Bridgeport looks to take the next step in 2011. The Indians are a staple of the Class AAA playoffs, but have yet to make a significant run in the playoffs and are still searching for a trip to Wheeling Island Stadium since moving up from Class AA. Bridgeport won the Class AA state title in 2000.
But that ten year drought isn’t stopping coach Josh Nicewarner from make a state title a priority for his team.
“I tell the boys all the time, ‘I’ll get out of coaching when I don’t think that we have a shot.’ You know it may be a long shot, but I think we’ve got a legitimate shot I know our boys are excited and we’re going to play as if we’re out there trying to win a state championship,” said Nicewarner.
Bridgeport is always undermanned as one of the smallest schools in Class AAA. Traditionally, and this year is no different, the Indians only have 40-to-45 players while most Class AAA teams have 70 or more.
That has led Bridgeport to rely heavily on the run. Control the ball, control the clock and control the game. That’s been the philosophy there for decades and will continue this year. Nicewarner lost one of the best running backs in the state with the graduation of Corey Wagner, but he says they have a whole host of backs just champing at the bit to take his place.
“What we’re going to miss most with Corey is his hard, bruising running,” said Nicewarner. “Corey wasn’t going to out run anybody but he was going to get those tough yards. This year I think you’re going to see more of a combination of speed and guys who may have a little better vision. Not one guy is going to stick out; we’re going to have three, four maybe even five guys carrying the ball this season.”
One weapon the Idians have returning is kicker Connor Kornbrath, who has already verbally committed to play at Iowa.
“He made me look pretty good last year,” said Nicewarner of Kornbrath’s two game winning field goals. “It’s nice to have that weapon in the back pocket, knowing that if you get inside the 40 yard line you have a real good chance of getting three points.”
Bridgeport will also have a veteran group on defense.
“We bring a lot of our [front seven] back,” said Nicewarner. “We return our linebacking corps and a majority of our defensive line. We did lose Garrett Parker and Zach Seamon in the secondary, but we got those holes to replace, but we have some young guys ready to step up and do the job. We should have a veteran group going in and that’s always a luxury as a coach.”
The schedule sets up nicely for the Indians with home games against Wheeling Park and Class AA rival Grafton. Bridgeport’s toughest contest will come on Oct. 7 at University High School. That game comes in the middle of the season and should show whether the Indians have what it takes to take on the upper echelon of schools in Class AAA.
With a veteran squad and solid players at virtually every position the Indians are poised to once again make the playoffs. The only question is can they advance to a state title game that has been so elusive for the Harrison County school since its arrival in Class AAA?