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From the Bench: Why a Shoulder Shrug with Indians Football Translates into a Trademark of Excellence

By Jeff Toquinto on November 04, 2018 from Sports Blog via Connect-Bridgeport.com

There’s good. There’s great. And then there’s excellent.
 
If you’re looking for another adjective for part three in that segment, look up Bridgeport High School football. Okay, so saying the Indians have an “excellent” program is not exactly ground breaking news.
 
But let’s emphasize what makes this program excellent. The high school football postseason begins Friday and to no one’s surprise the Indians are in it.
 
That type of news, at best, will get a shoulder shrug. Perhaps that’s the greatest testament to the excellence of the Bridgeport High School football program going back all the way to the early days of Wayne Jamison to today’s team led by John Cole.
 
Bridgeport is in the playoffs for the 26th straight season. It is not only the longest ongoing streak in West Virginia, it’s the longest streak ever in our state. They’ve done that primarily as a Class AA program and when the school moved to Class AAA the Indians again found themselves not only extending the streak, but twice making it to the ‘AAA’ semifinals.
 
Of course, there are those that would perhaps put an asterisk on the streak. After all, in 1990 the state went to a 16-team playoff field after having an eight-team field that ran from 1978 to 1989. While it may be easier to get into the mix, the fact that no one else has managed to post anywhere near the BHS numbers during the current format speaks volumes.
 
“It’s really just incredible,” said Travis Jones, the voice of the Indians on WAJR radio broadcasts. “When you think that there are schools in that current 26-year time period that haven’t been to the playoffs it makes it even more impressive.
 
“I know some people make the case since the field has expanded to 16 it’s not as hard to get in and it’s a valid point,” he continued. “Yet, to do it 26 years in a row simply isn’t easy and is actually, even with 16-teams in the field, amazing.”
 
Jones and the streak are kind of synonymous. His first year calling games on the radio was in 1993 and that was the year the Indians began their postseason run.
 
It was in 1992 the Indians last were out of the playoff field. The team went 5-5 that season and twice rallied to get to .500. Bridgeport started the year 0-3 before winning three in a row. That was followed by two losses and two critical wins in the final two games to stay at .500 on the year.
 
Bridgeport beat Philip Barbour and Preston in the last two games of the year to get to 5-5. The reason that’s important is because it allowed Bridgeport to have another state record that gives an even bigger and second stamp of excellence on the program.
 
Thanks to surviving that season (as well as getting to 5-5 in 1974, 1982 and 1983) the Indians were able to complete yet another year of a “non-losing” campaign. In other words, they may not have qualified for the playoffs in some years, but the Tribe didn’t dip below .500.
 
How many years in a row has that happened? The Indians have just completed the trick for the 51st straight year. Again, no one in West Virginia can say that. It’s not only never been done, it’s ongoing.
 
The last losing season? You’d have to go back to 1967 (I wasn’t even born) in the first of three seasons that Ed Carder served as the coach and the Indians went 3-7. Carder would follow that up with 8-2 and 9-1 seasons before giving way to the Wayne Jamison era starting in 1970 – and the winning hasn’t ended.
 
During the 51 years, the Indians have won eight state championships. Two of them in Class AAA and six of them in Class AA. The previous title came in 1955 under Coach John Murphy when only two classes existed and Bridgeport was considered a Class A school.
 
It is, in a word, impressive. While I understand the shoulder shrugs when mentioned, it’s still a big deal where those involved should instead hold their heads high. It’s why the program is stamped in excellence.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows John Cole explaining to his team this year what it means to wear the colors of the Indians. Second picture shows Anthony Bonamico sealing the 2013 Class AA state title by knocking away a last second touchdown pass attempt against Wayne, while the third photo shows the late and legendary Coach Wayne "Smiley" Jamison celebrating one of his four state championships. At the bottom, Brad Minetree goes high to haul in a pivotal reception against Parkersburg at Hite Field in the 1979 Class AAA semifinal that propelled the Indians to the title that season. Top photo by www.benqueenphotography.com. Bottom three photos all courtesy of the now retired Mrs. Alice Rowe and the Bridgeport High School journalism department.


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