From the Bench: Looking for the Best Class AA Sports Program in the State? It's Right Here at Bridgeport

By Jeff Toquinto on June 18, 2017 from Sports Blog via

If anyone is wondering where the best sports program in Class AA is located, if they live in North Central West Virginia they don’t have to look far to find out. Based on where you’re reading this at, you’ve probably already figured out that Bridgeport High School is the elite program when it comes to ‘AA’ sports.
This isn’t hyperbole on my part. It’s not a suggestion based on pumping up the readers of this site who are or were from Bridgeport. The announcement is done as fact based on the annual Gazette-Mail Excellence in Sports Awards (GMEISA).
Understand, too, the Gazette-Mail doesn’t just sit down and decide who it is among a panel of their staff. Instead, there’s a methodology to it, and that methodology shows that it’s the Indians who are the king of the Class AA mountain.
So how is GMEISA determined? It’s simple really.
The staff takes the 19 sports that are officially sanctioned by the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission and award points on the top eight finishers in all of them. The breakdown comes with 10 sports on the boys’ side and nine for the girls.
From there, each school is awarded points on a scale of eight. A state champion winner gets eight points, a runner-up gets seven points, and third place gets six and so on.
Not only did Bridgeport win its fifth-straight GMEISA championship, it also won for the ninth time in the 21-year history of the event. The Tribe’s win in the competition this year makes it the winningest Class AA program in the history of GMEISA as it broke an 8-8 deadlock with Winfield.
“I think, for me, I’m pleased collectively for all of the athletes and the coaches. What makes this special is due to the class we graduated (in 2016) that was so strong athletically,” said BHS Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Matt DeMotto. “Our current group took the torch and they carried it on. That’s the thing that’s most pleasing.
“People need to realize we’re not always blessed with a plethora of athletes,” DeMotto continued. “That comes up and goes and is up and down, but we’re always blessed with kids that work hard and buy into the system of whatever their sport is.”
Winfield was runner-up this year. In fact, Bridgeport finished with 62 points. The Generals finished with 57.5 points. BHS did not secure the title until advancing to the state baseball championship with a regional title.
This was the closest finish in three seasons in the competition as Bridgeport had no challengers in 2016 and 2015. In 2016, the Tribe won by 30.5 points and in 2015 the margin between first place and second place was a whopping 40 points.
So how did Bridgeport amass the titles?
The Indians captured two state championships this season – boys cross country and baseball. The Indians also were within a whisker of state titles in volleyball, boys track and girls track with runner-up finishes.
Points were earned in football as a semifinalist, golf, boys swimming, girls cross country, girls basketball, softball, girls swimming, and girls tennis. What that means is Bridgeport not only won titles and competed for titles, but were strong across the board. In the 19 WVSSAC sports, the Indians scored points in the 13 of them.
“The only way you can win this consistently is to have strength in all sports,” said DeMotto. “You can’t just be strong in baseball, football and cross country.  You can’t have broad-based success if you don’t have a large percentage of your students involved as well and we’re fortunate to have that at Bridgeport.”
DeMotto has said every year that BHS has won the honor or even placed high that what makes it special is that the school is also succeeding on the academic front. Bridgeport consistently ranks at the top, near the top, of not only various Class AA academic rankings that are released, but are also at or near the top in rankings for all classifications.
“I think there’s a realization, and if not they need to get it out of their system, that in all likelihood they’re not going to earn their living as a professional athlete. I think there’s a chance one of our kids may do that for the first time ever (Harrison Musgrave, currently pitching at the AAA level in the Colorado Rockies organization) so it’s a long shot,” said DeMotto. “Sports provides the discipline, the interaction and work ethic that falls in nicely into the classroom.
“The sports honors are great, but if we can’t get it done in the classroom then we’re failing the kids and failing as a school,” he continued. “What we believe fully is that our sports programs and all extracurricular programs enhance the primary mission of academic success whose foundation include character and discipline that’s the mark of successful sports programs. This works hand in hand and it’s not a coincidence.”
After Winfield, the rest of the field consists of Fairmont Senior (51.25 points), East Fairmont (46.5 points), and Philip Barbour (21.5 points).
Bridgeport has actually only been eligible for the Class AA title in 13 years of the 21 years of the program, which means they’ve won in nine out of 13 times. Although Bridgeport never won the honor as a Class AAA program, that doesn’t mean they weren’t competitive in the GMEISA during the eight years being in the state’s largest classification.
“We actually finished as high as third place, I believe, on two occasions. In nearly every year as an ‘AAA’ school we were consistently around a top five or six school so we’ve been competitive as a larger ‘AA’ school and one of the smallest ‘AAA’ schools,” said DeMotto.
Editor's Note: Various sports teams and athletes that were involved in state titles or helping their teams place high in state competition are shown above.

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