The Neshaminy-Pennsbury Rivalry – Part One
I suppose most rivalries in high school football develop over propinquity. Closeness of school districts provides some personal knowledge among players, coaches, and families that lead to a natural competition rivalry.
Then there were, and still are some, Thanksgiving game rivalries where the holiday atmosphere and long tradition of the game provides momentum for a rivalry. On occasion there have also been in history incidents at a game, or a real or conceived score-run up by an opponent that sparks some bad feeling and leads to a rivalry, natural or not.
I do not know for sure what the Redskin-Falcon rivalry is all about for certain; but I believe that as these two schools developed as the two strongest programs in the Lower Bucks County League and local area, it was natural for one of them to quest to outdo the other for the “best’ title.
The rivalry was not apparent when I started to follow high school football in 1951. The small, now struggling program, Morrisville, had two rivals – Pennsbury and Bristol. Bristol was the Thanksgiving rivalry. Pennsbury was propinquity (nearness) because at the time the Falcons used the Morrisville field for their home games. They played Friday night home games under temporary lights, or possibly Saturday afternoon games; and Morrisville played Saturday nights under temporary lights; until about 1953 when Morrisville got permanent lights. And the Pennsbury School District surrounded Morrisville; some kids knew each other for sure.
Neshaminy, centered in Langhorne, began its rise to power in 1952 with a 9-1-0 season. They beat Pennsbury (6-4) 27-0, and Morrisville (7-3) 27-14. For most of the 1950’s the league battles would feature mostly the triumvirate of Neshaminy, Morrisville, and Pennsbury. While Morrisville’s last victory over Neshaminy was 6-0 in 1951, they had some battles with the Skins, with Neshaminy winning in games of 14-12; 6-2; and a 6-6 tie for a league co-championship in 1958.
Against Pennsbury; Morrisville was 5-4 for the 9-years 1951 through 1959. Thanksgiving games back then were Pennsbury-Delhaas and Neshaminy-Bensalem; so with the triumvirate that I mention, the Falcon-Redskin rivalry to be was somewhat muted in the 1950s.
The Pennsbury rise began about 1955 with a 7-2 season. Then in 1956 they tied Neshaminy 7-7, but the Falcons had two other league losses, so Neshaminy (9-0-1) again titled. For 1957 the Falcons won their first against Neshaminy since 1950, 7-6, but only tied Neshaminy for the title as the Falcons were upset by Tennent 12-8.
The big game of 1958 was the Morrisville-Neshaminy affair at Neshaminy before about 10,000 fans. The Skins came in 6-1 with a loss to Pennridge 26-13 non-league.
The Bulldogs were 6-0 with one less game played. Both teams had already beaten Pennsbury. The big game ended a 6-6 tie and another league co-championship; between Morrisville and Neshaminy was the result. Through the 1950’s I do not recall any scuttlebutt of the Pennsbury-Neshaminy game being anything but a league encounter between two growing schools.
And by 1960 the growth of some lower Bucks County schools was exponential. It was due to the Fairless Steel plant that was built in the early 1950’s and the Levittown and Fairless Hills vast housing developments to accommodate the influx of needed steel mill employment. In particular, the Pennsbury, Neshaminy, and Bristol Township (Delhaas and Woodrow Wilson) schools were most impacted. Smaller enrollment schools such as Bristol, Morrisville, Council Rock, and to a degree Bensalem were starting to be over-awed by the bigger schools. Also in 1960, Pennsbury opened the first Falcon Field behind their Charles Boehm School, finally breaking their field tie with Morrisville.
My understanding was that this field was opened with the Neshaminy-Pennsbury game of 1960 on October 22nd after Pennsbury had played at least two earlier “home” games on Neshaminy’s field. The 1960 Redskins squad was phenomenal (10-0-1) with only a 13-13 tie with Easton marring perfection. They beat Pennsbury 41-7. The Skins averaged 39.6 on offense and allowed 4.6 on defense. Both offensive and defensive averages stand as the all time Redskin best in the 55 years that I have logged these stats. Other than the tie, no one came closer than 19 points to the Skins.
In 1961 the Lower Bucks County League was divided into two sections based on school sizes which resulted in a 4-school big division of Neshaminy, Pennsbury, Tennent, and Wilson. In each of the five seasons’ 1961 through 1965 Neshaminy was 3-0-0 and league champion. Although that was true enough the scores against Pennsbury for 1963, 1964, and 1965 were 21-20; 14-13; and 7-0 in a televised game. For the first time in 1963 the Redskin-Falcon game was very late in the season, the last game for Neshaminy, although not Pennsbury who still had Delhaas, probably still at Thanksgiving. The 1961 season was the final year for the late Al Matuza Sr. as Head Coach at Pennsbury. In 1962 Erle Baugher came to coach Pennsbury from a legendary run at Ambler (now Wissahickon).
It would seem that it was 1963 that the big rivalry between the two powers actually began in earnest. Perhaps those more in the know then I on the subject; graduates of either school could tell a different tale, but this is how it looks based on what I have logged over the years.
And in 1963 Pennsbury still played out-sized and diminished Morrisville for the last time. I saw the game and the 65-0 Falcon victory only accentuated the difference in the direction of the programs. And the Falcons were only a so-so 6-4 that season.
The season of 1965 was the last year for Neshaminy great head coach John Petercuskie who only established an on-field record of 59-1-5 while there. An ineligible player situation officially cost some of those wins, but the wins on the field were valid and said player did not alter it any. Imagine losing one game in 65 played! It was a 1961 13-7 loss to Easton at Neshaminy non-league.
The departure of Petercuskie set the stage for the rise of Bishop Egan and Pennsbury big time in lower Bucks County. In 1966 Egan beat Neshaminy in the season opener 41-0; their first win over Neshaminy in 7 tries. In the season closer, Pennsbury walloped the Skins 60-0. I looked at both of these results as years of frustration vented over past Redskin dominance. Neshaminy ended 2-6-2 on the season.
In 1967 in the last year at the original Falcon Field at Boehm, the Falcons went 8-2 with losses to Altoona 14-0 out there, and Easton 34-0 at Falcon Field. The Falcons beat Neshaminy away 28-7, and what apparently was the last game at Boehm, Pennsbury beat Bethlehem Freedom 45-0.
So, how did the series stand at 17 games, 1951 through 1967? It was Neshaminy 12-3-2 and conversely Pennsbury 3-12-2.
Part Two – All brand new for the Falcons.
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