AA: Bridgeport gets another shot at finals
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bridgeport is tired of being the bridesmaid and never getting a wedding of its own.
The second-seeded Indians (11-1) get their best chance, hosting No. 3 Bluefield (10-2) at 7:30 tonight in the Class AA semifinals. The winner advances to next week's Super Six Championships at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Bridgeport has lost in the Class AA or AAA semis four out of the last five years and never advanced to the title game.
"I'm awful sick of the semifinals,'' said Indians coach Josh Nicewarner. "I really think this is the group that can get us over that hump.''
Bridgeport's only hiccup this season was a 17-14 loss to Wheeling Park, which is in the Class AAA semis, in the second game of the year.
Since then the Indians have reeled off 10 straight victories, including a 54-20 decision over Roane County in the opening round of the playoffs and last week's 28-0 domination of Fairmont Senior in the quarterfinals. During its winning streak, Bridgeport's defense has posted five shutouts.
"Coming into the season, the defense was a big question mark for us,'' Nicewarner said. "Our biggest thing, just be ourselves. Not try to do anything special and not panicking.
"Just do what got us here. We're going to have to create turnovers and force [Bluefield] to do things they don't do very well and they seem to do everything well.''
The Indians are led by the top rusher and scorer in Class AA, Anthony Bonamico, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound senior who has 1,978 yards and averages 11.8 yards per carry with 31 touchdowns. He churned out 221 yards and three scores versus Fairmont Senior, including a 66-yard sprint on the first play from scrimmage.
Bridgeport senior A.C. Caldera has chipped in 943 yards for a 9.0-yard average and 15 TDs.
After ending the regular season with a 29-27 loss to top-ranked and two-time defending state champion Wayne to snap a seven-game winning streak, Bluefield got past Nicholas County 26-14 in the quarters behind D.J. Stewart's 156 yards and three TDs.
The 5-11, 165-pound Stewart has 1,217 yards for an 8.6-yard average and 22 scores. Junior running back Cory Coppola has added 968 yards for an 8.3-yard average and 13 TDs.
Junior quarterback R.J. Bourne has passed for 1,558 yards at a 64.4-percent clip with 13 scores against only three interceptions. Bourne's top receiver is senior D.J. Edwards, who has 49 catches for 921 yards with an 18.7-yard average and eight TDs. And if the Beavers get in a tight spot, kicker Francisco Desiderio has booted eight field goals.
"I'd love to sit here and tell you we want it more or we're a little more physical, but I don't think that's the case,'' said Nicewarner. "This is a true matchup. Either of the teams will be able to give a great fight in the championship game.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.