FEATURED IMAGE BY TYSON MURRAY (WV METRO NEWS)
Over the last several weeks, we have conducted a popular vote on each classification’s top eight champions and progressed them in a tournament-style system. Undoubtedly, they are all great and it is truly impossible to claim one better than another. AA might have been the hardest class to decipher. There was the eye-popping stats from Connor Neal’s’ 2018 Fairmont Senior and Jeremy Dillon’s 2016 Mingo Central. 2017 Bluefield was littered with talent like Mookie Collier and Truck Edwards.
It came down to a truly epic matchup between 2015 Bridgeport and 2012 Wayne. 2012 Wayne was a war machine. Their first-team defense allowed hardly any points all season. This included a shutout in the quarterfinals, semifinals, and championship game. It is truly hard to say 2015 Bridgeport is better but they were the ones who cut Wayne’s dynasty short. With their main cast being underclassmen, the Indians would defeat Wayne back-to-back years. 2015 was the season it all came to a head as their chance for a three-peat. Here’s a recap of their story:
2015 Bridgeport Indians
In 2011, Bridgeport’s run in AAA came to an end. It was successful with the Indians making consistent quarterfinal and semifinal appearances. In 2012, they would reach the semifinals in AA before losing to Keyser. That loss would be one of three that the 2015 seniors would suffer throughout the rest of their career. In 2013, superstar sophomores Dylan Tonkery and Dante Bonamico would steamroll their way through the playoffs with wins over Bluefield, Fairmont Senior, and Wayne to win the state title. In 2014, they would repeat as champions.
With two titles under the belts, the Indians were undoubtedly the favorites with targets on their back in the preseason. The powerful run attack for Bridgeport scored at least 48 points in every one of their first five games. Their hyped matchup with Wheeling Park, who would go onto to be undefeated as well and win the AAA state championship, would be cancelled in the first quarter due to lightning- the score was 0-0.
The final five games were all blowouts over top AA’s including Keyser (38-0), Fairmont Senior (35-0), and North Marion (42-12). Their closest game in the entire regular season was a 27-point victory over Robert C. Byrd. Their offense topped 48 points in six of their nine games. The stalwart Indian defense also pitched five separate shutouts.
Bridgeport ran through the playoffs with big wins over Independence and Robert C. Byrd. In the semifinals, with their rivalry matchup against Fairmont Senior- the Polar Bears almost stole an upset. However, despite an uncharacteristic performance, the Indians were still able to win. This pitted them against a Cinderella-story Tolsia team. The Indians would dominate the state title game and win 39-0 for their third consecutive state championship.
The Indians were able to achieve the ultra rare three-peat. The accolades were loaded for the Bridgeport squad. Dante Bonamico would win the sportswriters’ Carl Lee Award for the state’s best defensive back. First team all state honors were given to Tonkery, Noah Markley, Mackenzie Holmes, Elijah Drummond, Bonamico. Second team all-staters were Brier Anderson and Koby Kiefer. Honorable mentions were JT Harris, Luke Southern, Matt Dillon, and Hunter Haddix.
Bridgeport would continue their successful tradition but not to the success of their early 2010’s three-peat. They would reach the semifinals several times before winning it all again in 2019 for their fourth state title of the decade. As for the 2015 stars- Tonkey, Bonamico, and Drummond all have went on to have memorable careers at West Virginia University. Markley would go to Fairmont State. Mackenze Holmes to Glenville College. AA was maybe the most exciting class in West Virginia during the 2010’s and 2015 Bridgeport seems to be the top pick as the team of the decade.