With a double-digit win over Valley Forge Military Academy, Morrisville's 2013 campaign didn't start off bad. But nine straight losses and a forfeit later, it certainly ended badly.
The Bulldogs weren't even sure if they were going to have a football team this year until late May when the school district hired Derrick Savage to replace outgoing skipper Bill Quill.
Morrisville is back on the field however and has been hitting the weights hard all summer. The Dawgies open a week from now, on Aug. 29 at home against St. Pius X.
While there have been some departures at the skill positions due to graduation, Morrisville is bringing back a ton of veteran leadership led by five seniors along the offensive line.
Center Nate Vincent anchors the unit along with Neaquean Allen and Jon Cosme at guard along with Jordan Neal and Vince Maroney at tackle.
The 12th-graders should be able to provide plenty of protection for first-year quarterback Mike Sacco, in for the departed Joe Sesar.
"We have a pretty big O-line this year,' said Vincent. "We had a big one last year too but it was kind of inexperienced. Now we have five seniors and it's going to be one of the biggest lines in the league actually.'
Still, the Bulldogs have a tall task ahead of them, led by Savage who was hired at the end of May. It's not an easy thing to do — taking over a unit that wasn't even sure it was going to be together this fall. The players started hitting the weights right away, however, says the coach — four nights a week since June.
Coach says it's helped unite the 2014 group in a short time.
"To have these guys here and working hard all summer, it really helped them come together,' said Savage. "This is the closest team I've ever been around.'
Coach says the guys hang around together even after practice is over. Savage views it all with a philosophical approach.
"It's not just about football; it's about what you do after football to get ready for real life,' the coach says. "That mindset: I gotta work hard and I gotta show up.'
Savage thinks the Bulldogs will surprise a few of its foes on the gridiron in 2014.
"I don't think it's a year where we're just trying to get through it,' he said. "I think a lot of teams may have written us off thinking it's the same team as last year. But it's a different mindset, a different team. The senior leadership has been getting everybody here and making sure they're all on the same page.'
The players agree.
"We have more athletic people this year,' added Cosme. "We're in better shape than last year; we're more conditioned.'
Cosme likes the new coach.
"I think he's great. He's showing us a bunch of new plays,' stated Cosme. "Everything is working out pretty well. I trust him; I think he's one of the best we've ever had.'
While standout running back Uriel Savage has graduated, senior Justin Young-Heyward and junior Donovan O'Brien are suitable replacements in the backfield.
"They're fast,' said Cosme of the Bulldogs' backfield. "They can get to a hole pretty quick — before it even opens and that's pretty hard.'
In for the departed Jon Miller at wideout are junior Anthony McIntosh, along with sophomores Braedon Alward and Zymir Williams.
Allen, Cosme, Neal and Maroney team up with sophomore Joe Jacobs along the D-line. Vincent and Young-Heyward anchor a linebacker corps joined by sophomore Nick Kremer and junior Josh Smith.
Williams, McIntosh and O'Brien solidify the defensive backfield while senior Noah Charest will handle kickoffs and field goals and O'Brien will do the punts. Williams will handle the kickoff returns while freshman Isaiah McDavidson will take back the punts.
The coach says look out for both McIntosh (WR/DB) and Smith (LB); they are a couple of X-factors at Morrisville this year. Anthony played rec-league football years ago and never came out for the high school team — until this year.
"He's a big kid and he has great hands on the outside; he has good speed too,' said Savage. "It's a weapon that I don't think was here before. A lot of people will know about Justin (Young
-Heyward) and Donovan (O'Brien) from last year. Anthony is one who will sneak up.'
Brand new to the game, Smith will also line up at fullback on offense.
"He's had a great offseason and a great camp,' said Savage. "We're very comfortable putting him on both sides of the ball.'
"He's a capable runner and has great hands out of the backfield so we're excited about the things we can do with Josh.'
While the Bulldogs open Aug. 29 at home against Pius X, they move into their Bicentennial Athletic League (BAL) schedule the following week at home against defending BAL champ New Hope-Solebury. Then it's off to first-year BAL member Valley Forge Military Academy Sept. 11, at home against IFL rival Pennington then a road match at Academy of the New Church (ANC) to round out the month of September.
"Pius X — that one is going to be a good test for us. They had a real good year last year and they brought a lot of guys back,' the coach explained.
"It will be a real good measuring stick to see where we're at and where we still have to go.'
A measuring stick for a first-year coach assessing his football team? Now that's a tool any coach can appreciate.
â ¦â ¦â ¦MORRISVILLE Football (2014)
Aug. 29: St. Pius X 7 p.m.
Sept. 5: New Hope-Solebury 7 p.m.
Sept. 11: @ Valley Forge Military Academy 4 p.m.
Sept. 19: Pennington 7 p.m.
Sept. 26: @ Academy of the New Church 7 p.m.
Oct. 3: Calvary Christian Academy 7 p.m.
Oct. 10: @ Delaware County Christian 7 p.m.
Oct. 17: Jenkintown 7 p.m.
Oct. 25: @ Lower Moreland 2 p.m.
Nov. 1: @ Bergen Tech 1 p.m.
Nov. 27: Bristol 10:30 a.m.
2013 Record: 1-10, overall; 0-7, BAL
Aug. 30: Valley Forge Military Ac 20-8 (W)
Sept. 06: @ New Hope-Solebury 7-49 (L)
Sept. 13: Lansdale Catholic 6-42 (L)
Sept. 21: @ Pennington 0-38 (L)
Sept. 27: Academy of New Church 14-44 (L)
Oct. 05: @ Calvary Christian 14-35 (L)
Oct. 11: Delco Christian 20-43 (L)
Oct. 18: @ Jenkintown 22-41 (L)
Oct. 25: Lower Moreland 8-46 (L)
Nov. 01: @ Bristol 8-67 (L)
Nov. 27: @ Bristol 0-2 (L)