For the second consecutive year, Bridgeport’s football season ended at Cobourn Field in Martinsburg as the defending state champion Bulldogs defeated the Indians, 21-3, in the Class AAA quarterfinals.
The game was eerily similar to last year’s in that the BHS defense played as well against the Bulldogs in the postseason as anybody has the past decade, keeping them 30 points below their average.
Unfortunately, it was also similar to last year’s game in regard to Bridgeport having its share of opportunities only to see the Bulldogs make a play on defense in clutch situations, five of those plays coming on fourth-down plays to force a turnover on downs.
The loss ends Bridgeport’s season at 9-3 and also marks the first time since 2010 that the Indians did not advance to the semifinals.
The Bulldogs, now 10-2, will go on the road next week to Huntington for a semifinal clash with the Highlanders in a rematch of last year’s Class AAA title game.
The Indians gambled early, electing to go for it on fourth-and-3 from their own 37 on the game’s opening drive and they came up a yard short.
Martinsburg took a 7-0 lead seven plays later when Ezra Bagent hooked up with Roman Pierson on a 17-yard touchdown pass and Bret Terwillger kicked his first of three PAT kicks.
Zach Rohrig busted loose for a 21-yard gain and a Martinsburg personal foul tacked on 15 more yards to give the Indians the ball on the Bulldogs’ side of the field.
The drive stalled again though and Martinsburg forced another turnover on downs. Bagent again made the Tribe pay as he threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jameer Hunter to extend the lead to 14-0.
Bridgeport got some points on its third drive. Rohrig completed a 32-yard pass to Cam Hess to get back on the Martinsburg side of the 50.
The Indians then began moving the chains on the ground and had first-and-goal situation from the 4 before the Martinsburg defense tightened up.
The Indians settled for a 21-yard field goal from Taylor Thomas to make it 14-3.
Bridgeport’s defense came up big the rest of the first half. Ty Martin had his second interception in as many weeks to end a Martinsburg drive deep in Bridgeport territory.
The Bulldogs returned the favor when Murphy Clement picked off a Phil Reed pass and the Bulldogs appeared to be in position to try and extend their lead before halftime.
A 44-yard catch from Hunter put the ball on the Bridgeport 14 with 1:43 to go. The Indians responded with three defensive plays, each a little bit bigger than the previous one. First was Charlie Brazier bringing down Clement for a 2-yard loss. Next, Aidan Sparks blew up a play where Zion Grantham picked up a fumble and brought him down for an 8-yard loss.
On third-and-long, a situation that Martinsburg had been enjoying some success with, Ryan Hall and Wes Brown teamed up for a sack of Bagent and Brown forced a fumble and the Indians recovered to keep it an 11-point game at halftime.
Martinsburg opened the third quarter with a 95-yard drive that ended with Bagent and Hunter hooking up for a second TD, this one covering 30 yards.
Except for a play here and there from both schools, the rest of the game was controlled by the defenses.
Martinsburg forced three more turnover on downs by the Bridgeport offense. The Indians picked up a third turnover thanks to a Brown fumble recovery. Martin deflected no less than two more deep passes. Brazier had another tackle for a loss.
Bridgeport had the ball inside the Martinsburg 30 five different times but could only get the Thomas field goal.
The Indians did finish with 161 rushing yards, well below their average per game. However, Martinsburg entered the game allowing only 47 on the ground per game.
Rohrig finished with 80 yards on 23 carries and Reed had 69 on 16 carries.
The Bulldogs finished with just 65 yards on the ground but Bagent threw for 280 on 16-of-25 passing with three TDs and the one interception.
The time and date for the Martinsburg-Huntington game as well as the rest of the semifinal matchups in all three classes will be finalized on Sunday.