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The Neshaminy-Pennsbury Rivalry – Part Two

Written by: on Wednesday, March 12th, 2014. Follow KMac on Twitter.

 

I do not know when the present big Pennsbury High School in Fairless Hills opened, but the football field there opened in 1968.  It had no lights, but it was a fine stadium overall.  The Falcons opened it against Bishop John Neumann and recorded a 42-0 victory.  But they did not hold the dedication with appropriate ceremonies until the next week with Altoona as the guest.  Although I was living in Fairless Hills at the time, and back from the Army since January, I could not make many games, but I did make this one.  In a good game the Falcons tamed the Mountain Lions 33-20.  This game and the Neshaminy- Pennsbury game at Falcon field would be all I could see in 1968.

Now, 1968 would begin an odyssey known as a “jinx” or hex on the Redskins winning at this Falcon Field.  In sports such “spells” are usually explainable and are to be fostered on the “holding” side and dispelled by all means on the “hexed” side.  I am sure that this was capably handled by staffs on both of the schools programs.  I will explain it as I saw it anon.

The Falcons won the 1968 encounter 17-13 in certainly a close, hard-fought game.

In 1970 nobody won the game at Falcon Field.  It was a 7-7 tie.  But perhaps the Falcons could still feel charmed as they had come in 7-3 while the Skins had come in 9-1.  In two games they hadn’t lost to Neshaminy at their new home.  It was the first year for Chuck Kane as Head Coach at Pennsbury.

The 1972 game must have been a great one at Falcon Field.  Still daytime of course, the Falcons prevailed 23-21.  I heard the game on radio, but do not remember any details.  The Falcons posted an undefeated season 11-0-0.

It was no-contest in 1974 with the Falcons blasting the Skins 49-13 in another game I listened to, but it is harder to remember the radio games than some I attended.  It was now 0-3-1 for Neshaminy at this Falcon Field.  The Falcons again were undefeated 11-0-0.

I do not know when the press, who probably constructed the “curse” in the first place, began it, but the beat went on in 1976 with a 28-7 Falcon victory at home.

Perhaps the worst Skins defeat of all (for this field) occurred in 1978 at Pennsbury, 49-0.

A Neshaminy School District strike late in 1980 caused a forfeit to Pennsbury this season, no game was played, but a loss was still taken by the Skins; It was now 0-6-1 for Falcon field.

The 1981 season was the last for the old Lower Bucks County League, and schedule adjustments in joining the Suburban One League gave Neshaminy home games two years in a row for 1881 and 1982.

So, the 8th Neshaminy-Pennsbury matchup at Falcon Field would be in 1983.  It made no difference in outcomes, 13-7 Pennsbury.

Two strong teams faced off at Falcon Field in 1985 and the Falcons again just came out on top, 14-7 in a good defensive game I took in.  The Falcons posted another undefeated season 11-0; present Falcon Head Coach Galen Snyder was an all-state linebacker on that team.

In 1986 the Suburban One League expanded again, taking in the old Bux-Mont League teams and forming one powerful football league.  It did not alter the Falcons-Skins schedule; the game was at Neshaminy.

Very memorable to me is the 1987 Skins-Falcons matchup at Falcon Field.  It would be the 10th such event, and it was brutally cold with a strong wind blowing.  It is forever known to me as the “Ice Bowl”.  This was to be the Skins year, coming in 9-1 while the Falcons were 7-3.  But the cold and wind had to seem Jinx-driven.  Passing and kicking were near impossible this day.  And the Falcons had a player by the name of Troy Vincent.  In the first half he bolted for a long ground TD and set the tone yet again.  Two more Falcon scores made it 18-0 at the half.  The bands tried to perform, but were blown about, physically and of course the sound as well.  Our crew left after halftime as we just could not stand it anymore.  We missed little as it ended up 18-0 as when we had left.  It now had been 10 games and 19 years with no Neshaminy victories in Falcon-land.

Two evenly balanced teams (Skins 7-3; Falcons 6-3-1) met again at Falcon Field for the 1989 contest.  I took it in and it was hex as usual, Falcons 27-6.

In 1991 both squads were again fairly balanced, but a little uncharacteristic with the Skins entering at 4-6 while the Falcons were only a game better at 5-5.  But in the game the Falcons were 41 points better, 41-0 Falcons.

In 1993 Pennsbury won 27-8 in a game I saw.  Thirteen games and 25 years without a victory at Pennsbury might have almost convinced the Skins that the place was haunted, but I am sure it was all played down in Neshaminy territory.

In 1995 Mark Schmidt came to Neshaminy to coach, but his first session was very difficult.  At Falcon Field he was introduced to the curse, 33-13 Falcons.  Of course, he would become legend before stepping down this very late winter of 2014.

Now, I went to the 1997 contest at Falcon Field fully expecting the curse to be broken at last.  The Falcons were only 4-5, while Neshaminy was 7-2.  Full raingear was needed, perhaps another element of the curse brought to the field.  And so it would seem as Neshaminy led 9-0 at the end of three quarters.  But inexplicably the Falcons scored twice in the fourth quarter, including very late in the game to pull it out 12-9!  Even I began to believe in the hex.

In 1999, four of the “gang”, including me, that I speak about in my narratives, took in the Pennsbury-Neshaminy classic at Falcon Field.  And we saw history made.  But the Falcons looked solid and put on a nice opening drive to take a 7-0 lead that went into the second quarter.  The Skins closed a bit with a FG in the second to make it 7-3.  But in the second half it was two Chris Vincent TDs that iced the game for the Redskins (only 17-14 final) for the Skins first-ever win at Falcon Field in 16 tries in a span of 31 years!  Ironically, Chris Vincent was the nephew of Pennsbury’s Troy Vincent (1987 “Ice Bowl”). Troy was at that time with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Since the “Jinx” was broken, the Redskins had wins at Pennsbury again in 2001 when no one beat them on route to their state championship year; and also in 2005; 2007; and 2011.

Overall in the 63 years I have followed these teams the Falcons lead the series 34-26-3.

As to the curse at Falcon Field 1968 through 1997; I see it this way.  I looked at the records of the two teams coming into the game for the 15 straight Neshaminy non-wins.  Nine of the 15 times the Falcons had the better record coming in.  The forfeit year is non-plus; no game was played but Neshaminy had to forfeit for the strike.  Two years the teams came in with just about even records, could have been anybody’s game.  Only three of the 15 times did the Redskins appear to have a better record; in 1970 9-1 to 7-3, and that was the 7-7 tie, nobody won; 1987 also 9-1 to 7-3; and in 1997 7-2 to 4-5.

The last two examples most closely represent something eerie as both times the weather was brutal with the Redskins owning the favorite status, and both times the Falcons upset the Skins.

But you must also consider that during the period 1966 to 1999 Pennsbury just became a little stronger program and in both home and away against Neshaminy was 25-6-1 those years.  So in addition to the 14 wins at home, the Falcons also won 11 at Neshaminy.  Eight of the years in the period, 1975-1982, the Neshaminy School District was split into two schools with the existence of Neshaminy Maple Point.  The split negatively affected both Neshaminy School’s records.  Maple Point had only one winning season in eight, 6-4-1 in 1978; while the Skins had most un-Neshaminy-like 3 winning seasons in the same 8-year period, but only at 7-4, 7-4, and 6-4.  The Falcons got 74% of all their wins (1951-2013) against Neshaminy in this period.  Before and after this period the Falcons were 9-20-2 versus Neshaminy.  I think the Jinx can be explained that most of the time; Pennsbury was just the stronger program.

Since 2000 the rivalry has returned to an even, strong rivalry, with the Redskins leading in these 14 games 8-6.  The games feature all you could ask for in high school football with a mutual respect between schools and hard hitting, desire, and sportsmanship dominating the games.

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KMac