From the Bench: Coaching Commitment Likely Long Term to Bridgeport Football by One of BHS's Best Ever

By Jeff Toquinto on May 28, 2023 from Sports Blog via

It was about two years ago in this very blog, June 20, 2021, to be exact, when Dante Bonamico. It was about that time that Bonamico was on the very start of what looked to possibly be a long-term career as a college coach.
Fast forward to today and a full-time career as a college coach is gone. It actually ended shortly after it began.
Two years ago, Bonamico was the full-time defensive quality control coach at Fairmont State University, which involved working with those in the secondary and breaking down game film. He was on the staff of Jason Woodman for the Falcons and felt confident he could manage to balance a coaching lifestyle and family to a manner in which he would be comfortable.
For many in that profession, it is the tight rope they walk. For Bonamico, who comes from one of the area’s biggest and closest families, it was a tight rope walk over a massive family canyon. As it turned out, the circus-like atmosphere of college coaching when it came to a time commitment was not for Bonamico.
“It was the hours. I would get there at 6 a.m. and leave at 9 and 10 p.m., which didn’t mesh with the home environment I wanted,” said Bonamico. “I still loved football, the strategy, being around the guys and all that it encompasses, but there was no way to find a healthy balance between it and family.”
Shortly after the blog was written a few years ago, not even a month, Bonamico was out. And it was not the hard work that made him opt out for anyone who has ever been around him. It was time away from family as he stated above.
So, he did the next best thing. He got into the family business. While working at The Social Tap and helping out his cousin Tre Oliverio and assisting with the catering business, The O by Oliverio’s, he was still putting in the hours. This time, however, it was with family.

There was another benefit.
“My wife (the former Landyn Hewitt) is 5 minutes away and she helps out too,” said Bonamico, who was just married this past April 7. “That is such an ease on my mind and doing things.”
Bonamico, who is part of the Oliverio family in the city, grew up watching his mother and father, his aunts and uncles, and so many others plowing their trade at more than one successful family business. He took that work ethic to the Bridgeport football system and turned it into the greatest three-year run in the storied program’s history with state titles from 2013 to 2015.
“We worked hard for that, but working in this line of work, even though I knew the family had so much dedication to it, you appreciate it more when you’re deeply involved and you see they’ve done it their entire life,” he said. “It’s rewarding. The hours at this aren’t the same because you’re around family all day.”
While he made the transition to the family business quickly, making the transition away from football was not easy. Then, last year, there was an opening on the Bridgeport Middle School staff and long-time Coach Robbie Buffington.
“It was late in the process when the position was open, and I applied. I honestly thought I’d just give it a shot and see how it turned out because I had no idea what to expect,” said Bonamico. “I was on the fence if I would do it for more than one year so last year was basically a trial run. Now, I’m confident I would like to do this for a while.”
Part of what he got from that first year was learning he still loved coaching. More importantly, he learned to love the kids he was coaching and how to coach the middle school age group and, from there, has already created strong relationships with the players.
“It’s certainly different from college, but it’s made me get back to the basics of football. I think that’s why I love it,” said Bonamico.
Even better, working with the family business and his cousin Tre has allowed him the flexibility to coach. He goes to practice, usually from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. during the season and then heads to work. On game nights, he said an extra person is brought in to cover for him and things have worked out.
“With work not an issue, and I’m thankful for that, I get to focus on practice and football. I get to teach kids how to play the right way,” said Bonamico, wrapped up his college career at West Virginia University starting in what turned out to be a 24-21 win against Army in the 2020 Liberty Bowl. “As much as I want to win at this level, we know our main task is getting these kids ready to play high school football. We’re tasked with getting them ready to hopefully play for state titles, conference titles, and excel. We’re here to groom these kids for what’s ahead.”
Bonamico said Buffington is great at reminding those coming through the system of Bridgeport’s past and its history – from former players to championship expectations and traditions.
“Coach Buffington makes my life easier because he is so good at what he does, and he definitely is big into the tradition of the program. There are even kids who remember me from when I played in high school, but those are going to be fewer and fewer,” he said with a laugh.
As for high school, Bonamico is content coaching alongside Buffington right now. That does not mean he would not consider moving up if things fell into place.
“I’m pretty confident going into my second season that I’m ready to keep coaching at this level for a while,” he said. “If the situation opens up with an opportunity sometime at the high school, I might make that move. It just would have to be right.”
Right with him. And right with the family – both of blood and on the football field.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Dante Bonamico in 2022 with BMS player Anderson McDougal holding the North Central 7 Middle School Championship trophy. He is shown with his wife in the second photo. The third photo, by Joe McNemar, shows Bonamico in his playing days at WVU, while he's shown on the sidelines while coaching at Fairmont State University. All non-WVU photos courtesy of Dante Bonamico.

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