During the 1994 Bridgeport High School season, Bridgeport was faced with the task of heading to Shinnston play one of the better Lincoln High squads in recent memory. The Cougars had plenty of talent – including a Division I West Virginia University signee – and an undefeated record to their credit in what was billed to be a contest for the ages.
As it turned out, the 1994 prep football contest of the year was no contest. And it was essentially over after the game’s first play.
The Cougars started the game with a toss sweep to the right, hoping to establish their power running game that had been so effective to that point. On the play, the Indians’ defensive tackle, Mike Wilson, came barreling through the line as if shot out of a cannon, grabbed the Lincoln running back five yards behind the line of scrimmage with the help of a teammate and viciously hurled him to the ground.
“I was standing behind Coach (Wayne) Jamison on that play and it was a sweep toward the visitor’s side of the field. Some
one actually got to the back first and had him by the thighs when Mike hit the guy so hard it sound like a gun went off. The gun went down in a heap,” said Jason Hosaflook, the starting senior center on that squad. “It was like that one play from the longest yard where the guy got laid out and everyone thought the guy was dead. It was that nasty of a hit.”
While there was almost a complete game to play, the tone had been set. The game was over. By night’s end, the Tribe left Stydahar Field with a 35-0 win.
The game changer, Wilson, created that type of havoc despite being completely undersized for a tackle at 6’2 and 175 pounds. As this game proved, Wilson lived on the emotional edge. Well, almost over the edge, but that was to his advantage and, even better, his teammates knew how to push his buttons.
Prior to the Lincoln game, Wilson would often be greeted in the school parking lot with a note under his mode of transportation to school that day – whether it was a vehicle or a motorcycle. The note would always be signed by a Lincoln player and would let Wilson know just exactly what the Cougars had in store for him. Of course, this enraged Wilson who was certain the notes were authentic. As history and one his former teammates tells us, they were not.
“I can’t remember who was responsible for doing that, but it was almost certainly Jason Perine or Chad Reppert,” said Hosaflook. “I can remember he wasn’t just angry, but enraged to the point where he wanted to go to Shinnston and Lumberport and fight. After each note he wanted to go down and find the guy that supposedly signed it.
“If I recall, it was a daily thing that week. We were getting a kick out of seeing him so riled up,” Hosaflook continued. “He’s more of one to get fired up before thinking if the notes were real or not. His fuse was so short that those guys knew exactly what they were doing to get him enraged.”
The same reckless abandon Wilson played with during that Lincoln game was the same approach he took in every game during his senior year. It should also be noted that his senior season was his only season with the BHS program, but in that one season, another teammate of Wilson's described his as "completely unblockable."
It wasn’t that Wilson didn’t want to play for Bridgeport in prior years. Certainly, it wasn’t a matter of being cut by the BHS coaching staff. Wilson arrived prior to the 1994-95 school year as a transfer from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. For a team that has never led Harrison County in transfers, this was certainly a nice out-of-state gift under the BHS football Christmas tree. As it turned out, that gift kept giving the entire 1994 season.
“He was a really undersized defensive tackle,” an analyst on the 40 for 40 panel that watched Wilson in every game that season said. “He was also tough as nails.
“Mike was pretty quick for a tackle. You know, he was actually unbelievably quick,” the analyst continued. “The thing that really worked to his advantage was that he had a nasty streak in him. When it came to getting to the ball carrier, he just would not be denied.”
That attitude was noticed by other coaches around the state. By season’s end, Wilson was a Class AA All State first team defensive lineman. He also captured first team defensive honors for the All-Harrison County, All-Monon Valley and All-Big 10 Conference first teams as well.
“He was into football and like; and he enjoyed practice,” said Jamison. “It didn’t matter how hard practice was, how hot it was, he was there to have a good time because he enjoyed.
“Of course, he also enjoyed hitting people and didn’t mind getting down and dirty,” Jamison continued. “One other thing stood out and that was that he didn’t like to lose.”
Bridgeport didn’t do a whole lot of losing that year. After dropping their season open in double overtime to Magnolia by a 21-14 score, Bridgeport won eight straight games. In that winning streak, the defense that had Wilson spearheading things managed to post four shutouts in wins against South Harrison, Lincoln, Grafton and Philip Barbour.
The 8-2 mark got Bridgeport into the postseason. The team upended East Bank by a 21-14 score in the opening round of the playoffs before falling to eventual state champion Poca on the road in the second round by a 19-7 score.
Editor's Note: Mike Wilson shown on the sidelines during one of his games from his senior year. Bottom photo shows Wilson, kneeling in the front row far left, receiving recognition for his senior season efforts at the annual Frank Loria Awards banquet. Photos courtesy of Jason Hosaflook.
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