BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — John Cole has been a part of the varsity football program at Bridgeport High School for 20 years, but this is the first he’s stepped into the role of head coach.
Cole was appointed to the position after former head coach Josh Nicewarner resigned following two felony charges relating to the attempted seduction of a 14-year-old girl.
Despite those recent events, Cole said the team is rebounding well.
“They’re kids; they’re playing hard; I’m getting good effort,” Cole said. “They’re football players. That’s what we do. We play football.”
Cole said it’s been a fairly smooth transition for him stepping up to the position.
“It’s different,” he said. “I’ve got capable coaches so I’m not alone, and the administration has really been behind our whole staff. So that’s made it easier.”
The rest of Bridgeport’s coaching staff is highly capable of coordinating, which Cole said has been a help as he learns the other facets of being a head coach.
“As of right now, I’m not coordinating an offense or a defense. I probably am going to have a little more say in the offense than I used to,” he said. “But it’s the organization, the discipline, the paperwork, planning the practices and things of that nature.”
Prior to joining Bridgeport’s varsity program in 1997, Cole was an assistant coach at Bridgeport Middle School for about three years, followed by two years with the high school’s freshman program.
With about 25 years of coaching under his belt, there have been quite a few highlight seasons for Cole.
“Obviously I played somewhat of a role in the four state championship teams, but really as a coach, I sort of look back at some of our teams that we didn’t have a whole lot of talent or we had kids that had to work in the weight room to make themselves better.
“I look back at their freshman year to when they were a senior and how far they got,” he said. “That’s really the part that’s the most gratifying.”
Practices for the 2017 season started Aug. 1, and Cole said he’s getting good effort from both the staff and the athletes.
“We’ve got some new roles coaching wise, but it seems like everything’s going okay,” he said. “We have a couple scrimmages coming up, so we’ll be able to evaluate how we’ve been doing, but so far so good I would say. I can’t really complain about much.”
Cole said he was pleased to see an upperclassmen heavy roster this season, which he says equates to good experience and talent in the field positions.
“We’ve got a whole new backfield on offense, but I think these kids can be every bit as good or better than what we had last year,” he said. “A couple of backs that stand out are Brice Haines, who had some experience last year. He’s a senior. And Jake Bowen, we hope is going to be able to carry the football for us, and he’s a junior.”
Senior John Merica steps into the role of starting quarterback this season, and Cole feels confident that he will perform well in the position.
“It’s just a matter of us getting ready to play, and it’s a matter of them being able to execute on Friday nights,” he said.
Though the football team is going strong, Harrison County Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin said he feels there is some confidence rebuilding that needs to be done in both communities following Nicewarner’s resignation. But he is optimistic that they will recover.
“Life is full of disappointments. People don’t always live up to our expectations,” Manchin said. “We won’t be judged on how well we handle our successes in life but how we handle our failures.
“I think that you’ll see both communities, the Liberty community and the Bridgeport community come together and start moving forward,” he said. “As unfortunate as it was, we have to put this behind us and prepare for a new school year.”