Names change, expectations the same as Bridgeport prepares for fourth season under Tyler Phares

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — In addition to their ten state championships won since 1955, Bridgeport owns a number of state-best streaks of consistency. The Indians have won at least one playoff game every year since 2007. Their run of postseason appearances dates back to 1993 and they haven’t suffered a losing season since 1967. As Bridgeport puts the pieces in place for 2024, what could make the difference as the Indians pursue a Class AAA state title?

“Everybody is showing up and doing the extra work that needs to be done,” said Bridgeport senior lineman Wes Brown Jr. “We’re getting to the field, practicing and doing everything extra to get ready for the season.”

Last year, the Indians defeated top-seeded Cabell Midland on the road in the state quarterfinals. A week later however, BHS lost 73-70 at Princeton to fall a win short of their first title game appearance since 2019.

“It is still motivation, definitely,” said Bridgeport senior running back/defensive back Jack Spatafore. “It was a disappointment. It would have been nice to make it. But we are using it for motivation.”

Tyler Phares has posted a 30-6 record as head coach in three seasons. His single wing offense averaged 47 points and 417 rushing yards per game last fall.

“These kids have been running it since they were in middle school,” Phares said. “The learning curve is much less. They know what to expect from us. It is neat to see the kids that have been in the system for a while now really start to blossom, especially early on.”

First team All-State selection Wes Brown Jr. leads an experienced group of linemen.

“It is obvious that when he is up and going and is excited, the rest of the kids feed off it. The coaching staff feeds off of it,” Phares said. “He is a great leader for our kids and for our community. We’re excited to see what he does this year.”

The Indians must replace Curt Warner Award winner Zach Rohrig but their next three leading rushers in Josh Love, Tim Jeffress and Alex Moses are all back. That trio combined to rush for 2,401 yards and 36 touchdowns in 2023.

“It really comes down to who is going to block and who is going to carry out fakes the best,” Phares said. “Most of these guys run the ball very similar. So the intangibles will be important.”

Although the Indians attempted just 43 passes last season, Jack Spatafore tossed six touchdowns and averaged seven yards per rush.

“When Jack comes in a game, he blocks well and he runs the football. He can obviously throw it really well. So it is not a huge key when he comes in the game, because the kid can do it all. He has had a great offseason and he has worked his tail off,” Phares said.

Although 7-on-7 football in no way mimics Bridgeport’s style of offense, Phares believes this season of football in the early part of the summer has great value and often, good results.

“When we go to WVU, we are usually one of the last teams out every year,” Phares said. “It is good for us. I enjoy watching us go out and compete. Defensively, obviously it probably helps us a little more than offensively. But it is always fun. Anytime you can go out as a team and compete and do something that is similar to football, it is a good thing.”

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