Gallery by Greg Barnett
Princeton – Friday evening started with homecoming celebrations and smiles for the Princeton faithful.
By the end of the night those smiles had turned to frowns with chattering teeth.
In a matchup of unbeaten Class AAA teams, No. 7 Bridgeport piled up 452 yards of offense on the ground and 87 more through the air, handing No. 4 Princeton a 42-7 loss Friday at Hunnicutt Stadium.
Using the tried and true formula of running the ball well and playing great defense, the Tribe punted just once all evening, moving the ball at will and coming away with timely turnovers on defense to bury the Tigers each time they gained momentum.
“We just thought our down blocks would be a little tough for them to deal with,” Bridgeport head coach Tyler Phares said. “Our pad level, they probably haven’t seen anybody that blocks kind of like we do and we were going to take advantage of that. We also saw that they read backs a little more than what we normally see so some of our key breakers were able to pull backs in the wrong spots at different times so the kids executed.”
Using their single-wing offense, the Indians ran the ball four straight times to open the contest, pulling the Princeton secondary further up in the box. On the fifth play the visitors capitalized.
After taking the snap, quarterback Cam Cole took a step forward before dropping back and hitting a streaking Josh Love up the seam for a 42-yard touchdown pass to draw first blood.
The Tigers answered back with a drive that saw back-to-back completions from Princeton QB Grant Cochran to receiver Carter Meachum, eventually moving the ball to the Bridgeport 26.
The tide turned quickly as a pass from Cochran was picked by Bridgeport linebacker Collin Lopez.
“You’ve got to give them a lot of credit,” Princeton head coach Chris Pedigo said. “They’re a very good football team. We’ve struggled a little bit offensively at times and we struggled on both sides of the ball tonight, but again credit to what they’re doing. We had two turnovers on picks and two on downs in the first half alone. Against a good football team you can’t have that.”
— Tyler Jackson (@TJack94) October 22, 2021
Disaster struck hard as Cole raced 50 yards on the next play from scrimmage and capped a four-play scoring drive with a 15-yard scamper. The Tigers had an immediate answer on their next drive as three plays in Cochran found Peyton Clemons on a wide receiver screen and 56 yards later the Tigers were on the board.
Buckle up. Cochran hits Peyton Clemons who takes it 56 yards for a score. It’s 14-7 Bridgeport with 4:54 left in Q1. You can hear a Bridgeport coach calling the screen in the background #wvpreprb pic.twitter.com/fY9O96e3jn
— Tyler Jackson (@TJack94) October 22, 2021
That was the highlight for the hosts.
After penalties eventually led to the Tribe’s first and only punt of the evening, the Tigers gave the ball right back as a pass deflected off the hands of a Tiger receiver and into the arms of Aidan Paulsen.
“We’ve just got to keep practicing,” Pedigo said. “We missed some passes we should’ve caught. The thing about this bunch of kids is we don’t have a lot of them but they have a lot of grit. I know that they’re going to continue to fight.”
After the second interception the names Landyn Reppert and Cam Cole echoed repeatedly though Hunnicutt Stadium. The former scored on runs of five and 15 yards while a 44-yard pass from Cole to Paulsen set up a three-yard rushing scoring for Paulsen, staking the visitors to a 35-7 lead at the break.
Despite their attempt to climb back in it, the Tigers never could get their passing attack going with Cochran finishing 10-of-27 passing for 135 yards and three interceptions, two of which found the eager arms of Paulsen.
“I tell you were were worried about their passing attack,” Phares said. “Grant gets rid of the ball so quick. They’ve got some good skill players and they catch and and it’s right there, so that’s something we definitely had to prepare for and they were getting us there at the beginning of the game. I was proud to see that our kids were able to make some adjustments, get a little more aggressive than we’d like to be there at times but we were pleased with that effort.”
Cole finished with 204 yards rushing on 17 carries and two scores while Reppert added 147 yards on 22 carries.
Paulsen did a little bit of everything, intercepting two passes, catching a pass for 45 yards and rushing seven times for 52 yards and a score to add to the Tribe’s lethal ground game.
“I think it’s a combination of things,” Pedigo said. “We have some guys that are dinged up but they’re fighting their butts off and the single wing is tough to defend man. We need to see it more, we need to keep working to defend it. I think they had some key breakers there that really hurt us at outside linebacker with what we were asking them to do and I think they did a great job of changing up some keys and that’s kudos to them for what they do.”
Princeton falls to 5-1 but will have an opportunity to redeem itself next Friday when it travels to Class AAA No. 10 Greenbrier East. Bridgeport improves to 7-0 and will host Musselman next week.
B: 14 21 7 0 – 42
P: 7 0 0 0 – 7
Q1: B – Love 42-yard pass from Cole (Starkey PAT), 9:10
Q1: B – Cole 15 rush (Starkey PAT), 6:13
Q1: P – Clemons 56-yard pass from Cochran (Geso), 4:54
Q2: Reppert 15 rush (Starkey), 11:45
Q2: Reppert 5 rush (Starkey), 8:29
Q2: Paulsen 3 rush (Starkey PAT), 5:15
Q3: Cole 12 rush (Starkey PAT), 2:33
Rushing – B: Cam Cole 17-204, Landyn Reppert 22-147, Aidan Paulsen 7-52, Charlie Brazier 3-14, Zach Rohrig 6-12, Collin Lopez 1-11, 14 2-6, Derek Starkey 1-6; P: Brodee Rice 10-49, Grant Cochran 4-17
Passing – B: Came Cole 2-4-87-1 TD; P: Cochran 10-27-135-0 TD-3 INT
Receiving – B: Paulsen 1-45, Josh Love 1-42; P: Peyton Clemons 4-87, Brodee Rice 3-27, Dom Collins 1-13, Carter Meachum 1-5, Connor Padgett 1-3.