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Wheeling Bound: Bridgeport to Return to the Island to Battle for 'AA' State Title with 38-7 Win over Oak Glen

By Jeff Toquinto on November 30, 2019 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Bridgeport’s heading back to Wheeling Island to battle for a state title. And the Indians can thank the legs of Carson Winkie and a stingy defense for getting them there.
 
The Tribe fired Winkie at Oak Glen time after time and it proved to be too much in a 38-7 Class AA semifinal win against the Golden Bears this afternoon at Wayne Jamison Field.
 
Winkie’s monster showing along with a defense that shut down Oak Glen after an early score moves No. 2 and 12-1 BHS back to the ‘AA’ state championship game for the first time since 2015. Waiting for the Indians will be Bluefield, a 40-24 winner against top-ranked Fairmont Senior Friday night.
 
“Our kids deserve this,” said BHS Coach John Cole. “We weren’t picked to do this at all … They played some darn good teams we were picked not to beat, and I couldn’t be happier.”
 
The Indians managed to earn the right to play the Beavers, the team that has eliminated Bridgeport the last two years in the semifinals, thanks in large part to Winkie. By night’s end, the senior had carried the ball a whopping 34 times for 210 yards and two scores.
 
“It’s week after week isn’t it (with Carson),” said Cole. “He’s a player and a leader. As the year went on, he became more vocal … He deserves everything that happens to him out there.”
 
If Winkie wasn’t a handful, the Bridgeport defense was more than enough for Oak Glen to deal with – particularly in the final two quarters. And it started things early.
 
With a closely contested first half that saw BHS up 17-7 at the break, the Indians forced a quick three-and-out on OGHS’s first possession of the third quarter and got the ball in excellent field position. In fact, the Tribe started at the Oak Glen 39 and needed nine plays to put a little bit of a cushion in the game when Devin Vandergrift capped things with a seven-yard keeper for six that made it 23-7 following a missed kick with 6:25 to play in the third.
 
The misfire wouldn’t matter thanks to the defense. In fact, on the next Golden Bear possession they opted to go for it on a fourth-and-two play at their own 28 and the run up the gut was absolutely stuffed. It was the first big stop that Bridgeport had in the second half on fourth down, but it wouldn’t be the last.
 
“A couple of those fourth downs our defensive line got under them, went on movement, didn’t jump and they plugged everything up,” said Cole. “There just wasn’t anywhere to run.”
 
Although Bridgeport didn’t cash in, Oak Glen couldn’t take advantage of an interception return to near midfield. Once again, the Golden Bears went for it on fourth down and the Indians were ready for the challenge with a huge surge up front led by defensive tackle Michael Watkins that gave BHS the ball at its own 47.
 
The time, Bridgeport would make them pay.
 
Bridgeport would use nine plays to cover the distance with Winkie cashing it in from five yards out at the 7:06 mark for the fourth quarter. Winkie followed that with a two-point conversion run and a 31-7 advantage that, essentially iced it.
 
The Indians would score one final time late in the game. Trey Pancake would do the honors with a one-yard run followed by an Austin Springer point-after kick that ended the scoring at 38-7.
 
Bridgeport finished with 373 yards of offense, including 365 on the ground. Devin Vandergrift finished with 78 yards rushing on 14 carries, while Pancake had 53 yards on 12 rushes and two scores.
 
Oak Glen finished with 180 yards of offense. Of that total, only 68 yards came after the intermission. Nick Chaney led the offense with 10-of-20 passing for 112 yards, but was picked off twice – by Vandergrift and late by Trent Haines
 
“Our defensive backs did a really good job,” said Cole, who also praised his linebackers and the front four. “They’ve really been tested these past two weeks, big time. It’s tough to prepare them because you don’t see (the type of offenses the past two weeks) that much during the year.”
 
Bridgeport started the game exactly as it wanted. The Indians took the opening kickoff, started at their 30 and went to work.
 
A steady diet of Winkie was hard for the Golden Bears to swallow as BHS slowly worked the ball down the field. Ten plays later, Winkie blasted over from a yard out to put the home team up 7-0 following the first of two successful point-after kicks by Springer in the first half.
 
“That’s what we didn’t do last week and that’s what we preached all week. That was huge because it eats up a little clock, gets us wearing on them a bit and gives us a look on how they’re going to defend us,” said Cole. “That’s the thing with these teams. You don’t really know what you’re going to get until the ball game starts.”
 
If the score was meant to rattle Oak Glen it didn’t work. The visitors started their first drive at their own 27 and used a 10-play surge to even things up. OGHS mixed the run and the pass to get down the field and the drive ended when Hunter Patterson shredded the BHS defense with a 33-yard sweep for six.
 
“We gave up that one, the very next one, but we knew what was coming in here. Them going to Poca (in last week’s quarterfinals) they weren’t going to be intimidated by anything.”
 
Matthew Wright added the point-after kick to knot it up at 7 with 2:03 showing in the first.
 
Like Oak Glen, Bridgeport didn’t let the score do much to its approach. Instead, BHS started its second drive at the 30 again and, again, went to work. This time, it would take 14 plays for Bridgeport to cover the distance and the Tribe finally ended up when Pancake powered in from five yards out.
 
The score, following the kick, left the hosts up 14-7 with 6:46 to go before halftime.
 
“We’ve dealt with that all year,” said Cole of the second drive where the defense of OG was aimed at stopping the run. “Eight, nine guys in the box, really nine, all year. That’s tough.”
 
Oak Glen’s second drive wouldn’t prove to be nearly as fruitful. Instead, on the fourth play of the series a pass down field was picked off by Vandergrift. Vandergrift returned his third interception of the season 28 yards to the Oak Glen 28 and the Tribe was back in business.
 
Bridgeport appeared ready to put a little bit of ice on the game, but Oak Glen put the heat on the mode of thought. The Tribe again used the ground game to get deep into Golden Bear territory before the visitors from Hancock County bowed up and made a stand.
 
The Indians had a third down and two at the Oak Glen 5 but couldn’t convert. On the subsequent fourth down play needing one yard, the Indians couldn’t get it done and the Golden Bears took over with 2:06 left in the first half.
 
“They really didn’t stop us much other than that one fourth down, but I think Carson was just trying to get a yard there and they managed to get some penetration,” said Cole
 
OGHS managed to get the ball to its own 41 before three straight incomplete passes forced a punt back to Bridgeport. The punt turned into a disaster as it covered just 18 yards to give Bridgeport the ball at its own 41 with 58.9 seconds and three timeouts.
 
The offense was stagnant early before a Vandergrift quarterback keeper for 26 yards, coupled with a chop block against the Golden Bears, put Bridgeport at nine of the visitors with less than 10 seconds to play in the half.
 
Vandergrift’s run took it to the four and with 4.6 seconds left the Indians burned a timeout and brought on Springer. The 21-yard kick as time expired was true and the Tribe led 17-7 at the break.
 
“That was something else,” said Cole. “… That makes you feel a lot better and took a little of their momentum away. I’m happy for Springer that he made that. He’s made some big kicks this year and that was definitely one of them.”
 
Oak Glen’s offense was balanced offensively with 116 yards. OGHS had 54 yards on the ground and 62 passing with Chaney 6-of-11 through the air.
 
Bridgeport had 212 yards off offense and, not surprisingly, almost all of it was on the ground. The Tribe finished with 204 yards rushing as Winkie led the way with 112 yards on 21 carries. Vandergrift added 59 yards rushing on nine carries.
 
“We had core of kids that were invested in this team this year. They had a really good offseason,” said Cole. “If it wasn’t for them there wouldn’t be a chance for anything.”
 
Oak Glen ends a magical season at 12-1. The Golden Bears were the No. 6 seed in the field.
 
Bridgeport and Bluefield will play Friday night in Wheeling. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
 
Editor's Note: Photos by Ben Queen and Joey Signorelli of www.benqueenphotography.com.


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