With Bridgeport having attempted only 30 passes in 11 games this season, Winfield coach Craig Snyder is pretty sure he knows what’s coming when his team takes the field against the Indians at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
In Winfield — with its multiple formations and running options, including senior quarterback Andrew Huff, who has thrown for 1,739 yards and 27 touchdowns — Bridgeport coach John Cole isn’t exactly sure what may be coming at his defense on Friday.
Yet, despite the teams’ philosophical and schematic differences, both Snyder and Cole will have their work cut out for them.
The No. 3 Indians (10-1) welcome in the No. 11 Generals (8-3) for a second-round Class AA playoff game with a spot in the state semifinals on the line. It will mark the first meeting between the schools since 2004.
Bridgeport has been a stalwart in prep football’s postseason in recent years, winning three straight state championships (2013-15). Winfield, meanwhile, is in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
Yet while the two programs are very different in many ways, both coaches are wary about what their opponent will present.
“I see a very disciplined, well-coached, physical football team,” Snyder said. “They’re going to run it, they know you know they’re going to run it and they don’t care. It’s going to be a challenge. We have to be physical at the point of attack.”
Junior Jake Bowen leads that Bridgeport rushing attack, having racked up 1,549 yards and 21 touchdowns, with senior quarterback John Merica (717 yards, 15 touchdowns) contributing heavily as well.
Winfield rarely needed to leave its Ram formation a week ago, a twist on the single-wing offense from which the Generals will primarily run. WHS piled up 364 rushing yards in a 29-0 romp at No. 6 James Monroe.
But if they need to spread the field, Huff and the Generals certainly are comfortable doing so. Winfield comes in averaging 46 points per game.
“The thing is, most teams in high school aren’t very successful in everything they do,” Cole said. “Like, to go up against most teams, we know if we shut down the run, what they do most of the time, then they have to throw it and we have an advantage. But it seems like this group is pretty smart and this quarterback has what, 37 starts? They do a lot of different things and they seem to execute most of it fairly well.”
What each offense will find across the line of scrimmage, however, is a defense that, for the most part, has been more than up to any challenge so far this year. That’s especially true for Bridgeport, yielding just 13.18 points per game.
“It’s ultimate team football, the way they block and tackle,” Snyder said. “They don’t make it complicated. They block, tackle, play hard, play with discipline and then they also have a great kicking game.”
Winfield is allowing 18.18 points per game, but that number is heavily skewed by a 46-point output from Wayne and a 56-point game from Mingo Central. The Generals were downright dominant last week, yielding just 79 total yards to the Mavericks.
The Generals enjoyed a massive size advantage up front against James Monroe, and while Bridgeport will be a lot closer in terms of mass, Cole said moving Winfield in the trenches will be a huge task.
“All that size, it’s going to be interesting to see, it’s going to be won or lost on the line of scrimmage,” Cole said. “We’re going to have to block them. We can’t sweep every play or run off tackle every play. For as much as we run the ball, I’m not sure how they’re going to defend us. Our line has seen about everything you can see. We assume with their size on the line, they may load us to one side or another and our linemen are going to have to adjust to that.”
Winfield made some waves a week ago, beating a James Monroe team that eliminated the Generals in the first round a year ago en route to a semifinal appearance. For Bridgeport, it was business as usual as the Indians handed Weir a 35-12 loss.
But even as successful as Bridgeport has been over the years, there’s nothing routine about this time of year.
“We have nothing to lose,” Snyder said. “We respect Bridgeport very much, they’ve been second to none in this state. But we have no fear of going up there. We’re going to lay it on the line and I think we can play with anybody.”
“I said it last week, Weir in my opinion is a top-eight team. Winfield is a top-eight team, no doubt,” Cole said. “We got some good experience last week. We had to face a little adversity and we responded pretty well. Hopefully we can keep it going, but we know this is a different animal.”