Bristol blanks Vikings in state's first round


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SOUDERTON - The bitter loss cut into Williams Valley's football team much deeper than the brutally cold winds whipping across the turf at Souderton Area High School.

Players jogged off the field in stunned silence, some with tears streaming down their faces. A few lingered outside the locker room to talk with parents and friends.

After 12 straight victories and the first district title in program history, nearly all factors, including one incredibly talented and speedy opposing running back, played against the Vikings on November 24.

Of all the obstacles Williams Valley ran into in the first round of the PIAA Class A state playoffs, Donte Simmons was by far the most difficult to overcome.

Bristol's sophomore tailback gashed the Vikings for 196 yards on 37 carries and accounted for all three scores in the Warriors' stunning 20-0 victory over the Vikings that ended Williams Valley's campaign.

"It's amazing to have Donte in the backfield," Bristol coach Leo Plenski said. "With the wind today, we knew we were going to be one-dimensional. We also thought that would work in our favor with the passing attack that Williams Valley had.

"Donte knew we were going to call on him for a big workload. He came through with a big day."

To put Simmons' rushing numbers in perspective, Williams Valley (12-1) had not surrendered more than 188 yards rushing to a single team all season, let alone one back.

"He's a very good back," Williams Valley coach Tim Savage said.

While Simmons consistently chunked yardage against the Vikings, one huge play midway through the third quarter seemed to dampen Williams Valley's spirits.

Lining up 8 yards deep in the backfield, Simmons hit the line of scrimmage and appeared to be stopped. The 5-foot-9, 162-pounder spun out of one tackle, then spun out of another, spun out of a third and sprinted to the opposite sideline and into the end zone for a 61-yard touchdown on third-and-8 for a 7-0 lead.

"We made some adjustments at halftime," Plenski said. "The first half it seemed like we were a little lackadaisical on the offensive line. We changed our blocking scheme, and in the second half came out and blew it wide open."

Offensively, Williams Valley could not find its comfort zone. The strong winds prevented the Vikings from effectively spreading the field to throw the ball.

"We couldn't throw a 6-yard out," Savage said.

While halfback Cole Barnhardt rushed for 108 yards on 18 carries and Owen Daniel added 53 on eight carries, the ground game couldn't produce a big play against a Bristol defense that stacked the box with eight or nine players.

"Passing-wise, it had an effect on that," fullback Trevor Whelski said. "But we should have been able to run the ball all over them."

The Vikings' best scoring opportunity came halfway through the second quarter. Alternating carries between Barnhardt and Daniel and getting a roughing the passer call against Bristol, Williams Valley drove to the Warrior 18.

A fumble into the end zone on a 17-yard carry on second-and-7 thwarted the drive and resulted in a touchback, giving Bristol possession.

Bristol (9-1) carried momentum into halftime, and after the teams traded punts, Simmons broke through for the Warriors with his 61-yard scoring run.

After the teams again traded possessions, Simmons and the Warriors were at it once again to start the fourth. A heavy dose of Simmons got Bristol into scoring position and he finished the seven-play, 50-yard drive with a 6-yard run for a 14-0 lead with 10:21 left in the game.

Instead of fading in the late stages of the game, the Warriors matched the Vikings' physicality throughout the contest. Traditionally, the District 11 representative has been able to push around the District 1/12 champ.

That motivation wasn't lost on Plenski, his squad nor the Bristol fans, who chanted "We're not soft!" as the clock melted away late in the game.

"We definitely did (notice it)," Plenski said. "Any bulletin-board material is good to use. We respect our opponent and we hope we earned their respect today."

With one final chance to stay in the game on third-and-10 from the Warrior 36, a Williams Valley pass was intercepted by Aidan Coughlin, setting up a six-play, 68-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown run by Simmons with 1:19 left to seal the Vikings' fate.

Savage praised his 14 seniors, who helped the Vikings claim their first district title and state playoff berth as well as the Tri-Valley League championship.

"It's tough," Savage said. "They're a great senior class."

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