Class AAA No. 4 Bridgeport improved to 4-0 following a 56-28 victory on the road against Parkersburg South (1-4) Friday night at Erickson All-Sports Facility in Parkersburg.
Cam Cole had another huge night for the Tribe, finishing with 210 yards on 24 carries with three touchdowns, while adding a 23-yard touchdown pass to Nate Lhotsky.
While the defense did give up some yardage, including more than 300 through the air for the second straight week, the Indians made plays on that side of the ball when they needed them the most and took advantage of four Parkersburg South turnovers.
“This was our first Class AAA game, and it didn’t matter how many wins they had,” BHS coach John Cole said. “A school that size has athletes. I don’t think we were fully ready to play. I think some of the players were waiting on other players to make plays. Hopefully we can learn that we can’t do that.
But I am proud, of the way we played in the second half. The defense had some big plays when we needed them and the offense had some big plays when we needed them.”
It was just a one-possession game after South scored a touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter that pulled the Patriots within 28-21 of the Tribe. The Indians however, quickly doubled their point total to create some breathing room before South tacked on one final score against backups with less than 2 minutes to play.
South had three first-and-goal situations in the second half that yielded zero points. Two of them ended on BHS interceptions, another was a turnover on downs.
“It’s just a matter of sticking with it and having the confidence in yourself to make a play,” Coach Cole said.
The Indians put together an impressive 11-play drive to start the game. They converted a pair of fourth down conversions – both on runs by Cole – before Cole connected with Lhotsky for his first varsity touchdown. Austin Springer’s PAT kick made it 7-0.
Tanner Saltis came up with another huge play for the Tribe on defense with a tackle right around the line of scrimmage to force a four-and-out for the Patriots. Those ended up being the only four snaps for South on offense in the first quarter.
Bridgeport’s second possession saw the offensive line to get a bit more of a push which resulted in a couple big runs. Cole had a pickup of 15 yards, Hayden Moore added one of 19 and the drive ended with Cole’s 1-yard TD run. The PAT kick attempt by Springer was blocked but the Tribe had a 13-0 lead.
It didn’t last long as South’s Levi Rice returning the ensuing kick 81 yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to one touchdown.
Cole got the next BHS drive off to a good start with a run for 13 yards but two plays later, a bad snap resulted in a loss of 11. It marked the ninth fumble of the season for the Indians, but they have recovered all but two, including this one. Still, they were forced to punt for just the fourth time this season.
South put together a nine-play drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by Devin Gaines. After Nick Murphy’s extra-point kick, the Patriots led 14-13 with 7:21 left in the first half.
The Indians responded well to their first deficit of the year with a short drive that featured two more big plays from Cole. First he completed a 22 yard pass to Anthony Dixon. On the next snap, Cole got down around the goal line, with a run of 23 yards.
Moore’s 1-yard TD run and a Taylor Thomas PAT, his first of five in the game, put the Indians back on top 20-14.
The Indians’ defense camp up big again in the closing moments of the second quarter. They forced another South punt, but this time South elected to run a fake. It went nowhere, as J.D. Love read the play perfectly and made a stop to give his team the ball back at the South 35.
Moore got his second 1-yard TD run with 6.6 seconds left on the clock, Cole ran it in for the two-point conversion and the Indians took a 28-14 lead into halftime. Moore, who finished with 90 yards on 20 carries, now has nine touchdowns on the season (eight rushing, one receiving).
Parkersburg South got a huge fourth-down conversion on the opening drive of the second half. Schuler eluded some pressure on fourth-and-4 before finding Jake Hogsett for a 54-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-21.
After a BHS punt, South was again on the move before Schuler was intercepted by sophomore linebacker Phil Reed, who returned the pick near midfield.
J.T. Muller capped a nine-play drive with an 8-yard TD run, his third of the season to make it 35-21.
Another failed fourth-down conversion ended South’s next drive and Cole quickly delivered the home run play the BHS offense had been looking for all night, with a 67-yard touchdown run.
“We knew coming in it was going to be a tough game,” Cam Cole said. “We came out strong but then they got the momentum back before we came back in the second half.
“That long touchdown run, I saw a huge lane open up by line and I knew it would be six.”
Owen Bennington, who also broke up a pair of second half pass attempts, intercepted a Schuler pass in the end zone which led to another quick-strike TD for the Indians – and it came on a play that hasn’t been dialed up since Week 1.
Make it 2-for-2 on passes from Reed from his blocking back spot on offense to Landyn Reppert, the Tribe’s leading tackler who plays left end on offense. In the season opener against Liberty, the two connected for a 43-yard touchdown pass. On Friday, against South, it was a 54-yarder that made it 49-21.
Reppert wasn’t done quite yet as he intercepted a pass on South’s ensuing drive which set up Cole’s final TD run which covered 19 yards.
Schuler, who finished 16-of-30 for 312 yards, threw his second TD pass of the game to Cyrus Traugh, covering 15 yards with 1:54 showing on the clock.
Parkersburg South was held to 73 rushing yards.
The Indians finished with 347 on the ground and a season-high total through the air of 99 yards.
With back-to-back games going over 200 rushing yards, Cole’s totals for the season are now 737 rushing yards and nine touchdowns to go along with two TD passes.
The Indians are scheduled to be in action next week with another road game against Preston but that is dependent on what Harrison County’s color on the WVDE alert map will be at 5 p.m. on Saturday. Harrison County went orange on the daily DHHR map on Friday. If the county is orange on the updated WVDE map, the Preston game will be cancelled as there will be no athletic contests in the county for the week.
A gold color warning would mean Bridgeport could play against a fellow county school or against another school that is also gold.