BROOKSIDE – In its second season of once again playing home games at Perkins Field, Bridgeport will celebrate 100 years of playing football at the remodeled facility this fall with six home contests.
“Maybe that will make up for not playing any here for several years,” fifth-year head coach Fred Ray joked about the Bulldogs inability to play home games for several seasons due to structural damage of the wooden grandstands after decades of flooding.
“That’s pretty unique,” he said of 100 years at one place.
Bridgeport has 31 kids suited up this fall, something that has Ray smiling.
“Our numbers are solid. They have steadily increased since I’ve been here,” Ray noted. “When the numbers go up it means the kids are buying into what we, as coaches, are teaching them.”
Coach Fred Ray discusses the upcoming campaign
The Bulldogs have 31 kids out this season, and 18 are returnees.
“That is a big plus for us,” Ray said of the returning experience. “We’ve got nearly all of our skill players back this season, but we graduated almost everyone up front.
“This senior class played a lot as freshmen when they got thrown into the fire really quick and took their lumps. I expect them to have a good senior year.”
As far as the lines, Ray will go with the youth movement.
“We’ll play a lot of young guys up front and see how it goes,” he said. “That’s all you can do.”
Bridgeport will once again utilize the spread offense.
“We’ve got a lot of returners on this side of the ball. We’ve also got some guys that we want to get the ball to in space and let them use their speed to make plays,” Ray continued.
Senior Colin Jackson (6-1, 185) will be a three-year starter.
“He came in the third or fourth week of his freshman season and has started ever since,” Ray said. “He has progressively gotten better and we’re counting on a lot of big things from him this year.
“The big difference in Colin this year is his body has developed from lifting weights and it has allowed him to put more velocity on his passes. He has a lot more touch and, hopefully, more accuracy.”
Jackson completed 52 of 97 passes last fall for 866 yards, 11 touchdowns and six picks. He also ran 58 times for 137 yards and four scores.
Sophomores Avery Jackson (6-0, 170) and Beau Charlton (5-9, 150), along with freshman Dylan Charlton (5-7, 130) are also listed as quarterbacks.
The running backs are a veteran stable led by seniors Joey Bugaj (5-8, 160) and Peyton Pyle (5-10, 175); and junior Michael Marshall (5-9, 150). Freshman A.J. Bishop (5-7, 135) is also expected to get carries, as will sophomore Daniel Goff (5-9, 155).
As a sophomore, Bugaj gained 588 yards and scored five TDs on 106 carries.
“We’re hoping he is cleared any day,” Ray said of Bugaj who suffered an upper arm injury on the opening kickoff last season.
Marshall picked up 294 yards and reached the end zone seven times on 42 carries last season, while Pyle ran for 228 yards on 67 totes and scored one TD.
Senior Jason Aubrey (5-8, 135) is recovering from a knee injury and will be sidelined to start the campaign. He rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries in limited action a year ago.
Senior Mason Aberts (5-9, 160), junior Lamar Kendricks Jr. (5-7, 150) and freshman Jaki Threet (5-11, 165) are vying for the wide receiver spots. Avery Jackson and both Charlton’s will see action at wideout, as will senior Kyle Kerns (5-8, 140); sophomore Lyrick Brown (5-9, 145) and freshmen Saylor Robinson (6-0, 145), Braylon Lewis (5-8, 125) and Owenn Clark (5-7, 125).
“We’ve got solid speed and pretty good hands on the outside,” Ray noted.
Aberts snagged 19 passes for 241 yards and four touchdowns a year ago, while Aubrey had seven catches for 91 yards and two scores. Pyles caught seven passes.
“The offensive line is a work in progress at this point. We’re working a lot of guys in and out up front, but we’ll know a lot more after our scrimmages with Toronto and Newcomerstown,” Ray admitted.
Junior Law Chambers (6-0, 180) is the returning starter at center, but he could move to guard. Others in the mix are sophomore Robert Wenysel (5-10, 240) and freshman Will Hunt (5-7, 225) and Chad Coulson (6-0, 235).
Junior Nate Galownia (5-9, 190) will hold down the right guard, with Chambers likely on the left side.
The tackles will be senior Hunter Hannahs (6-2, 180); sophomore Logan Baker (6-0, 225) and freshman Justin Eckert (6-1, 290).
Other linemen include junior KaVone Allison (6-0, 155); sophomore Kaleb McCamick (5-7, 170); and freshmen Ivan Wines (5-8, 180), Easton Varner (5-7, 160) and James Weekly (5-8, 220).
The Bulldogs will use the 4-4 defensive alignment.
Chambers and Galownia will man the end spots, with Allison and McCamick as backups.
The down tackles will be Hannahs, Wensyel, Baker, Hunt, Coulson, Weekly, Eckert, Varner and Wines.
Bugaj, Pyle, Marshall, Bishop and Brown will rotate at the linebackers, with Threet also vying for playing time.
Kendricks and Avery Jackson at the corners.
Aberts and Colin Jackson are the safeties.
Others listed in the secondary are Beau Charlton, Dylan Charlton, Lewis, Goff, Clark, Aubrey, Kerns and Robinson.
Beau Charlton will handle the place kicking duties, with Chambers doing the punting.
The lone change on the schedule has Steubenville Catholic replacing Federal Hocking.
The coaching staff remains intact with Cole Smelley, Larry Deem, Greg Honecker and Justin Hill.
Lost to graduation were Anthony Jaworski, Jacob Powell, Taylor Day, Andrew Billos, Max Stopski, Cody Swauger, Frank Smith, Aiden Tarr and Sean White.