Outside the Tribe: Bridgeport's Rohrig Deserves Spot in Kennedy Award Discussion as State's Top Player

By Chris Johnson on November 14, 2023 from Outside the Tribe via

Time was winding down in Bridgeport’s 28-27 victory against George Washington in the Class AAA quarterfinals when Zach Rohrig had a big decision to make.
The Indians had just secured a one-point lead when Wes Brown blocked an extra point following the third touchdown pass of the game for GW’s Abe Fenwick to Keegan Sack.
Rohrig took a direct snap from the GW 15 with roughly 1:30 left to play and he had a clear shot at the end zone and his second touchdown of the game and 22nd of the season. However, he knew the Patriots had the type of passing attack they would have more than enough time to get down the field, score, go for two and potentially tie the game.
Rohrig, like he has done countless times during his time as a standout baseball player, slid pefectly. After picking up the first down he ensured the Indians would be advancing in the playoffs as they promptly ran out the clock from there.
I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of Zach Rohrig highlight-reel worthy plays the past two years, but that slide may end up being the smartest play he has made in his career.
That’s the type of play a leader makes, a coach on the field makes and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the type of play a Kennedy Award winner makes.
I’ve been touting Rohrig as Kennedy Award (given annually to the state’s top high school football player) and a Curt Warner Award candidate (given annually to the state’s top high school football running back) since August and through 12 weeks, he’s done nothing to change my mind.
Earlier this year, the Indians extended their running state records of non-losing seasons to 56 and playoff appearances to 31. Currently the No. 8 seed in the Class AAA playoffs, they will play at Cabell Midland on Friday night in a game that marks the programs 17th consecutive year they have made it at least to the quarterfinals.
Rohrig has certainly been a big reason why as through 11 games he has 1,609 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on 202 attempts. On defense he has 24 tackles from his safety spot along with three interceptions, three pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
On special teams, Rohrig began the year as the team’s primary kicker out of necessity and booted seven extra points. The team has punted just six times this season and Rohrig has taken care of that four times. He’s returned six kicks for an average of 26 yards per return and two punts for an average of 29 yards per punt.
Rohrig has scored at least one touchdown in every game this year and has at least two in six games.
You want a big explosive long TD run, or you want one down in the trenches close to the goal line? He’s go you covered.
Eleven of his touchdown runs have covered at least 20 yards, including four of 60 or more yards. Seven of his touchdowns have come from 5 yards or less.
I think most people would agree that the toughest opponents on Bridgeport’s schedule thus far have been Morgantown, Fairmont Senior, Parkersburg South, Linsly and George Washington.
Against Morgantown, Rohrig carried the ball 33 times for 182 yards and a touchdown in a 22-14 loss. His numbers for the Fairmont Senior game, 226 yards on 31 carries and two TDs in a 40-20 win.
In the matchup with Parkersburg South, Rohrig had 167 yards on 26 carries and three scores in a 48-13 win for the Indians. In that game, he also had a signifiant advantage against a player that is going to get Kennedy votes in Gage Wright, who had 133 yards on 17 carries with one rushing TD (he also caught a TD pass).
In the 28-21 victory against Linsly, for my money the best team BHS has played all year, Rohrig had 156 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns.
That brings us to last week’s playoff victory against GW, where Rohrig had 161 yards on 19 carries and one touchdown.
This Friday, we will see how he does against Cabell Midland, the top-rated team in the state. I know last year was last year and all that but a year ago, the Knights had no answer for Rohrig, who ran for 255 yards on 19 carries (an average of 13.4 yards per carry) and three touchdowns and the Knights return eight of 11 starters on defense from that game.
And let’s not forget, all of this is coming off a junior season in which he ran for 1,583 yards and 19 touchdowns, 56 tackles and three interceptions on defense, earning Class AAA First-Team All-State honors and was named the Frank Loria Memorial Award winner as the top player in Harrison County.
The Kennedy Award, however, is not a legacy award so 2022’s numbers have no influence on his chances of winning the award this year.
He doesn’t need them anyway, because 2023’s numbers certainly stand on their own. I’m just throwing those in as well if at this point anybody is skeptical about us talking about one of the best players in school history.
Prior to the start of his senior season, Rohrig was 14th on the school’s all-time rushing yardage list in the modern era (since 1997). So far this year he has passed A.C. Caldera, Wes Tonkery, Jeremy Gum, C.R. Rohrbough, Alex Sutton, Mark Gray, Dante Bonamico, Anthony Bonamico, Brett Hathway, Cam Cole, and Dylan Tonkery.
Rohrig’s 3,458 career yards put him at No. 3 on the modern era list and No. 4 all-time as only Jake Bowen (4,406), Steve Stout (3,724 – a mark he set in 1973 and one that was the most in school history until Bowen eclipsed it) and Corey Wagner (3,583).
Rohrig also has 43 career touchdowns which is the 4th on the all-time scoring list in the modern era and has reached 100 rushing yards in a game 16 times – the only players who have done that more are Bowen (25) and Wagner (19).
The Bridgeport High School football program trails only Parkerburg when it comes to all-time number of wins and no school has a better win percentage. Yet, Bridgeport does not have a Kennedy Award winner.
And it certainly won’t be easy for Rohrig to become the first.
To me there are a couple of key reasons for this and it has nothing to do with the rest of the state disrespecting BHS.
In fact, the Indians have as much equity in this state as anybody. Since 2008, Bridgeport has had 44 first-team all-state players and have had as many as three in 10 of those years (spoiler alert, that trend will continue this year).
In that same time frame, Bridgeport has had a Huff Award winner (Defensive Player of the Year) in Alex Sutton, two Stydahar Award (best interior lineman) winners with Garrett Stanley and Kamar Summers and a Carl Lee Award (best defensive back) winner in Dante Bonamico.
The two biggest issues with the Kennedy are, for one, some feel Bridgeport’s continued success is a product of the system. Year in, year out there is a hard-nosed disciplined offense led by a strong line and an equally hard-nosed defense. The respect for that system leads directly into the second issue – It can be difficult to figure out exactly who Bridgeport’s best player is.
That issue is also not one exclusive to just Bridgeport. Since 2010, Bridgeport, Martinsburg, Wheeling Central, Williamstown and the top finising team from the Mountain State Athletic Conference have combined for 35 state championship game appearances and 22 state titles but just four Kennedy Award winners.
George Washington’s Ryan Switzer won it in 2011 and 2012. Capital had back-to-back Kennedy winners in 2014 with Kashaun Haley and 2015 with TyRhee Pratt. No MSAC player has won it since and Bridgeport, Martinsburg, Wheeling Central and Williamstown didn’t have a winner either.
And it’s not that there haven’t been plenty of deserving choices but those teams have often been so good that what ends up happening, they have players who cancel each other out.
For example, look at BHS in both 2014 and 2015 where Bonamico and Dylan Tonkery were both Kennedy candidates. Some voted for Dante, some voted for Dylan, nobody voted for both.
In 2021, the Indians had Cam Cole and Landyn Reppert, both had Kennedy Award type seasons and both received votes but they ened up cancelling each other out.
I’m not sure Rohrig is going to find himself in that situation although Josh Love is putting together a fantastic all-round season with 937 rushing yards with 15 touchdowns and is the team’s leading tackler with 91.
There’s plenty of other star power with a dymaic defenisve end combo of Beau Ford and Aidan Sparks, a standout two-way lineman in Wes Brown Jr, a shutdown corner in Cale Culicerto and a handful of other emerging playmakers on both sides of the ball. But Zach Rohrig is the best player on this year's BHS football team.
Personally, I think the Top 6 candidates for the Kennedy are Rohrig, Martinsburg’s Murphy Clement, Huntington’s Zah Jackson, Williamstown’s Maxwell Molessa, Princeton’s Dom Collins and Hurricane’s Noah Vellaithambi.
Cabell Midland has two standouts in Curtis Jones and Robert Shockey that will get votes, but I think they are going to cancel each other out. Wright from Parkersburg South will still get votes as will Parkersburg quarterback David Parsons, but again there is a strong canceling out possibility there.
There are a ton of great Class AA quarterbacks this year from Casey Minor at North Marion to Dane Hatfield at Herbert Hoover to Josh Moody at Nitro to Matt Frye at Scott. All are deserving of consideration, but they are going to end up canceling one another out.
Zach Rohrig is the first person to tell you how important the offensive line is to his and the team’s overall success. He’s humble and when it comes down to it, he just wants to win football games.
The stats are right there in black and white but every Kennedy candidate has stats. Give me somebody that wants to be on the field every snap and be an impact player, give me someone that will get you 2 yards on fourth-and-1 and somebody that will give you 25 yards on third-and-23. Give me somebody that will outrun you to the end zone or run over top of you to cross the goal line.
Give me somebody unselfish enough to give up a touchdown run and smart enough to slide on a play to put your team in position to run out the clock in a close game.
Zach Rohrig is everything you want in a Kennedy Award candidate and I know he’s going to get votes because that’s who I am putting at No. 1 on my ballot.
Editor's Note: Photos of Rohrig by Joe LaRocca.

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