The Times West Virginian

Sports

October 4, 2013

FSHS prepares for Bridgeport

FAIRMONT — Inside Fairmont Senior’s locker room last Friday night, the Polar Bears had plenty to celebrate.

Coach J.L. Abbott could have easily praised Neil Scherich for his two touchdowns, or the first-team defense for holding Elkins scoreless in the first half, or the offense for dismantling another defense by putting up more than 45 points for the third straight game.

But he didn’t.

There were no “rah-rah” post-game speeches. No cheers. No pats on the back.

The sweat wasn’t yet dry, the pads not yet removed, but Abbott was already supremely focused on what would happen the next time Fairmont Senior laced it up. Instead of a post-game speech, it was almost as if Abbott was delivering a pre-game speech a week early, a speech for the game against Bridgeport.

“You don’t want to overlook anybody, but we’ve had week five circled since August,” quarterback Austin Norman said. “We want to be ready to go and be the sharpest we can be.”

This is week five. And when Fairmont Senior (4-0) travels to Bridgeport (4-1) for a 7:30 p.m. game, it will likely be the Polar Bears’ biggest challenge of the regular season.

While Fairmont Senior ranks first in the WVSSAC Class AA football ratings, Bridgeport is close behind at fifth. The Indians enter the game with just one loss, a 3-point defeat to AAA Wheeling Park.

Bridgeport has made it to this point with a simple recipe for success: Run the ball and play tough defense.

“Our goal is three to four yards per carry and convert a lot of third-and-medium to third-and-short,” Bridgeport coach Josh Nicewarner said. “Clock is always the enemy for the opponent. We like to run that clock out and not necessarily score a lot of points, but score enough that it gives our defense an opportunity to get out there and slow them down.”

The Indians boast two of the Big 10’s top 10 rushers in Anthony Bonamico (2) and A.C. Caldera (7). Bonamico has piled up 680 yards and nine touchdowns. Caldera is just behind with 443 yards and seven touchdowns.

Stopping, or at least slowing down, the tandem will go a long way toward helping the Polar Bears stay on top of the Big 10.

“(Abbott) preached that we’ve got to out-physical them,” Norman said. “That’s what it’s come down to in the past. If we want to win the game, we’ve got to be more physical.”

While Bridgeport may throw the ball just a handful of times, the Polar Bears are more of a balanced attack. Running back Noah Harmon ranks ahead of both Bridgeport rushers with 684 yards and seven touchdowns. Norman, meanwhile, leads the conference in passing touchdowns with nine to go along with 842 passing yards.

With the Polar Bears outscoring opponents by a combined margin of 193-46, the fourth quarter thus far has been little more than a glorified junior varsity game with Harmon and Norman and the rest of the starters watching from the comfort of the bench.

The Polar Bears know that tonight will be different. Not only will the starters be on the field for all four quarters, but they’ll also need to be on top of their game in each of them.

“They’re going to give us a game,” Norman said. “We know that. We can’t get frustrated if we turn the ball over or go three and out. We know we need to play well for all four quarters.”

Should the Polar Bears do so, you can bet that Abbott’s post-game speech will take a different tone.

Email Mike DeFabo at mdefabo@timeswv.com or follow on Twitter @MikeDeFabo.

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