Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

PREP FOOTBALL ; Surprising Tonkery Ready to Lead Bridgeport; Prominent & Dominant

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

PREP FOOTBALL ; Surprising Tonkery Ready to Lead Bridgeport; Prominent & Dominant

Article excerpt

MORGANTOWN - What Bridgeport's Dylan Tonkery did during the Class AA postseason last year numbed the mind. In four games and just 71 carries, the running back gained 849 yards as the Indians repeated as Class AA champions. It was stunning, but the part that made no sense as Tonkery set career highs in the quarterfinal, semifinal and championship game was no one saw it coming. Tonkery had been part of an effective platoon with Dante Bonamico.

"It's actually a unique story, Bridgeport coach Josh Nicewarner said. "The last four or five games of the regular season Dylan and Dante switched back and forth at tailback. One game I wasn't happy with one of them, and then I'd switch over to the other guy who did better. Then I'd start that guy the next game, and I wasn't happy with him so I'd switch to the other guy and he'd do well.

"I don't want to say it was a nice surprise, but it was. I don't know if it was stepping up or being in the right place in the right time, but he obviously put on a show.

In the first round, Tonkery carried four times for 83 yards and one score. Bonamico had twice as many carries and finished with 79 yards and three scores. From there one out, it was Tonkery's tournament. He totaled 196 yards and three scores against Robert C. Byrd - plus an interception return for a touchdown. A round later, it was 251 yards and four touchdowns. Then came the Super Six Class AA record of 315 yards and three touchdowns.

In 10 regular-season games, Tonkery had 708 yards and seven touchdowns. He finished the season as the first-team all-state running back with 1,557 yards and 17 scores.

"I'm not really sure what happened, but it just felt like I was running the ball harder and it all just clicked, Tonkery said. "The blocking was working and creating big holes.

Understand that is Bridgeport's style. It's straight-ahead, downhill running with big linemen who create holes big enough for big backs to exploit.

"It's not a real complex offense, Nicewarner said. "If we're going to run 75 offensive plays, 65 of them are going to be runs.

When Tonkery took off, he found himself benefiting from an offensive line that was in control thanks to a handful of seniors the Indians must replace in the fall.

"It's pretty easy when they play like that, Tonkery said. "When I see a big hole, I just go for it. When I see the holes that big, I see all my teammates' backs and I don't see any opponents. I just go hard through the hole.

As good as the final month of the season was for Tonkery, life would only get better. Days after helping Bridgeport repeat, he was offered a scholarship by West Virginia. Tonkery quickly committed and plans to follow in the path of his brother, Wes, who was fourth on the team in tackles as a senior last season.

"That's been my family's team for years, Tonkery said. …

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