Heaven forbid that a player from the Wayne Jamison era at Bridgeport High School do something that drew the coach’s attention. If it did, chances are good Jamison would never forget. A case in point may be Jamison’s first thoughts about Frank Jenio.
“I can always remember he wanted to tie his jersey up in the front. Whether it was hot or cold, Jenio always did that,” Jamison said chuckling. “They made a rule against that eventually. I’m not positive, but I’d bet he’s the person responsible for that rule.”
What he is certainly responsible for is some of the best play by a lineman in the past 40 years of Bridgeport High School football. And once you get past Jamison’s first recollection, he’ll give you his next recollection of Jenio.
“He was a good lineman and when he was playing he was all business,” Jamison said. “There was no foolishness with him and I liked that fact
that he didn’t clown around in practice. He enjoyed himself and being around the other players, but he was more serious about everything and took the game and the way he played it very serious.”
Jenio was one of the players that contributed significantly on the 1986 Class AA state title team as a junior and bridged the gap to the 1988 championship season with a monster 1987 senior season.
“For a lineman, he was far from big, but was extremely strong,” an analyst with the 40 for 40 committee said. “At tackle on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball he was undersized, but he had technique, strength and leverage. There wasn’t a weight program back then so I don’t know if he lifted weights, but he sure looked like a kid that spent some time in the weight room.”
And never was that leverage more of a factor during his junior season when he faced off against Tucker County’s massive lineman. The
lineman, considered one of the best in the state, came in topping 6’5 and weighing more than 300 pounds. Jenio countered with a 5’10, 186-pound frame that ended up more than holding his own in what turned out to be a 10-7 win.
“He just manhandled that guy. If I remember correctly, the player from Tucker County was so gassed at the end of the game that he wasn’t in there,” the analyst said. “That effort kind of summed up the entire career of Jenio.”
While Jenio was a second team Class AA All-State pick as a junior and a first team selection as a senior – both times on offense – it was on defense where he often made the most visible noise. During the regular season, the Indians gave up just seven points a game during Jenio’s senior year of action.
“He was consistently finding his way into the other team’s backfield when he was on defense; and I mean always in the backfield. He created havoc that was as impressive as anyone on defense in recent memory,” the analyst said. “I guess it would be hard to single him out
on offense because those teams he was on just worked so fluidly together, but on defense he completely stood out. I’m certain he was just as good on the line on offense, but I think most people that remember Frank remember what he did on the defensive side of the ball.”
They’ll also remember him as a member of the 1986 championship team. And they’ll remember him for putting the Indians back into position to nearly play for another title in his senior season.
After the 12-1 ’86 campaign ended with a title by way of a 10-7 win against the aforementioned Mountain Lions of Tucker County, the 1987 year ended against the same TCHS squad. This time, in the Class AA semifinals, Bridgeport dropped a heartbreaking 26-20 decision to Tucker County. The setback, however, had nothing to do with the play of Jenio.
“He brought it every game whether it was the regular season, the playoffs, or heck, even practice,” Jamison said. “He was just such a strong kid. Plus, he was a real good blocker and that’s what was so important for our success.”
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Frank Jenio making a diving tackle in what would turn out to be a 13-6 loss - the only one of the year - to Fairmont Senior during the regular season of his junior year. Middle photo shows Jenio busting up a play between five defenders on his way to yet another tackle. Bottom row shows Jenio, front row and far left (53), getting his photo taken as part of the returning letter winners for the 1987 season. Pictured, front row from left, are Jenio, Marion Bombardiere, Greg Salfia, Troy Freels, and Scott Lewis. Second row, from left, are Lonnie Sprouse, Anthony Maholic, Jeff Spencer, Chris Huey, and Jim Smell. Third row, from left, Todd Hineman, John Slavich, David Bowers, Kevin Fleming, and Tracy McDonald. The top two photos in this article are courtesy of the Bridgeport High School journalism department and teacher Mrs. Alice Rowe. Connect-Bridgeport would like to thank Mrs. Rowe for her cooperation in assisting with the 40 for 40 series and providing archives necessary to move the project forward.
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