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Tyler Phares steps in at Bridgeport, similar blueprint for success in place

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — Bridgeport extended their streak of playoff appearances to a state-best 28 seasons last fall. Like many teams, their 7-1 season ended at the hands of the COVID metrics map. In the offseason, John Cole stepped down after a four-year run as head coach with a 42-6 record, nine playoff wins and a 2019 state championship. Offensive coordinator Tyler Phares was promoted to head coach and Cole remains on staff to coach the linemen.

“It was definitely my first conversation,” Phares said. “I had to make sure that he wanted to come back. I don’t know how tough of a sell it was but he seemed to enjoy the idea of coming back in an assistant role.”

A large senior class of fifteen players has moved on. Annual expectations are unchanged.

“Everyone is hungry and we are going to have a good team,” said Bridgeport senior lineman Tate Jordan. “We want to compete and we like a challenge. We are going to step it up and do the same things as last year. Everyone has a job. They have to do their job. Everyone has high expectations for everybody.”

Last season, Bridgeport’s run-dominated offense transitioned to a single-wing attack. The Indians rushed the ball on 95 percent of their snaps.

“You can tell when we get to our base plays, kids walk in and the footwork is kind of ingrained in their minds,” Phares said. “We spend a lot of time on it so obviously it wasn’t that big of a transition. We are definitely going to get into a few more looks and a few more tweaks. We might even throw the football occasionally.”

“It is a very smart offense for what we have,” Jordan said. “We had a smaller team last year compared to years previously and this year too, especially. It works and last year proved it.”

Senior Cam Cole is back at the quarterback spot. He averaged just under ten yards per tote and finished the eight-game season with 1,301 yards rushing and 23 total touchdowns.

“Having a kid that can run, throw, kick, do everything back there is important,” Phares said. “That’s why we feel like he is going to touch the ball the most for us. Obviously, it is important to have a good skill set.”

While Cole engineers the offense, leading tackler Landyn Reppert is back in the middle of the defense.

“Landyn is good to have back. He is a kid with a lot of game experience. We expect a lot from him,” Phares said.

But the primary area of attention for the Indians will be the guys at the point of attack up front. Phares believes it is a group with ability despite some youth.

“They haven’t gotten varsity reps so that will take a little bit of time,” Phares said. “But the potential is there. You just have to see the dedication and what happens when the kids get in there and the plays get real.”

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