Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

High School Football Kickoff ; Bridgeport Has Taken Ownership of Class AA

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

High School Football Kickoff ; Bridgeport Has Taken Ownership of Class AA

Article excerpt

* December of 2011, Bridgeport football coach Josh Nicewarner bemoaned the results of recently released school classifications that saw the Indians make a move from Class AAA to Class AA for the 2012-15 school years. Triple-A football was big-boy football, Nicewarner said. His argument was based on the opinion that Class AAA football always commands more respect than any Class AA or Class A teams can ever hope for.

With one year left in the current classification cycle, however, Nicewarner is in a pretty enviable position for someone who didn't like the idea of playing in Class AA. The Indians have won the last two state championships and are well equipped in 2015 to become the second Class AA school to win three consecutive state titles in the sport.

"I'd be crazy to say that it hasn't [worked out in our favor], Nicewarner said about the school's return to Class AA.

"I just don't want to sit here at all and say double-A isn't competitive, but still to this day I feel that a triple-A state championship would have been a lot harder to achieve, he said. "Still, the success that we've had not just in football but across the board makes it look like double-A is a real good fit for Bridgeport High School.

West Virginia commitment Dylan Tonkery, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior running back and free safety, returns after breaking the Super Six record for rushing yardage in the Indians' 43-7 blowout of Frankfort in the 2014 title game. His 315 yards and three touchdowns in the title game gave him 1,557 yards and 17 TDs on 183 carries as a junior.

After Tonkery's four-game explosion of productivity in the 2014 playoffs - he ran for 849 yards on just 71 carries in the postseason - he enters his senior year in the thick of the Kennedy Award race alongside Class AAA players like South Charleston's Kentre Grier, Jefferson's Christian Johnson and Capital's Tyrhee Pratt.

Trophy shops might want to hold off on the engraving, however.

"What's going to prevent Dylan Tonkery from winning the Kennedy is probably me, Nicewarner said. "I'm a firm believer in doing what's best for the team instead of the individual. If a game is in control, it's my job to get those [starters] out and get other guys in to get some experience.

It also would not be out of the question to see Tonkery overshadowed by his own teammate. Senior Dante Bonamico (5-10, 170) also returns after rushing for 1,072 yards and 19 scores as a junior.

Bonamico has four state championships to his credit. Two came as a starter with the Indians' football team and two more as Bridgeport's shortstop in baseball season.

"I've had players that have been exceptional athletes, but he's what I call the X-factor, Nicewarner said of Bonamico. "His drive to win and to excel are unlike any kid I've ever seen. It's almost to the point where in certain instances it's almost become a deterrent. …

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