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Bridgeport opens with win for first time in 9 seasons

Photo/KRISTIN MAZGAJ BRIDGEPORT’S AVERY Jackson (18) and Frontier’s Ethan Snyder go high for a ball Thursday night at Bill Jobko Stadium in Brookside. The Bulldogs won, 34-22.

BROOKSIDE – For the first time since 2013, Bridgeport has started the football season with a win.

Colin Jackson passed for three touchdowns and ran for another pair as the Bulldogs (1-0) stunned visiting Frontier, 34-22, Thursday night on Perkins Field before a large gathering inside Bill Jobko Stadium.

The last time Bridgeport won a season-opener was a 26-25 victory over visiting Columbiana to start the 2013 campaign.

“I’m proud of these guys, especially my seniors,” Bridgeport head coach Fred Ray said while controlling his emotions. “For not having a home field for three-and-a-half years, these seniors really wanted this game tonight.

“I busted these kids’ tails during two-a-days. They worked hard and it sucked for some of them, but it made us tougher and it showed tonight,” he added.

Jackson, who passed for a career-high 343 yards, used the quick, short passing game to his liking as he was 16-for-20 for 186 yards and two TDs in the first half. He finished 23-for 32, and also ran a dozen times for 71 stripes.

“Those are some impressive numbers for Colin,” Ray admitted. “He played well tonight.”

While Ray was pleased with Jackson’s effort, he was equally as happy with the play of his young offensive line, which had only one returning starter in Law Chambers and featured two juniors, a sophomore and two freshmen.

“I’m proud of my offensive line. We only had one guy back that played up there last year, and they (Frontier) had some big guys up there on their defensive front that had played at the varsity level before. I challenged the guys and they rose to the occasion.”

In addition to Chambers (right guard), Ray was referring to junior Nate Galownia (left tackle), sophomore Logan Baker (right tackle), and freshmen Will Hunt (center) and Justin Eckert (left guard).

Bridgeport took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards on 10 plays as Jackson hit Mason Aberts on an 8-yard slant. Peyton Pyle hauled in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead. Jackson was 6-for-6 on the drive.

The Cougars responded with a six-play drive that quarterback Lucas Cox capped with a 9-yard dash to paydirt. Noah West drew the visitors even with the two-point run.

Jackson found Lamar Kendricks Jr. all along behind the Frontier secondary for a 36-yard scoring strike for a 14-8 reading as the first quarter came to a close.

West tied things once again with a three-yard burst for the only scoring in the second quarter as the PAT kick failed and the teams went to the locker room deadlocked at 14.

Frontier began the third quarter at the Bridgeport 39 after a botched kickoff. However, on 4th-and-1 from the 16, a bobbled snap prevented a first down.

On the Bulldogs first play, Jackson found Joey Bugaj in the left flat and the senior sprinted all the way to the Cougars’ six before being run down by Cox. Six plays later, Jackson rifled a strike across the middle that Kendricks snatched from a defender for a 21-yard scoring play. The two-point pass failed, leaving the hosts on top, 20-14.

On the ensuing kickoff, Pyle came out of the pile with the football to set the Bulldogs up at the Cougars’ 30.

“We got stopped there and then we turned the ball over,” veteran Frontier head coach Russ Morris said. “If we score there, it might be a different game, but we didn’t.”

Jackson carried three times on the five-play march, reaching the end zone on a 5-yard keeper up the middle. Michael Marshall found the end zone on a counter to make it 28-14.

Cox, who ran for nearly 200 yards, kept Frontier in the game with a 27-yard jaunt on the second play of the fourth quarter. He also ran for the two points, cutting the deficit to 28-22.

Bridgeport sealed the deal with a time-consuming drive. The Bulldogs ate just over seven minutes off the clock while marching 67 yards on a dozen snaps. Jackson did the honors from eight yards out on a great individual effort.

The Bulldogs amassed 447 yards of total offense, with Jackson accounting for 414 himself.

Five different Bridgeport receivers caught passes, led by Aberts with half-a-dozen for 88 yards. Freshman Jaki Threet landed five passes for 66 yards, while Avery Jackson also caught five for 36 stripes. Kendricks finished with four grabs for 71 stripes and Bugaj had three for 82.

While Jackson was clicking on all cylinders through the air, Cox was only completing 1-of-8 for nine yards.

However, Morris wasn’t concerned.

“That’s what we are going to do. We are going to run the ball,” the Cougars veteran sideline boss said. “I thought we ran the ball fairly well, but once we got down two scores it was going to be tough for us to come back.

“You know, sometimes you’re the bug and sometimes you’re the windshield,” Morris said. “Tonight we were the bug, but we will rebound and go at it again next week.”

Bridgeport treks to Woodsfield a week from tonight to meet Monroe Central. Frontier remains on the road with a lengthy trip to Miller.

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