Although it took a little longer to get here than anyone would have thought, Bridgeport High School’s football opener was a successful one and in many ways a typical one even in a season that has been anything but normal to this point.
The Indians, last year’s Class AA state champions, made their official debut as a Class AAA school in 2020 with a 63-0 victory against Liberty Friday night at Wayne Jamison Field and they used a combination of a dynamic running attack and a stout defense.
Of course, in the COVID-19 world we live in, no stat was as important as just being out there playing following a Lewis County opener being wiped out because of the push back to the start of the season and last week's Morgantown game being canceled a few hours before kickoff.
"It felt great to be back," said BHS lineman Devin Hill, a returning first-team all-stater and one of team's seniors honored during Senior Night before the start of the game. "You just can't beat the atmosphere of playing in game."
Cam Cole ran for 147 yards and a touchdown, JD Love and Hayden Moore each had a pair of rushing touchdowns to lead a balanced offensive attack for the Indians, who were unveiling a new look with the single wing. For at least one game, the new offense produced the same results as the previous ones with 478 total yards, including 435 on the ground.
Twelve different players had at least one rushing attempt for the Tribe and six of them finished with at least 34 yards.
"We're proud of our kids," Bridgeport coach John Cole said. "Anytime you win a football game, we are proud of their effort and what they did. Our offensive line do a good job obviously. We've got some kids that can run the football, they just need to have a place to run."
Defensively, in addition to the shutout, Bridgeport limited Liberty to 139 yards of total offense and forced three turnovers, all of which led to points.
"On defense our backers really stepped up," Hill said. "Everybody really just stepped up and played their gaps and it took care of itself. You get a turnover, it kind of kills their spirit and gives you more momentum to work with.
The Indians wasted little time on offense. After receiving the game’s opening kickoff, the first play from scrimmage was a 20-yard run by T-back Cam Cole. A personal foul penalty was tagged on the end of the play and two snaps later, JT Muller was in the end zone with a 28-yard touchdown run.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Indians put together a second straight scoring drive. This one took a little longer — 10 plays, covering 66 yards — but the results were the same as Love’s 8-yard made it 14-0.
Another three-and-out for Liberty was followed by blocking back Phil Reed throwing a 43-yard touchdown pass to Landyn Reppert. Another PAT kick from Austin Springer made it 21-0 in the closing moments of the first quarter.
"That was something," Cole said of the Indians' lone completed pass in the game. "I can't remember the last time. Usually we overthrow it or they throw a laser or the receiver drops it so that didn't happen. Defenses are going to have to defend us a lot of different ways and that's a good thing."
On its fourth possession, BHS was faced with converting a fourth down conversion twice and both were successful. The first was on a fourth-and-2 from the Indians’ 44. Muller took the snap and ran wide left for a gain of 4 yards.
Four plays later, Cole broke off a 37-yard run on fourth-and-2 from the Liberty 44. The next snap went to Cole again and his 7-yard TD run pushed the lead to28-0.
Liberty fumbled on its ensuing possession and the Tribe took advantage with a short drive. Reed had the big play on the drive with a 17-yard run. Love capped the drive with his second TD run, this one from 3 yards out to make it 35-0.
The Mountaineers ditched the stick-I for their final possession of the first half and went to their passing game. Yards through the air were just as tough to come by as the Tribe forced a turnover on downs around midfield.
Two big runs by Tyler Martin and Cole set up a 32-yard field goal attempt by sophomore Taylor Thomas. The kick was short and the Indians took a 35-0 halftime lead into the locker room.
Thomas was filling in for Springer who suffered a minor hip injury earlier in the half.
Things didn’t get much better for Liberty in the second half. The Mountaineers were once again forced to punt and the Indians didn’t take long to get on the scoreboard again.
Cole had a run of 15 yards, Love followed by busting loose for a pickup of 22 yards to put the ball on the 2. Two plays later, Hayden Moore scored on a 2-yard run, his first career touchdown.
Moore recovered a fumble on Liberty’s next possession to set up his second career touchdown, a 10-yard run that made it 49-0.
The Indians added an 18-yard touchdown run from Derek Starkey and a 4-yard TD run from Connor Arnett.
The 147 yards for Cam Cole established a new career high and they came on just 13 attempts. Love finished with 54 yards on 11 carries, while Moore had 46 yards on six attempts. Starkey, Muller and Ty Martin added 36, 35 and 34 yards, respectively.
The Indians are scheduled to return to action on Thursday against Fairmont Senior at East-West Stadium.
"I'm just glad for the kids, and for us as coaches, that we got a game in and we can look at it and correct some mistakes," Cole said. "We've got a really tough game next week."