Bronze Derby memories live on at Newberry

By Josh Cruse - Special to The Observer

NEWBERRY — The Newberry College Wolves will conclude the 2016 regular season schedule Nov. 12 against the Wingate Bulldogs. This will be the 27th time the Wolves and Bulldogs have squared off, and third time it has come as the season finale.

While the 2016 season has been a successful one for Newberry College on the gridiron, including at least a share of the South Atlantic Conference championship, for longtime fans the end of the season just doesn’t feel right.

The overall series between Wingate and Newberry College is tied 13-13, but it doesn’t compare to the drama and enthusiasm like the Bronze Derby rivalry with the Presbyterian College Blue Hose.

The two schools have gone ten long years without meeting on the gridiron. The move came as a result of the Blue Hose’s move to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

Presbyterian College leads the overall series 57-33-5.

Over the years there have been small breaks in the series, the two teams didn’t meet in either 1914 or 1918; however the decision to temporarily halt the series in 2006 felt more like an ending than a pause.

There have been many memorable games for both fan bases. However, no one may have more of a unique perspective about the rivalry than former Newberry College player and coach Mike Taylor.

Taylor played for Newberry College from 1972 to 1976 and later coached the Indians from 1992 to 2002.

As a player, Taylor enjoyed wins at both Newberry, a 14-3 win in 1973, and Clinton, a 26-15 win in 1976.

Taylor’s biggest impact came in the 1973 win. He scored both touchdowns for the Indians, including a controversial score at the end of the first half when the referee added time for Newberry College to run a final play.

During the 1976 game, Taylor had two interceptions and partially blocked a Blue Hose field goal attempt.

While both were important wins for Taylor, the 1976 game stands out the most since it was his last game as a player.

“Whenever you play your last game as a football player its great to have a win, and it’s great to have a win against your biggest rival on Thanksgiving Day,” Taylor said.

Taylor returned to the Indians’ football program in 1992 as head coach. At the time, Newberry College was facing a lot of turmoil, including in the athletic department. The tumultuous times seemed to translate to the field as the Indians began the season 0-4. A win against Charleston Southern sparked a 4-2 run, as Newberry College entered the game with Presbyterian College sporting a 4-6 record.

In the week before the Bronze Derby game, Taylor discovered it would be the last Thanksgiving game. With both teams transitioning to the NCAA, they were forced to move the game due to the playoffs.

The Indians made the most of the opportunity, defeating the Blue Hose 14-0, with touchdowns by Willis Fortson and Eric Green.

The drama began at the conclusion of the game. It was tradition for the past year’s winner to present the derby to the winning coach. As the Indians’ players walked to the center of the field to shake hands with their counterparts, student assistant Travis Perry reported to Taylor the derby was still on the Presbyterian sideline.

The Newberry players ran to the opposing sideline to retrieve the derby. Despite receiving criticism from Blue Hose fans, Taylor was glad to have the derby back in the Indians’ possession.

Newberry College came up on the short end of the rivalry in 1993 and 1994, before one of the more memorable games took place in 1995 at Setzler Field.

During a cold and rainy day, both teams trudged through the game with the Blue Hose leading 8-0 with five minutes left in the game. After quarterback Hunter Spivey guided the Indians down the field, running back Keith Porterfield reached the endzone. Newberry missed the two-point conversion, and trailed 8-6. Then a weird sequence of events concluded the 82nd Bronze Derby.

Rather than taking a knee, which would have ended the game, the Blue Hose chose to run the ball on second down. The play resulted in a fumble, recovered by the Indians’ Jason Gambrell. On the ensuing possession, Spivey found wideout Willie Sellars for a long gain. With seconds left, kicker Matt Deaton kicked the game-winning field goal.

Newberry would win the next two games in the rivalry, 21-10 in 1996 and 28-22 in 1997, to post the first three-game winning streak for the Indians since 1955-1957.

The 1997 win over Presbyterian College would be Taylor’s last in the rivalry.

After losing a fifth-straight in the series, Taylor was let go by Newberry College following the 2002 season.

Overall, Taylor went 4-7 against the Blue Hose.

The two teams met only four more times before the series was stopped after the 2006 season. In 2007, Presbyterian made the move to the Football Championship Subdivision and chose to end the series.

“It wouldn’t make sense for P.C. to continue to play Newberry,” Taylor said. “If they played a big rival game against Newberry, and Newberry beat P.C., that would not help P.C.’s football program. It was all to the advantage of Newberry College to continue that series from an athletic perspective.”

Taylor says the sport does lose something when rivalries like the Bronze Derby are lost. Since the series ended, Newberry College has played FCS opponents and Presbyterian College has played Division II opponents. However, neither has chosen to restart the series.

As many longtime Newberry College fans know, while the series began in 1913, the origins of the Bronze Derby trophy begin during the 1946-1947 school year. The original owner of the derby, Newberry College graduate Corrin Bowers, along with some friends regained control of the derby after it was stolen by students from Presbyterian College.

Since the 2006 finale, Newberry College has played Brevard five times, Wingate three times, including this season, and North Greenville twice to conclude the regular season.

However, none of those teams has quite the same ring as the Presbyterian College Blue Hose.

Neither school would comment on any future developments in the rivalry.

For Taylor, he enjoys and appreciates his place in the Bronze Derby rivalry. He also understands the rivalry’s current place.

“Nothing stays the same, circumstances always change,” Taylor said. “It’s great to be able to look back, but things are never going to be like they used to be. The best thing we can do is keep the memories alive because there were some great times for Newberry College. Those times aren’t going to come back.”

By Josh Cruse

Special to The Observer

comments powered by Disqus