After almost a decade of contending in Class AAA, Bridgeport High School is making the switch back down to Class AA. The move puts the Indians’ football team on a more level playing field with other schools enrollment wise.
“Playing in AAA, we were somewhat always stuck at the bottom and competing against schools two times our size,” said Bridgeport head coach Josh Nicewarner. “I did enjoy playing in AAA and the competition, but we’re excited to be in AA.”
Bridgeport made the AAA playoffs ever year since moving up in 2004, making the semifinals last year. And for Nicewarner, the switch mainly affects the postseason.
“Especially from a regular season standpoint, we’re pretty much playing the same schedule that we did last year,” he said.
The biggest transition for Nicewarner’s club this year, however, will center around the loss of a talented group of seniors, not necessarily dropping down a class.
“We lost 22 seniors and we return a total of maybe three starters,” said Nicewarner. “It’s going to be an inexperienced group that we’re putting out there.”
The Indians lost five all-state first and second team players, including a Hunt Award winner in Garrett Stanley and Iowa recruit Connor Kornbrath.
Meanwhile, week four of the upcoming season will have a little extra intrigue to it. The Indians will host rival Robert C. Byrd – a program that will be in its first year under former Bridgeport head coach Bruce Carey.
Carey was at the helm at Bridgeport for 13 seasons, going 125-31. He won the Class AA title with the Indians in 2000. Carey retired from Bridgeport two years ago due to health concerns.
“I played for Bruce and he gave me my first coaching job,” said Nicewarner. “I have nothing but the utmost respect for him.
“I’m sure we’ll go out and have a drink afterwards,” he said.
Bridgeport opens the season on August 24 at home against Buckhannon-Upshur.