From the Bench: Tribe Welcoming Back at Least Half a Dozen Players Healthy Following Injury and Surgery

By Jeff Toquinto on August 20, 2023 from Sports Blog via

Usually, about this time of the year, I blog about a handful of first-year seniors that could make an impact or provide depth for the upcoming season for Bridgeport High School football. Coach Tyler Phares recently let me know that for the first time he can remember, as well as this blogger, there were none.
That does not mean Phares will not be welcoming a few new faces. Actually, some of the new faces and a few familiar ones are also key to depth because they are healthy faces.
Heading into the 2023 season, Phares has gotten good news on the injury front. A few players that missed all or part of last year and even a few injured in the offseason are healthy. And that is the case for those needing to rehab their injuries or those needing surgery.
Initially, Phares singled out five players and the recent media day that faced injuries last year that are back and healthy for the upcoming season. He then added another one in starter Josh Love.
“Yeah, I don’t know how I forgot Josh, but he is going to be critical for us this year,” said Phares. “There are a lot of injuries so, who knows, I may have left someone else out unintentionally.”
If he did, forgive him. Dealing with practices, schedules, new transfer rules, parents, and a whole host of other things on a coach’s plate leads to even the most organized of head men forgetting a detail on occasion.
“Every year you’re dealing with some type of injury to players. You know it’s a possibility, and you know it will become a reality,” said Phares. “This is not new or out of the ordinary, but we did see a lot of players coming back this year who are healthy who have the ability to make a difference.”
One of those is senior Tanner Hathaway. Hathaway fractured his right shoulder last year and is back, and healthy, who missed action after last year’s contest with Robert C. Byrd.
Hathaway figures to see time as an outside linebacker and a running back in 2023.
“He’s an important kid for us because he’s a talented two-way player that spent a lot of time in the weight room. The other thing is that the younger kids look up to him,” said Phares. “He’s an important part of the team for sure.”
Another important part is the return of a fully healthy Wes Brown. The 5’10, 260-pound junior was a force in the trenches for the Tribe as a sophomore.
He fractured his tibia on his right leg last year; it was a non-weight bearing fracture. He went through what his father Wes described as a “tough rehab” to get back on his game. And it worked.
“He made it back by battling through the fracture and, like Tanner, will contribute on both sides with him as a lineman,” said Phares. “Having a kid like him healthy is a real plus because a lot of kids have size, and other kids can move well with speed. He does both well and we are absolutely expecting a big season from a healthy Wes Brown.”
One player that was injured in the offseason is junior Sam Goodwin. Goodwin broke off a bone below his knee in March and ended up needing a pair of surgeries at WVU Children’s Medicine.
“We’re glad to have him back in good health because as a sophomore he was an emerging player on special teams and was one of the better jayvee backs,” said Phares of Goodwin who can play in either the offensive or defensive backfield. “He was getting into the rotation last year, and he didn’t sleep on that. He had a great offseason and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do to help this team.
Senior John Dotson is among those injured during a game in 2022. Along with fracturing the lower part of his leg, he has also dealt with a broken collarbone and hand, according to a family member. The result? He started with a cast and then a boot on his leg and missed just a few games as everything else healed up or was good enough to play.
“He’s one of a few that we would be comfortable enough filling in at center,” said Phares of the position that requires the ultimate trust of the coaching staff. “If he doesn’t play there, he’s going to play along the offensive line and he’s going to be very important for us on defense too.”
The only sophomore listed by Phares was Bryson Lowther. Lowther had what turned out to be an MCL injury in his left knee suffered in middle school and he eventually had surgery on it this offseason. He has been working hard in physical therapy, and in practice, to get in a position to contribute.
“He’ll be playing guard for us, which will help solidify our offensive line. He can play inside linebacker, but now we have him at defensive end,” said Phares. “He’s put himself in position to help this team, which is exactly what you want whether you’re a sophomore or a senior.”
As for another senior, that would be Love. He, too, was injured away from the football field. However, his injury was because of workouts.
“He broke his wrist lifting weights, which is always tough when they get injured getting themselves ready for the season,” said Phares.
The injury, according to a family member, was to his left wrist and it broke his growth plate. It snapped doing a power clean set but is now completely healed. The growth plate break will be x-rayed every three months to make sure it will not have a long-term impact.
“He’s a jack of all trades for us,” said Phares. “Whether it’s in the backfield, in the secondary or as a linebacker, we are expecting Josh to be in the middle of the mix on both sides of the ball. He’s a returning starter that got a whole lot of playing time so having him healthy is key to get to where we want to go.”
Where the Indians want to go is Wheeling Island Stadium. It is the standard for the program, and one that becomes easier with more players healthy as opposed to injured.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows several of the BHS players who are back healthy with Bryson Lowther, left, and John Dotson kneeling. Back row, from left, is Tanner Hathaway, Wes Brown, and Sam Goodwing. Second photo shows Goodwin heading in for one of his two offseason surgeries, while Josh Love is shown getting action in last year's season-opening contest at Morgantown.

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