For the casual observer, there weren’t too many surprises during the first day of Bridgeport High School’s football practice. There were kids running, kids sweating and more than one kid vomiting. While all of those sites were part of the normal itinerary, there was something that may have left long-time Harrison County prep football followers shaking their heads.
Working with the coaching staff was Tom Hilton. The long-time Liberty head football coach and Mountaineer athletic director that got his coaching career started back in the days of Victory High School was back on the field for the first time in more than a decade.
Hilton wasn’t lost. He wasn’t trying to get the inside scoop on the Indians to help out the Mountaineers, particularly considering the two teams don’t play this year. Rather, Hilton was doing more than just working with the coaching staff. He’s now officially part of it.
Recently, Hilton was named the new Bridgeport assistant freshman football coach. And Hilton knows that his presence will leave a few folks shaking their heads.
“They’ll probably be a few heart attack victims going to UHC (when they find out). They may want to get their people in,” Hilton said with a laugh. “I’m sure it will be a shock to some.”
Hilton recently moved to Bridgeport after retiring as a decades-long educator. He was contacted to see if he would be interested in assisting Coach Jeff Hathaway on the freshman squad and he decided to get his feet wet again to see if he enjoyed it. As it turned out, he did.
“I guess I missed it. Coming down in June for the three-week thing I realized I really missed it,” said Hilton.
Hilton will be working with the linemen for the freshman team and has been assisting with the linemen on the varsity squad as well.
What he’s found out is that a lot of the things with Bridgeport today, from a technique and football language standpoint, are the same.
“Almost everything, especially with the lineman, is exactly what we did,” Hilton said. “Some things have changed over time, but football’s football. Linemen block and linemen tackle. It’s really that simple.”
One other thing is relatively the same. Hilton said Bridgeport is doing the same things that they did when he coached at Liberty in the 1970s, the 1980s and into the 1990s.
“It’s exactly the same. I don’t think they’ve changed since God walked on the earth and probably put the stick-I in at that time,” Hilton joked. “It’s always the same. When I coached against them, I’d tell the other coaches there was no need to scout Bridgeport because we knew exactly what they were going to do. Actually, they’d flat out tell you what they were going to do. They’d tell you where they were going to run and tell you to try and stop it. Problem was most people didn’t stop it.”
Hilton and Hathaway’s freshmen players had the opportunity to voluntarily work with the varsity players during the first week of practice. They report for the first official day of freshman football Monday.