Kornbrath’s Kick Lifts Bridgeport Past Park

WHEELING – After watching Connor Kornbrath nail the game-winning field goal on the final play of last week’s opener, Bridgeport first-year coach Josh Nicewarner had no idea his 6-foot-6, 200-pound junior would need to do it again Friday night.

Especially after Kornbrath missed two extra points, had another one blocked and hit the crossbar on a 45-yard field goal late in the first half.

However, following an incredible drive from the Indians’ 2yard-line to Wheeling Park’s 27 in the final 2 minutes and 10 seconds, Kornbrath was given another chance to atone for his earlier misses. This time from 44 yards out, Kornbrath boomed one through the uprights that would have been good from more than 50 yards to give Bridgeport a 29-27 victory, breaking the hearts of the Patriots players coaches and fans at Wheeling Island Stadium.

It was a stunning loss for Park (0-2), as Coach Chris Daugherty’s team appeared to have this one in the bag after Cameron Allen’s 38-yard punt was downed at the Bridgeport 2.

Although Bridgeport quarterback Ben Williams earlier had caught the Patriots defense napping with two completions that covered 102 yards, and rambling tailback Corey Wagner had run for 260 yards on 32 carries, Nicewarner decided it was time to change things up.

He let Wagner carry the ball the first two plays for 20 yards but then took him out the game and moved the quicker and speedier Garrett Parker to the tailback post.

”We knew after we hit the two big pass plays on them and with the time running out, Park would have to loosen its defense,” Nicewarner explained. ”Corey really runs well but he is our grinder and Parker’s faster. I figured we could still move the ball running it, but how many yards we would be able to get was the big question. So we called two plays in the huddle every time and we were able to use our timeouts when we needed them.

”I knew we had to save the last one to kick the field goal.”

Parker’s number was called six straight times and he responded by sprinting for 61 yards, moving the ball to the Patriots 27 when Bridgeport called its final timeout with only 2.8 seconds left.

Wheeling Park then followed by using one of its timeouts to give Kornbrath some extra time to think about his final attempt. But it was to no avail as the snap and hold were perfect and Kornbrath did the rest.

”That was the only one he hit all night,” said the youthful Nicewarner, an assistant coach at Bridgeport for eight seasons before getting the head job. ”If you told me we were going to win by a field goal again, I’m not sure that I’d still be standing here talking to you.

”I’m 27, but right now I feel like I’m 67.”

While there was jubilation outside and inside the Bridgeport locker room, on the other side of the field the Patriots were in shock and obviously frustrated.

After all, the Park offense did about everything it could to win the game. Senior running back Zach Morris, who rushed for more than 100 yards in last week’s one-sided loss to Morgantown, was one yard shy of 200 on Friday. He averaged more than 11 yards a carry while using his elusiveness and speed on the edge to scoot for 199 yards on 18 attempts.

Midway through the first quarter with the Indians leading 6-0, Morris started toward the right sideline after taking a pitch from quarterback Alex Triveri, made a dazzling cut in between two defenders and raced 80 yards to paydirt.

The Patriots also got two TD runs on misdirection plays from quick sophomore Josh Dent, a 13-yard keeper by Triveri for another score and some hard-nosed runs up the middle by fullback Alex Schramm, who helped key Park’s go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.

Overall, the Patriots ground game accounted for 338 yards on 49 attempts.

”People say Park is down but I don’t see it,” Nicewarner pointed out. ”I think we got a little better from last week and they got a lot better. They really hurt us with their misdirection but our linebackers and tackles are still getting the feel out there. Until, they improve, we are going to be a little big soft.”

”I’m proud of my kids and my coaches,” Daugherty said. ”We made some good adjustments and the kids did a better job offensively. We had some things working and we were able to use them.”

Daugherty felt Park was one drive away from closing the game down.

”But when you punt the ball within an inch of the goal line with so little time left, we deserved better than what we got,” he added.

The story of the night for both defenses wasn’t hard to figure out. Bridgeport had trouble catching Morris and the Patriots were unable to tackle Wagner most of the night ,and Parker at the end when the hosts needed a stop in the first way.

The Indians’ first possession resulted in an eight-play, 65-yard drive, all on the ground with Wagner picking up 53 on six carries, and Parker collecting the final 8 with a nice spin move that got him into the end zone. Kornbrath was wide however, on the conversion attempt.

Park needed just one play after the kickoff, Morris’s sparkling 80-yard touchdown run and Matthew Carter’s successful conversion put the Patriots ahead 7-6 at the 5:22 mark of the opening quarter.

Williams’ 52-yard pass to an open Curtis Stanley set up Wagner’s scoring thrust from the 14. Schramm broke through to block the extra point, leaving Bridgeport’s lead at 12-7.

It took the Patriots 13 plays to drive 56 yards to regain the lead at 13-12 as Dent on second and goal, took a pitch from Schramm and found a hole of the left side with 8:57 remaining in the first half.

However, the Indians struck right back with an 80-yard drive that consumed 10 plays and more than 5 minutes of clock time with Wagner going up the middle for the final 8 yards and then tacking on the 2-point conversion.

Trailing 20-13 entering the third quarter, the Patriots forced a punt and moved right down the field with a nine-play 66-yard drive. Triveri, on a keeper, turned it up inside and took it the final 13 yards.

With Devin Earnest making two big hits on Wagner to force another Bridgeport punt, the Patriots put together another long drive of 66 yards, the key play a 15-yard, third-down conversion pass to Vondel Bell. Dent, coming from the slot position again got the touchdown from 2 yards out and Carter’s placement put the Patriots in front 27-20 with 9:54 to place.

Williams’ 50-yard completion to another open receiver, Zachary Randolph, paved the way for an 8-yard keeper run by the Indians QB. But the extra point attempt was wide right, leaving Bridgeport one point behind with 6:47 left.

Park took 4:37 off the clock on its next possession before the punt that pinned the Indians deep but with barely enough time to get in position for the game-winning three-pointer.

Despite the loss, Daugherty refused to hang his head.

”We’ve got a resilient bunch of kids and coaches in that locker room,” he said. ”No one is going to quit.

”I wouldn’t trade any of them. We will be all right.”