When your high school's starting quarterback graduates, it's a big loss for the football program. When it's a guy named Trevor Leone who led Bristol to back-to-back District 1 championships, that's a serious void to fill.
Luckily, the Warriors have junior signal-caller R.J. Collins waiting in the wings to take over the duties performed by Leone the last two years before he left for Albright College.
Collins has been tested under fire. Several times last season, he came through for Bristol when Leone went down with a few brief injuries.
His greatest moment in 2013 was in the District 1 Class A championship battle with DelCo Christian Academy.
In that game, the Warriors were clinging to a precarious 7-6 lead and had not scored since their third possession of the first half. Collins entered on the last play of the first half and while he didn't put any points on the board right away, he engineered two late-game scoring drives to seal a 19-6 triumph and Bristol's second straight district championship.
That's not all.
In a 41-0 win over Jenkintown, Collins took a high snap and ran it in for a two-point conversion and a 21-0 edge by the end of the first quarter.
Proving a valid replacement for Leone, Collins then found Ryan Rigby on a screen pass in which the tight end broke several tackles for a gainer that covered 42 yards. Collins capped the scoring drive off with a 12-yard TD pass to Ryan Weinkopff that put the Warriors on top 28-0.
Against Morrisville — a 67-8 triumph at home — Collins completed two beautiful passes for scores. The first made it 21-0 in the opening quarter to Terrance Farley, while the other allowed Aidan Coughlin to break free down the near sideline for 46 yards and a score that put the Warriors up 49-0 at the half.
And Collins has plenty of help both in front of and behind him.
Behind him waiting for his next carry will be senior Donte Simmons. In last year's district title win, Simmons tallied 184 yards on 24 carries, breaking Bristol's all-time career rushing record of 4,330 yards held by 2010 graduate Woodrow Vorters, who set the mark in 2009 as a high school senior. Donte has another season to go before he graduates.
For the 2013 campaign, Simmons rushed for over 1,900 yards and 28 touchdowns averaging almost nine yards per carry.
In front of Collins, the Warriors will have plenty of size and experience lining up.
Returning on the offensive line is senior left tackle Devon Adams, the biggest of the bunch at 6-6, 335 pounds. Robert Jones, a 6-3, 270-pound senior, returns at left guard. At 6-1, 230 pounds, senior Robert Bryson is at center and at 6-4, 266 pounds, senior Jeremiah Haywood is at right tackle.
The only youngster Bristol has on the O-line is sophomore Aaron Pulinario, but at 6-1, 190-pounds, he should be able to pull his weight at right guard.
Collins also should not be left wanting for targets to throw to. The Warriors have plenty of experience returning at wide receiver starting with twin towers Aidan Coughlin (185 lbs.) and Kyle Slivka Fralin (170). Both are 6-footers and have senior Phil Krause (5-8, 175) to spell them.
One of the few places Bristol comes up a little thin in the ranks is at linebacker. Graduation saw the departure of backers Dylan Shamwell, Pierson Burton and Adair Mustafa. At 5-10, 230 pounds, Shamwell was the beast of the bunch and will surely be missed.
To compensate for the losses at linebacker, third-year head coach Leo Plenski will have to do some shuffling. Big 6-2, 175-pound senior Isaiah Carroll is jumping from the defensive backfield to linebacker and classmate Anthony Jimenez is moving from the D-line to the backer position.
The Warriors can also get help at that position from returning seniors Jake Faight (5-9, 180 lbs.) and Trevor Anderson (6-1, 195) along with 5-8, 174-pound junior Nate Dominguez.
Adams, Haywood and Jones will solidify the D-line while Coughlin, Slivka-Fralin and Krause will anchor the defensive backfield along with help from freshman Eric Bell, who will spell Simmons in the offensive backfield. Tyriq Wilson is the only key loss at D-back this year.Nick Santana returns as the placekicker though he'll have additional duties this season with the departure of Rigby. No matter; Santana has kicked extra points for the Warriors before.
Here's hoping he has plenty of opportunities.
NOTES: Bristol moves from Single-A to Double-A which could pose problems for the Warriors in the postseason. The regular season slate is similar to last year's with the addition of two October matchups against New Jersey rivals Middle Township and Buena.
KEY STARTERS LOST: QB Trevor Leone, WR/DB Tyriq Wilson, TE Ryan Rigby, OL John Petro, LB Dylan Shamwell, DE Derrick Jackson.
BRISTOL Football 2013 record: 10-2 overall, 6-1 BAL
Date Opponent Score (W/L)
Aug. 30: @ Kutztown 38-0 (W)
Sept. 06: Calvary Christian 53-14 (W)
Sept. 15: @ New Hope-Solebury 32-35 (L)
Sept. 20: Delco Christian 40-24 (W)
Oct. 04: Jenkintown 41-0 (W)
Oct. 12: @ Pennington 39-0 (W)
Oct. 19: Lower Moreland 33-0 (W)
Oct. 26: Academy of New Church 31-12 (W)
Nov. 01: Morrisville 67-8 (W)
Nov. 16: @ Delco Christian 19-6 (W)
Nov. 22: Schuylkill Haven 27-56 (L)
Nov. 27: Morrisville 2-0 (W)
WARRIORS 2014 Schedule
Aug. 16: Mastery Charter North (S) 10 a.m.
Aug. 29: Kutztown 7 p.m.
Sept. 5: AT Calvary Christian 3:30 p.m.
Sept. 12: New Hope-Solebury 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 AT DelCo Christian 7 p.m.
Sept. 26: Valley Forge Military Academy 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 3: AT Jenkintown 3:45 p.m.
Oct. 11: AT Middle Twp. (NJ) 2 p.m.
Oct. 18: AT Lower Moreland 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 24: Academy of the New Church 7 p.m.
Oct. 31: Buena (NJ) 7 p.m.
Nov. 27: Morrisville 10:30 a.m.
PAST 5 YEARS
2013: 10-2 *
2012: 9-2 *
* District 1-A Champions