BROOKSIDE — The communities that comprise the Bridgeport Exempted Village School District, as well as a huge alumni backing, are beaming with pride as the Bulldogs will play their first home game in four seasons at the renovated Perkins Field inside Bill Jobko Stadium.
Bridgeport has not played a true “home” contest since dropping a 52-6 decision to Cameron in Week 10 of 2017, splitting “home” games between Red Devil Stadium in St. Clairsville and Purple Rider Stadium inside the Dave Bruney Football Complex in Martins Ferry in 2018 before playing exclusively in Martins Ferry the last two seasons.
That will all change on Saturday, Aug. 28 when Monroe Central visits for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
“That’s going to be pretty cool because, for me, it’s been never,” fourth-year head coach Fred Ray assessed. “I’ve never coached a game on this field and my seniors haven’t played here since they were in eighth grade.
“The kids are fired up and looking forward to it as are the coaches,” Ray continued. “The community is ready for a home football game. It’s going to an exciting time.”
Jonathan Bugaj and Christian Waterman were the lone graduation losses.
Offensively, Bridgeport will still spread defenses out and try to take advantage of getting its skilled players in open space.
Junior Colin Jackson (6-0, 175) returns for his third year in the shotgun-style offense. He threw for 778 yards and seven TDs last fall.
Coach Fred Ray on the upcoming campaign
“He’s not only grown physically, but he has also grown mentally,” Ray said.
“He’s got a good grasp of our offense. We on the board the other day drawing stuff up. I told him what I wanted and he went to the board and drew it up. That’s definitely a positive step for him.”
Junior Mason Aberts (5-9, 155) will serve as a backup. Freshman Avery Jackson (5-10, 150) is also listed at quarterback.
The starting center position is still up for debate, according to the head coach.
“We’ve got a few guys that have been rotating in there in practice,” he said of seniors Jacob Powell (5-10, 210) and Anthony Jaworski (5-9, 180) and freshman Law Chambers (5-10, 175).
Seniors Taylor Day (5-10, 220) and Andrew Billos (5-10, 195) will man the guard slots, with senior Max Stopski (5-10, 245) and sophomore Nate Galownia (5-10, 175).
Also listed as linemen are senior Cody Swauger (5-10, 175); junior Hunter Hannahs (6-1, 180); sophomore Kavone Allison (5-9, 155) and freshman Robert Wensyl (5-9, 240).
“We’ve got decent size and the kids have really worked hard in the weight room,” Ray allowed.
Junior Joey Bugaj (5-9, 170) returns as the tailback.
He toted the leather 106 times last season for 588 yards and five six-pointers.
“Joey is hard-nosed and has some speed,” Ray said.
Senior Frank Smith Sr. (5-10, 215) also returns for another season in the backfield.
Sophomore Michael Marshall (5-9, 160) and freshman Kalen McCammick (5-7, 140) are the other running backs.
Aberts, along with seniors Aiden Tarr (5-7, 145) and Sean White (5-8, 155) lead the wide receiving contingent. Junior prospects include Peyton Pyle (5-9, 155) and Jason Aubrey (5-8, 140), with sophomores Lamar Kendricks Jr. (5-6, 155) and Justin Myers (5-7, 145), along with freshmen Lyric Brown (5-9, 145) and Beau Charlton (5-8, 145) also in the mix.
The tight end is sophomore Asher Stockwell (6-2, 180).
Defensively, Bridgeport will remain in its basic 4-4 defense.
“We’ve got a good nucleus back on this side of the ball,” Ray revealed. “That’s a big thing for us to have that experience.”
Smith will man one of the end positions while Stockwell and Jaworski are competing at the other end. Chambers, Galownia, Swauger and Anderson are also listed there.
Day and Billos start at the down tackles, with Allison, Powell, Hannahs, Stopski and Wensyl in the wings.
Bugaj holds down one middle backer spot. Marshall is the other. On the outside are Pyle and White battling on one side, with Aberts on the other side. Also listed are Brown and McCammick.
The secondary consists of Kendricks Jr., Charlton, Colin Jackson, Avery Jackson, Aubrey, Tarr and Myers.
Smith did a good job of kicking off last season and will continue to do so, according to Ray, who also hinted that the Bulldogs would go for two points a lot this season. Chambers is another option, while there are several players trying to become the punter.
The schedule remains intact from the COVID stricken season a year ago, in which Bridgeport finished at 3-6 in Division VII.
“The good thing about that is you know pretty much what your opponents are going to do, but at the same time, they know pretty much what your are going to do. So it kind of balances out,” Ray said.
The Bulldogs coaching staff is pretty much the same as years past with Larry Deem, Cole Smelley, Greg Honecker and Dennis Kasper. The lone newcomer is Justin Hill.
“I’m not real big on what our season outlook will be. We’re going to take it one game at a time,” Ray explained. “I know one thing, we are a better team this year than we were a year ago and two years ago. Hopefully, that transitions into more wins for us.”
Andrew Billos, Taylor Day, Anthony Jaworski, Jacob Powell, Frank Smith Jr., Max Stopski, Cody Swauger, Aiden Tarr and Sean White
Mason Aberts, Jason Aubrey, Joey Bugaj, Hunter Hannahs, Colin Jackson and Peyton Pyle
Kavone Allison, Law Chambers, Nathan Galownia, Lamar Kendricks Jr., Michael Marshall, Justin Myers and Asher Stockwell
Lyric Brown, Beau Charlton, Avery Jackson, Kaleb McCammick and Robert Wensyl