The good news for an injury-riddled Robert C. Byrd team heading into tonight’s game with Bridgeport was that standout tailback Jeremiah King wasn’t on the injured list. Unfortunately, before halftime arrived this evening King was added to it.
Without King and later starting quarterback Bryson Lucas, who was in for injured regular Xavier Lopez, the Eagles were in serious trouble against an Indian team looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season. The bounce proved real.
Behind an offense posting their biggest plays of the year and a defense up to the challenge, Bridgeport rolled to a 43-6 win in Clarksburg.
The victory moved the Class AA No. 7 Indians to 4-1 on the year. The Eagles, ranked No. 9, fall to 3-2.
Although the Indians controlled the majority of the first half, the injuries to two of the top RCB players made many believe the second half would be anti-climactic. And it proved to be just that.
The Tribe turned a 21-6 advantage into a blowout over the final two quarters. Without King, the Eagles had no answers for a Bridgeport defense that held them to just 16 yards in the final two quarters.
The game got started with Bridgeport doing something for the first time this year – it displayed big plays on the offensive side of the ball. In fact, Bridgeport had two touchdowns on just one offensive play from under center to start the contest.
On the first play from scrimmage, Devin Vandergrift took the snap and went with the bootleg. The RCB defense bit on the play and Carson Winkie found himself all alone down the right sideline.
Vandergrift let fly with a perfect strike and Winkie hauled it in for a 54-yard touchdown reception. Austin Springer’s point-after made it 7-0 with 11:42 still showing on the first quarter clock.
“We’ve been working on that a little bit on that,” said Bridgeport Coach John Cole. “Coach (Tyler) Phares wanted to run it and the kids executed it.”
Before Bridgeport was able to strike again, the Eagles decided to use one of the most potent weapons in the state in tailback King. And he didn’t disappoint.
The Eagles used an eight-play, 63-yard drive that featured seven runs by King to get on the scoreboard when King dove in from a yard out for six. The point-after failed and the Tribe led 7-6 with 7:34 showing on the clock.
For the RCB faithful feeling good about themselves, Sam Romano would quickly turn their mood sour. Romano took the kickoff at the 20-yard line and found a gaping hole to the right. The senior went untouched, faking out the kicker near midfield, and went 80 yards for the score. Springer’s kick made it 14-6 with 7:22 showing.
“When you’ve got a guy like Sam that’s an athlete, and that’s why he’s back there, he made a lot of good decisions tonight,” said Cole. “He showed what he can do, and teams are going to have to prepare for that a little bit.”
Bridgeport wasn’t done in the first quarter. Although the third drive wasn’t lighting fast, the Tribe needed just seven plays to go 66 yards and move ahead 21-6.
Winkie did the scoring honors for the Indians. The senior, lined up at fullback, followed the lead block of JT Muller and a big block at the line from Michael Watkins to go up 21-6 following the PAT.
“Carson is a hard-nosed kid that does a lot for us,” said Cole. “He’s pretty talented. He’s going to work hard and do the best he can and execute anything we want to do. I’m very happy for him.”
With 1:35 showing in the first, Bridgeport had scored 21 points – easily its highest point total in any quarter this year. Oddly, however, the Tribe wouldn’t score again.
“Give Robert C. Byrd some credit,” said Cole about BHS struggling to score after the early outburst in the first half. “They had some kids out tonight and they had their kids prepared and playing hard. We had one play on offense, Sam runs it back, we ran for one, but really, our offense, scored just one touchdown (in the first half).
“We had great field position, but they stepped up and played and they got underneath us,” Cole continued. “That’s very frustrating.”
The Indians had one drive start at the RCB 22 thanks to a big punt return by Romano in the second quarter. However, BHS only made it as far as the 19 of the Eagles before giving the ball up on downs
RCB also threatened one more time, and it came after King left the game with an injury to his ankle. King started out a drive from the 17 that ended up going 15 plays. A 31-yard run by King proved to be top play of the surge and his next to last run of the contest.
After King went out, the hosts kept driving. In fact, the Eagles made it all the way to the Bridgeport two before the Tribe bowed up and kept the Eagles from scoring. The Eagles lost yardage on three straight plays when Bridgeport took over possession on downs.
Bridgeport finished the half with 177 yards of offense. Of that total, 144 of it came on the ground. Trey Pancake led the way with five carries for 34 yards.
RCB finished the half with 133 yards of offense. The ground game accounted for 79 of those yards led by King. King had 135 yards on 15 carries before his injury.
“He’s one of the best players in the state, let alone (Class) AA,” said Cole. “I hope he’s all right for them and can come back quickly because they’ve got a decent team … He’s a dynamic player.”
After both teams came up empty on their opening drives of the second half, Bridgeport would finally put the game away. Romano, who had another monster game on special teams, punted the ball to the Robert C. Byrd one-yard line and the Indians would take advantage of it.
On third down and with the ball still at the one, the trio of Watkins, J.D. Love and Trey Pancake burst through to bring the RCB carrier down in the backfield for the safety. With 5:58 in the third quarter it was 23-6 Bridgeport.
Three plays after the safety, the Indians would score again. Following a 35-yard run by Brian Henderson down to the Eagles’ one, he would collect the reward with a one-yard run followed by another Springer PAT for a 30-6 advantage with 4:51 to go.
If there was any doubt left about the outcome, Pancake would erase it on the next offensive series. The senior went off right guard and raced 28 yards for a score and what would turn into a 37-6 lead with 1:34 to go in the third period.
The game’s final points came in the fourth period. Owen Bennington got into the scoring act with an 11-yard touchdown run for the 43-6 score that would end it following a failed extra point kick. The score came with 5:58 to play.
Bridgeport would finish with 283 yards of offense with 229 coming on the ground. Henderson led the way with six carries for 79 yards, while Pancake had seven runs for 62 yards.
Bridgeport is back in action next week at North Marion. The Eagles will be on the road Friday to face Lewis County. Both games begin at 7 p.m.