In a game where Bridgeport scored touchdowns on its first eight possessions, it would typically be hard to say one score was more significant than the other. Yet in a game where the Indians rolled to a 56-12 win against Lincoln at Stydahar Field in Shinnston, one clearly stood out.
And it was a score by Jake Bowen. On an evening where the game was never in doubt after the early stages of the second half, Bowen managed to provide a little bit of magic.
With three minutes to go in the opening quarter, Bowen took a handoff and raced 60 yards for a score. He’s had bigger runs in his career and ones more critical, but it’s the only run he’ll ever have where he became the Indians’ all-time leading rusher.
Bowen ended the game with 163 yards on 13 carries to give him 3,814 yards for his three-year varsity career. That total eclipsed the 45-year old mark set by 1972 state champion and 1974 alum Steve Stout, who previously held the mark at 3,724 yards.
“It’s great,” said Coach John Cole. “It’s a team award and I know that’s how Jake would look at it. He’s a talented kid who is humble and works hard. He deserves it.”
What really made the situation unique was that Bowen collected the record on a huge running play. And even more unique was that the Tribe lined up in the old stick-I offense where Stout gained every single one of his yards under the legendary late Coach Wayne Jamison.
“(Offensive coordinator) Coach (Tyler) Phares told me that I was going to bust this one and the linemen said they were going to open it up for me,” said Bowen of the play. “I tried to bust it outside, and the line threw some great blocks. It was great to get the record in the stick and on a touchdown run.”
The play helped put Bridgeport in control early in a contest where they allowed Lincoln to crawl back into things before crushing the Cougars’ will in the second half. Bridgeport turned a 21-12 score into a 35-12 halftime advantage that only became larger in the final two quarters.
To make matters worse for the Cougars, they had to contend with Bowen’s record night and a Bridgeport passing attack led by Devin Vandergrift. The junior signal caller managed to complete 4-of-7 passes for 138 yards and three touchdowns.
“That’s good because we’ve got confidence in Devin,” said Cole.
Two of Vandergrift’s touchdown passes were to D’Andre Holloway. The other went to Carson Winkie as the Indians scored at will with their first unit in the game.
The game looked to be a blowout from the state before Lincoln made the BHS faithful uncomfortable for a spell in the second quarter. The Indians managed to build a three touchdown advantage thanks to a red-hot offense and an opportunistic defense. Bridgeport got two of its first three scores off of turnovers and the other one set up by a game-beginning on-side kick it recovered.
After the Tribe recovered the kick at the start off the game, they went to work. The Indians used 10 plays to cover 52 yards with Trey Pancake ending the surge with a one-yard run that was followed by the first of eight successful point-after kicks from Evan Ogden.
On Lincoln’s first drive, disaster struck four plays in. The Indians forced a fumble and Austin Sponaugle was all too happy to recover it at the Lincoln 39.
The Indians didn’t waste much time to add to their advantage. After three Bowen runs moved the ball to the 12, Vandergrift threw a quick strike to Holloway. Holloway hauled in the pass to the left and made a hard cut to the middle of the field and stopped on a dime. As the defenders froze, he swung back to the left and raced 12 yards for the score and what turned into a 14-0 advantage of the 5:15 mark.
Bridgeport wasn’t done forcing mistakes in the first quarter. On Lincoln’s second possession, it managed to get into Bridgeport territory on three plays before bad news arrived again, this time in the form of an Elijah Smith interception at the Bridgeport 40.
It was here when the Indians not only added to the lead, but they added to the history book. On the first play after the turnover, Bowen bounced outside and raced down the right side for 60 yards, a touchdown and the Indians’ all-time leading rushing mark.
“The first quarter was good, but our defense couldn’t get off the field for most of the second quarter,” said Cole. “Lincoln took it to us and owned a lot of the second quarter.”
Cole was correct as Lincoln responded in a big way. The next drive saw the hosts use 12 plays to go 75 yards and end the surge on a Hunter Moore one-yard run for a 21-6 score following a failed point-after try with 9:07 left before halftime.
With the Cougars out of playoff contention, Coach Rob Hawkins opted to roll the dice again and it worked. Lincoln recovered the onside kick and was back in business at Bridgeport’s 47.
Once again, LHS used 12 plays to cover the distance. And once again, Moore would score on a one-yard run to bring the score to 21-12.
“I was thinking here we go again,” said Cole, who saw his team blow a 21-0 lead earlier this year against Buckhannon-Upshur before rallying late. “They’re running zone and we’re not coming off blocks and filling our lanes and I wasn’t happy at all. We’ve got to correct that or we won’t last very long in the playoffs.”
The only negative for Lincoln on it second score was that another thing repeated itself – the Cougars failed to convert on their conversion. This time, a pass play was for naught as the game stayed a two-possession contest.
“On that two point conversion they went to the same play they had hit five or six times,” said Cole. “We finally figured it out and stopped them. It was perfect after that, but it was lot better.”
Onside kick number three proved unsuccessful as Carson DeMotto pounced on the ball to put Bridgeport – and with the ball for the first time in the frame at the 4:38 mark – in business at its own 44. Three plays later Bowen exploded up the gut, cut right and rambled in from 21 yards out to help Bridgeport eventually go ahead 28-12 with 3:42 to go.
On Lincoln’s next series, Bridgeport’s defense stepped up and forced a quick three-and-out. Despite getting the ball back on its own 27, BHS had 2:12 left on the clock and two timeouts. The Indians wouldn’t need all of the time or the timeouts.
Several big plays, including a 36-yard pass to Holloway and runs of 12 and 16 yards by Pancake, got the ball deep into Lincoln territory. Once there, Bowen did the honors from seven yards out for a 35-12 score with 15.5 seconds left following Ogden’s kick.
Along with Bowen’s big first half numbers, Pancake added 46 yards on five runs. Bridgeport had 266 yards of offense in the first half with 213 of it on the ground and 53 of it through the air.
Colten Hovermale led the Cougars’ offense. He finished the half with 86 yards on 20 carries. Lincoln had an impressive 185 yards with 96 on the ground and 89 by was of the passing attack led by David Tate.
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