WHEELING, W.Va. – No. 1 Bridgeport won its third straight Class AA football state championship on Friday night in dominant fashion, beating No. 3 Tolsia 39-0.
The Indians’ defense contained Rebels running back Luke Presley to just 16 yards on 12 carries, while also setting a Class AA Super 6 defensive record by holding Tolsia to just 67 total yards. That previous record was set in 2009 when Wayne held Bluefield to just 94 yards and four first downs, but still lost the game.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Bridgeport coach Josh Nicewarner. “We had a game plan that we were confident in, but having not really ever faced (Tolsia) and their belly option was something that we’re not used to.
“There was some uncertainty there. But the way we played and took the game to their side of the football was instrumental in the success that we had defensively.”
The Indians led 14-0 at the half behind touchdown runs from West Virginia commit Dylan Tonkery (63 yards) and his senior teammate Dante Bonamico (24 yards).
“I just made a jump-cut and spun a little bit,” Tonkery said. “My leg got caught a bit and it spun me up in the air. I landed on my feet and I just kept going. J.T. had a good backside block down the field and it set me free.”
Bridgeport (13-0-1) collected all of the game’s momentum on the second-half kickoff, which J.T. Harris returned 68 yards to make it 21-0.
“When J.T. returned the kickoff, it was going our way good and I knew we were going to get it,” Tonkery said. “I’m happy that I’m going out as a Bridgeport Indian and we’re going out with a win.”
The 68-yard kick return by Harris also set a Class AA Super 6 record, breaking the previous long of 50 yards that was set by Winfield’s Jeff Bannister in 1988 (against Bridgeport).
“That return certainly didn’t hurt,” Nicewarner said. “That was a big momentum time – us getting the ball and a nice long drive would have also taken some wind out of their sails. But to get that kickoff return kind of started to put the nail in the coffin.”
Bridgeport became just the second Class AA team to win three-peat. Poca accomplished it from 2001 to 2003.
“The first one was special, the second one was special and this third one has been special,” Nicewarner said. “They’ve all been different, but they’ve all been great. I’m blessed to have the type of kids that we have, not only this senior group, but everybody on this football team and everyone who supports this program. What these kids were able to do for really the last 12 months is something that I’ll never forget.”
Tonkery added a 64-yard touchdown run in the third to give the Indians a 27-0 advantage. Bridgeport also added a safety, a 1-yard touchdown run from Elijah Drummond and a 31-yard field goal from Koby Kiefer.
Tonkery totaled 157 yards on 14 carries, while Bonamico added 60 yards on 10 carries and Zack Spurlock finished with nine carries for 31 yards.
The win completed a season full of title expectations from the get-go for Bridgeport, which started the year as the unanimous top ranked team in the preseason MetroNews Power Rankings.
“Being preseason No. 1 and No. 1 all year, these kids rose to the occasion,” Nicewarner said. “They work their tails off in the offseason and they saved their best for last. What do you say? We had a lot of these seniors who were instrumental in our first title. What they did for this program over the course of the last three years has been monumental.”
Making its first trip to the Super 6 since 2006, Tolsia (12-2) will drop to Class A next season.
“Our kids played their guts out, but Bridgeport was just too much for us. They have a heck of a team,” said Tolsia coach Mike Smith. “It’s not the result that we wanted, but I’m proud of our kids. (Bridgeport) just beat us and that’s the way it goes.
“We’ll be back, but this was a tough night for us. We couldn’t block (Bridgeport)–that’s all I can say. They are the best team that we’ve seen all year and it’s evident that they’re the class of AA.”
The Rebels will drop down to Class A starting next season.
The win for Bridgeport equaled a ninth football championship in school history for the Indians.
“I would have been the last guy to tell you this game would have been as one-sided as it was,” Nicewarner said. “My hat is off to Tolsia, they’ve played so tough all year and probably didn’t get the respect that they deserve. But the way (our) boys played tonight, just solidified what they’ve done over the last three years.”