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From the Bench: Bridgeport High Alum's 2000 Story on Coach Wayne Jamison and Indian Football Program

By Jeff Toquinto on September 18, 2022 from Sports Blog via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Editor's Note:  For my sports blog this week, it's actually a column written years ago by Chuck "C.D." Miller, who is a 1987 graduate of Bridgeport High School, former member of the Indian football team and a regular blogger that we also ran back in early 2020. His writing goes back decades, including this piece featuring the late Coach Wayne Jamison and comments by former Coach Bruce Carey. Enjoy this article he submitted to Wally and Wimpy's Football Digest in November of 2000 he titled "Bridgeport Football from Wayne Jamison to Bruce Carey: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It."
 
The Bridgeport Indians have been winning football games for 30 years with the same simple, yet brutally effective, game plan.
 
Known as the Full House or Stick “I” formation, the Tribe's offense is easily recognizable, with three backs in a straight line directly behind the quarterback. The first back in this series, the upback, “is really a glorified guard," with few ball-carrying opportunities, said retired head coach Wayne Jamision. The upback's job is to lead either the fullback or tailback through the hole and deliver a crushing block. 
 
Both ends remain in tight, with no receivers in the basic set. Even the casual observer can quickly determine the Indians' singular intention with this formation. They aim to ram those three backs into the heart of the defense and grind out yardage by steamrolling opponents down the field.
 
Wayne Jamison installed the Stick “I” when he became head coach at BHS in 1970. As offensive coordinator before that, Jamison ran the Wing “T” and Straight “T” formations. 
 
He explained the switch saying, "Anything you can do with the ‘T’, you can do with the ‘I’. The main advantage to the ‘I’ is that both ball carriers can run to either side of the line with the upback as a lead blocker. With the ‘T’, the left halfback must run right to have a lead blocker and the right halfback must run left.”
 
Though Jamison's explanation might sound a bit confusing, the BHS offense is anything but. While some teams receive lengthy playbooks at the start of practice each summer, wide-eyed new members of the Bridgeport roster do not receive even a single scrap of paper. "We only run five plays," chuckled Jamison, "and I always thought they'd study a playbook about like they studied their other books. It would sit on a coffee table at home."
 
With a play for each hole to the left side of the line and mirror plays for the right side, the Indians perfect their offense through repetition in practice. Plays are run again and again to insure each player understands his responsibility against different defensive alignments. "Execution is the key to the offense," Jamison emphasized. "We're not trying to trick anyone, so we better make sure we block the right people."
 
With so few plays to choose from, the Tribe has been known to hammer the same play several times in succession. "We saw no shame in running the same play over and over," confessed Jamison. "If we found an advantage, we'd run it until they stopped it. When a defense finally stops a play that's been gaining good yardage, that often means they've shifted people to that area and weakened themselves somewhere else. When that happened, we tried to find this new weakness and attack it. That's just taking what the defense gives you."
 
For Jamison, taking what the defense gave often meant being satisfied with a four-yard gain. "They always described Woody Hayes' coaching style at Ohio State as three yards and a cloud of dust. The only difference is that I wanted four. If you're patient, the dam will burst, and that four-yard gain will eventually become forty."
 
Given his penchant for the run, one might think Coach Jamison would be quick to agree with the well-known saying that three things can happen when you throw, and two of them are bad. Well, yes and no. "Actually, it's 'four things can happen and three are bad'," the coach quickly corrected. "People always remember the interception and the incompletion but forget about the sack. I put that one in there too.  Defensively, we always tried to force teams to pass. With all these bad outcomes, we felt the odds were in our favor."
 
Even in years when Bridgeport has had a player capable of throwing a bit more, they haven’t adopted a wide-open style. “Some teams try to change everything to fit the talents of one player,” scoffed Jamison. “What if that one player gets hurt? Then, they’re in trouble. I’d rather adapt the players to the system.”
 
On rare occasions when they have thrown, however, the Indians have had good success. “Over the years, we scored on the pass as well as many teams that threw a lot more,” Jamison remarked. “When teams aren’t expecting you to pass, the element of surprise can work in your favor.”
 
Arguing with Coach Jamison's colorful logic may not be wise, for these are not just the empty theories of a radical conservative. In 27 years as Bridgeport's head coach, Jamison never had a losing season and amassed two state titles in AAA and two more in AA. Along the way, he became the winningest coach in West Virginia high school football history.
 
This tradition has been continued under fourth-year head coach Bruce Carey, whose teams are also a fixture in the state playoffs. Carey, an assistant at South Harrison for 13 years, decided to keep the Full House “I” when he took the reins at Bridgeport. "We ran the Power ‘I’ at South Harrison, and that was very similar, so I felt quite comfortable with the Full House ‘I’," Carey said.
 
With the emphasis on passing in the NFL, one might think convincing high school players in the twenty-first century to accept a run dominated offense would be difficult, but Carey hasn't had a problem. "The off-season lifting program helps," he explained. "The offensive line develops confidence and they want to run. Most of the backs, of course, feel that way too. Players just enjoy physically taking on the guy across the line. The only one who might not like it is the quarterback, but he's only one player. If he really objects, we can always get somebody else in there to hand off."
 
Any Bridgeport followers who may have hoped for a modern aerial assault with the changing of the coaching guard will just have to keep waiting. Now that he has the keys, Coach Carey has no plans to trade in this reliable pick-up truck on a Ferrari. "I just can't see the wisdom in changing something that's worked so well for so long," Carey keenly observed.
 
Simplicity, repetition, patience, and execution… these words have all been used in describing the Bridgeport Indians' offense. Though it’s certainly not glamorous, it produces results, and that's just fine with the Bridgeport faithful.
 
Vince Lombardi once said, “Football is first and foremost a running game.” A visit to Wayne Jamison field on a cool autumn evening provides a clear reminder that these words are as true today as when first uttered.
 
This Thanksgiving, you can even visit the undefeated Indians at the state finals in Wheeling if you like.
 
Editor's Note: Photos show Wayne Jamison, from top, giving some sideline instruction and then receiving the state title trophy in 1972. The third photo shows Jamison talking with former player Dan McNamee, while he's shown after getting the 1979 state championship trophy. In the fifth photo, Jamison shakes hands with then RCB Coach Bruce Carey whom Jamison had on his staff and took over for the legendary coach. Bottom photo shows Jamison being carried off the field after his 200th win.


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