to be able to run the ball,'' replied Ciotti when asked about his team's passing game. "We will just get back to work and come out and compete next week (against Pennington Prep).''
As mentioned at the top, the fact high schools are now competing again is the biggest positive of all.
New Church (2-0) 7 0 7 14 - 28
Bristol (0-1) 0 0 0 6 - 6
NC-Bradley 4 pass from McCabe (Melvin kick)
NC-Givhan 9 run (Melvin kick)
ND-Givhan 11 run (Melvin kick)
B-Alexandre 58 yard run (kick failed)
NC-Givhan 11 run (McCabe kick)