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New look yields positive results for Bridgeport early on

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — Along the way to 27 consecutive playoff appearances and an equal number of winnng seasons in a row, Bridgeport High School has long been known for having a dominant rushing attack.

The Indians have utilized the Stick-I formation for the better part of that time, briefly changing to implement a Pistol look from shotgun, but generally relying on its steady tackle-to-tackle ground game.

This year, however, Bridgeport is presenting an entirely new look. Under third-year offensive coordinator Tyler Phares, BHS is in the Single Wing, aimed at capitalizing on the team’s speed and ability to confuse defenses.

“Coach Phares eats, sleeps and drinks this,” Tribe head coach John Cole said. “This is what he’s studied.”

Thus far, the results have been all positive. In a 2-0 start, Bridgeport has totaled 107 points, with all 15 of the team’s touchdowns coming from the offense.

“The first time I met coach Cole, he told me we’re not going to run the single wing at Bridgeport that year (2018),” Phares recalled. “As it’s moved along, he trusts my ability to come up with Xs and Os and strong blocking schemes and he started to see things in the Single Wing that he liked. 

“The next thing you know we’re full on into it. It seems everybody is on the same page and ready to go.”

Phares’ familiarity with the Single Wing stems back about a decade, as Elkins ran the offense under his guidance in 2011 and 2012. Phares moved on to Virginia and joined a coaching staff with his brother at William Campbell Hgh, where the Single Wing was utilized.

Phares joined the coaching staff at Morgantown before coming to Bridgeport. During his tenure with the Mohigans, however, Phares said they were “more of a Shotgun-minded team, so we went away from it.”

Still, getting Bridgeport into the Single Wing, particularly following a year in which it won its 10th state championship and fourth since 2013, couldn’t have been the easiest sell.

Cole was a longtime offensive line coach before becoming the head coach in 2017. He knows as well as anyone what the Stick-I has meant to Bridgeport and all the success the football program has had utilizing it.

“The past two years at Bridgeport, we ran the Stick-I, but we had some Single Wing terminology with it,” Phares said.

With a mobile quarterback, several reliable ball carriers and an offensive not not lacking size or agility, Phares talked Cole into 2020 being the year to switch to the Single Wing.

“This is what we want to run this year based on the kids that we have,” Cole said.

While scoring 63 points in a season-opening win against Liberty and 44 last Thursday in a victory at Fairmont Senior, Bridgeport has 13 rushing touchdowns from six different players. Hayden Moore leads the way with four, while JD Love and starting QB Cam Cole have three apiece. 

The other two scores have come on passes — one from upback Phil Reed to Landyn Reppert against the Mountaineers and the other a 22-yard strike from Cole to Moore against the Polar Bears.

“One thing about the stick that was difficult was there’s only so much you can do out of it when it comes to releases from backs and tight ends,” Phares said. “In the Single Wing, reads will eventually lie to a defense. If we’re outside releasing, generally in the stick it’s a toss, but here it can be a pass or something on the back side of the play. 

“If we can get the reads to lie to a defense, their eyes get in the backfield and we can get something over the top. We’ve had success with that so far and hopefully it continues.”

With a matchup against unbeaten Robert C. Byrd this week, Bridgeport will continue to discover just how much progress it’s made early in the season with the Single Wing.

“There’s a lot more that comes with it that we haven’t seen or showed,” Phares said. “But we’re going to stick to what we know and what we do and try not to overload the kids too much.”