By Doug Walp
Anthony Caldera rushed for two first-half touchdowns and Bridgeport beat Wayne 14-13 in the Class AA championship game in snowy conditions Friday night at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Caldera finished with 107 yards rushing for second-seeded Bridgeport (13-1), which won its first championship since 2000 and its seventh overall.
Top-seeded Wayne (13-1) was denied its third straight title and saw its streak of 36 straight wins snapped, a state record it shares with Class A Ansted from 1970-73.
With the field covered in snow, the teams combined for seven fumbles and just 11 total pass plays.
Caldera scored on runs of 22 and 39 yards and finished with 107 yards. Anthony Bonamico’s 2-point conversion run after Caldera’s second TD just before halftime were the game’s final points. Neither team scored in the second half.
Wayne’s final drive start at its 10-yard line with 5 minutes left. The Pioneers drove down the field, but the game ended when a pass by Grant Ferguson was batted down in the end zone.
In the first half, Ferguson threw a 35-yard scoring pass to Kurt Arthur, while Wayne’s Mason Hodge rushed for 109 yards, including a 2-yard scoring run.
The teams had no trouble moving the ball in the first half but had trouble holding on it.
Bonamico fumbled twice on the game’s opening drive. Wayne’s Tucker Watts recovered the second one at the Pioneers’ 29-yard line. Wayne used 12 straight running plays to find the end zone capped by Hodge’s scoring run on third-and-goal.
Bridgeport then drove 68 yards in seven plays, capped by Caldera’s first scoring run, but the Indians trailed 7-6 after Brennan Duarte’s missed extra point kick.
Wayne ran five consecutive times on the ensuing drive before finding the end zone with the first pass play of the game, Ferguson’s play-action strike to a wide-open Arthur early in the second quarter. The score remained 13-6 after a missed extra point kick by the Pioneers’ Drew Stamper.
Wayne seemed content to run out the clock in the first half and receive the second half kickoff with the lead. But on first down with under 30 seconds left, Ferguson fumbled and Bonamico recovered at the Wayne 28. Caldera sprinted into the end zone two plays later with 9 seconds left and Bonamico scored on the conversion run between the tackles to give Bridgeport the lead for good.
The weather kept both teams well under their season scoring averages. Wayne entered the game averaging nearly 50 points per game, while Bridgeport was averaging 42.5.