Merica Hopes for Chance to Make Frosh Impact as He Signs to Play Football at West Virginia Wesleyan

By Jeff Toquinto on February 07, 2018 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Bridgeport High School’s football fans, those of the opposition and the coaching staff of the Indians and their foes weren’t the only ones impressed by the two-way play of senior John Merica this year. Count the coaching staff of West Virginia Wesleyan College as part of the group as well.
 
This afternoon at the Bridgeport High School library with family and coaches by his side, Merica became the latest member of the Bobcat football team. Merica signed a letter of intent to attend the Mountain East Conference school situated less than an hour from Bridgeport.
 
“It felt like home as soon as I got on campus,” said Merica, who plans to enter WVWC’s business program. “I hit it off with everyone really well and liked what the coaches had to say and what they’re doing with their program. I see what they’re trying to do and hopefully we can reach those goals in the near future, and I want to reach my education goals and that was a big part of this decision for me as well.”
 
Merica said right now he thinks he’ll be playing a familiar position in Buckhannon – defensive back. However, he said going over to the offensive side of the pigskin hasn’t been entirely ruled out.
 
“I’m looking at defensive back right now; there’s a spot open at safety right now that I hope to compete for,” said Merica. “I’m trying to get to a suitable weight for that, but if that doesn’t work out there’s a chance I could see some time at receiver.”
 
Bridgeport High School Coach John Cole thinks he’ll fit in well. And although he’s sure Merica is capable of making his mark on offense or defense, he thinks he’ll be best suited for the defensive side of the ball.
 
“I imagine he’ll play in the defensive backfield and if he works at it he’s got a pretty good chance to contribute,” said Cole. “He’s tall enough and he’s got an initial burst of speed that’s good right now and they’ll be able to work to get his overall speed even better. He’s got what you what in a defensive back at that level.
 
“The biggest thing for him is putting on some size and some more muscle, but he’s a dedicated kid so that shouldn’t be a problem,” Cole continued. “The nice thing with him is he’s got the frame to play in the defensive backfield along with the other intangibles that make players successful at any level.”
 
Merica said putting on more weight is critical if he hopes to make an early impact for West Virginia Wesleyan. He said he’s been working toward that, as well as working out, with the plan to be ready for drills when practice starts in the summer.
 
“A huge thing for me is to get my weight up to 180 or even 185 pounds going into camp,” said Merica. “That will give me a chance to compete and perhaps a chance to start. I’m hitting the gym every day and grinding it every day to get my weight up. It’s up to me to do that.”
 
Merica isn’t too far away from his preferred weight at the moment. He said he weighs 175 pounds.
 
This past season, Merica was a standout two-way player for the Tribe and his weight never proved to be an issue in leading the Tribe to an 11-2 record that ended in the Class AA semifinals for the second straight season. He not only starred on offense leading the Tribe at quarterback, but was a standout defensive back as well. And the numbers back that up.
 
Merica was the Tribe’s second leading rusher. He finished with 797 yards on 120 carries (6.6 yards per carry) and managed to score 18 touchdowns with a long run of 64 that resulted in six. More than once this past year, Cole said Merica fit perfectly into Bridgeport’s power pistol offense that allows the quarterback to make reads against the defense and run when necessary.
 
Defensively, he led the team in tackles with 59. He also had a pair of interceptions and a team-high seven pass breakups.
 
The numbers drew the attention of plenty, including the state’s sports writers. Merica was chosen as a member of the Class AA All-State first team. Junior Jake Bowen was the only other Indian to make first team this season.
 
While those numbers were impressive, Cole was impressed with something else. He said Merica was a team leader in the way many aren’t.
 
“He was quiet for the most part, but he was vocal when he needed to be,” said Cole. “The kids listened when he spoke up and they paid attention to how he played because he was just an intense completion. He was our leader on both sides of the ball. He’ll certainly be missed.”
 
Click HERE to read about another BHS player that signed today. Stories on two additional stories coming Thursday morning.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows John Merica surrounded by his family and coaches during the signing today inside the Bridgeport High School library. Second photo shows Merica running against Fairmont Senior, while he talks to Assistant Coach Bobby Marra on the sidelines in the third photo. At the bottom, Merica brings down an opponent from his defensive back spot. Bottom three photos by www.benqueenphotography.com.


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