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From the Bench: Why Bridgeport Football is Gift that Keeps on Giving and Has Now for Half a Century

By Jeff Toquinto on December 24, 2017 from Sports Blog via Connect-Bridgeport.com

The perspiration on Bridgeport High School Coach John Cole’s face was still visible despite the cold swirling air. The emotion from the ball game was still on the faces of the players as they kneeled on the field at Mitchell Stadium in Bluefield.
 
Cole’s first season as head coach of the Indians had just come to an end thanks to a 34-17 setback to eventual Class AA state champion Bluefield. By any reasonable person’s measure, the year was a success at 11-2 and finishing as one of the top four teams in the state.
 
It’s been a month to the day since the Indians lost that game. That may lead some to wonder why I’m even bringing this up.
 
For two reasons. The first is that we’ve moved offices out to Charles Pointe and I saw some notes regarding Cole’s post-game comments. And second, it’s the end of the year and it seemed like something needed to be pointed out for those not knowing and those needing reminded about the gift the football team has provided for decades now.
 
What Bridgeport High School has done on the football field since before I was born is pretty special. Honestly, what’s taken place will very likely never be duplicated in West Virginia football history in any classification for as long as football is played.
 
Cole didn’t break down the numbers following the game. All he did was remind his senior players, many with tears in their eyes, what they did was carry on the tradition of excellence established at the school that goes back even before the numbers I’m about to post.
 
Here’s what happened as the result of this year’s 11-2 record. It marked Bridgeport’s 50th straight year of non-losing seasons. It marked the 25th straight year of winning seasons. And it marked the team’s 25th straight playoff appearance.
 
Want a bonus statistic?
 
This was the 13th straight year the Tribe hosted a first round playoff game. What that means is that the Indians have not only been winning, but they’ve been ranked among the top eight teams for those last 13 years when the regular season came to a conclusion.
 
About the only thing Bridgeport doesn’t have a death grip on – and I’m assuming these records are correct – is the all-time playoff records. Even in that, the Indians are second.
 
Bluefield leads the way (along with having 11 state titles to Bridgeport’s 9), but the Indians are No. 2 with a playoff mark of 55-29 (.655 percent). That puts them ahead of No. 3 Wheeling Central, No. 4 Martinsburg and No. 5 Parkersburg.
 
Even being ranked second there is nothing to be ashamed of. And not a jab at any other school – because those programs are all impressive – it’s going to be hard to do what BHS is currently still doing and mentioned above. In particular, the non-losing and winning seasons are almost hard to fathom.
 
“It’s impressive and it’s quite a feat to have those numbers,” Cole said earlier this year after the Indians had wrapped up another non-losing and winning season. “The kids know about the streak and I know about it. Back when I played, my teams nearly ended the non-losing streak twice before we made a big run our senior year.”
 
Cole goes back to 1982 and the 1983 seasons when Bridgeport had back-to-back 5-5 campaigns. And 1983 seemed like the one year the team would see the run end with a 3-5 mark and home games remaining against Fairmont Senior and Buckhannon-Upshur. Somehow, the Tribe managed a 21-19 win against the Polar Bears and a 12-7 victory against B-U to keep things marching toward 50.
 
Since Cole’s team’s tempted fate, the Indians really pushed the enveloped in 1992. The club was actually 3-5 (after starting the 0-3) and needed a 48-7 win against Philip Barbour in game nine and a 20-6 win against Preston in week 10 to salvage the streak.
 
It should be noted Cole’s senior year saw the team make it to the ‘AA’ semifinals. The team would lose a heartbreaking 7-6 contest to Grafton that year and finish 9-3.
 
To find the last losing season for Bridgeport you have to go back to 1967 and Coach Ed Carter, whose team went 3-7 that year. The team started out 2-0 before losing seven in a row. It should be noted that Carter posted winning seasons in 1968 and 1969, the first two of the 50-year run.
 
The culture of winning, however, was planted under legendary Coach Wayne Jamison when he took over the helm in 1970. Decades of winning followed, including four state championships in 1972, 1979, 1986 and 1988.
 
The winning and state titles continued under Bruce Carey and Josh Nicewarner. Cole actually coached with all of them and played for Jamison. He said playing for Jamison is something he’ll never forget.
 
“There was this philosophy he brought that let you know he knew he was dealing with kids and he knew the types of kids he had. He never had the best athletes or the fastest kids so he creates a climate where you minimize mistakes and take advantage of what you have,” said Cole. “That double tight end stick-I was playing the percentages and no one played them better.
 
“The other thing that you wanted to do was to never let him down,” Cole continued. “When we came close to having losing seasons, there was a lot of motivation not to let it happen and it all started with him. To this day, every one that has followed (coaching) has used the same basic philosophy that was used when I played in the 1980s. That’s a pretty impressive testament to a coach.”
 
The entire program is pretty impressive. In fact, when you think about this holiday season, it’s the gift that just keeps giving.
 
And it’s been giving now for half a century. 
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows BHS Coach John Cole addressing his team immediately after their season-ending loss to Bluefield, while he's shown at the bottom consoling lineman Jimmy Allison after the same game (photos by Ben Queen of www.benqueenphotography.com). Second, third and fourth photos are of some of the Indians' all-time greats, all of whom have played a part in 50 years of non-losing seasons. In the third photo is Brian Zickefoose and he's followed by Chris Marteny. In the fourth photo, Charlie Fest is shown forcing a fumble. Those photos are courtesy of Mrs. Alice Rowe and the Bridgeport High School journalism department.


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