(Citynet Sportsline interview with Bridgeport head coach John Cole)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In their ten-game winning streak to close the 2019 season with the Class AA state championship, Bridgeport head coach John Cole heaped consistent praise on his group of players that lived in the weight room in the offseason.
For all teams, this offseason has been altered significantly with team facilities shutdown for three months due to the pandemic. Cole and the Indians returned to Wayne Jamison Field this past week to open Phase I of offseason conditioning.
“These kids were messaging me and our coaches through all this, ‘When can we get back in the weight room?'” Cole said. “Now that they are back, I’m not so sure they are happy to be back. You guys asked for it. Now you are getting it.”
Cole acknowledged many of his players are still getting up to speed. His assistant coaches supplied players with ‘at-home’ workouts to use during the pandemic.
“You can tell the kids that were committed and invested in March, April and May.
“There’s some kids visiting the garbage cans on the sideline a little bit. That is expected.”
Bridgeport claimed their tenth state title and fourth in the decade with a 21-14 win over Bluefield at Wheeling Island Stadium. While Cole welcomes back several experienced linemen, their top four rushers (Carson Winkie, Trey Pancake, Brian Henderson and Devin Vandergrift) have graduated.
“We lost some good kids. But we are used to that. We can’t recruit so we have what we have. I know I have been blessed as long as I have been at Bridgeport to have really good kids. I don’t think that has changed much so we are not going to change a whole lot.”
Changes in personnel are not the only offseason adjustments for the Indians. Bridgeport is moving back up to Class AAA for the next four years. State semifinalist Parkersburg South and quarterfinalist Musselman are new opponents on their schedule.
“We have a schedule upgrade and it was a feat trying to do that. Our athletic director Mark Jones and our principal Matt DeMotto started the minute they got the news. It took several months to try to work things out.”
Bridgeport previously played in the top classification from 2004-2011. BHS qualified for the playoffs in each season with a 8-8 postseason record. The Indians reached the semifinals in 2009 and 2011.
“My concern moving up is that we are going to see more spread football. In Class AA, generally it was more running teams. If it is more spread, it is more skill. That’s something we are not blessed with year in and year out. That’s why we do what we do.
“Our depth becomes an issue when you move up to Class AAA. It is always an issue no matter what class you are in. But especially in Class AAA.”
While the Indians will likely see more diverse offenses at the Class AAA level, their blueprint for success with a ball control running game will remain their trademark. The Indians attempted just 43 passes in 14 games last year.
“What we do is so old, it is new. If we can move the ball, that speed stays on the sideline, at least on the offensive side. That is what we want.
“Coach (Wayne) Jamison always used to say, ‘There are three things that can happen when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad’. That is sort of our credo.”