By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
One game stuck out from the rest when Fairmont Senior looked at its schedule back in August: week five against Bridgeport.
Unfortunately for the Polar Bears, the result wasn’t what they dreamed up back in training camp. The Indians handed the team its first loss of the season, a commanding 37-14 result thanks in large part to Anthony Bonamico, who turned in one of the best rushing performances in Bridgeport High School history.
Today at 1:30 p.m., the Polar Bears have a shot at revenge when the two teams square off in the second round of the Class AA playoff at Wayne Jamison Field in Bridgeport.
“That loss hurt,” Fairmont Senior linebacker Luke Hrapchak said. “It made me hungry, very hungry.”
Bridgeport (10-1) enters the game after winning its last nine games. The Indians last lost in September by just three points to AAA Wheeling Park.
The Polar Bears recognize that the game will be a challenge. And it will be made even more difficult without quarterback Austin Norman, who went down last week with a season-ending ankle injury.
Sophomore Dom Smith will step in for the injured play-caller. Fairmont Senior coach J.L. Abbott said that his level of experience will impact play calling “quite a bit.”
“Dom was getting few to no reps in practice. But I’m grateful that we were able to play eight JV games,” he said. “Dom’s going to be fine. We’ve got five senior linemen up there. They’re going to take him under their wing. And we’re going to go and see where we can go.”
Hrapchak said the Polar Bears need to continue to fight, despite losing Norman.
“In the back of his mind, if he knew he was going to get hurt, he’d want us to win,” he said.
It will likely be up to Hrapchak and the rest of the defense to keep the game within reach, a tall task considering the opponent. Bridgeport boasts one of the top running games in the entire state.
Last time the two teams met, Bonamico ran over the Bears for close to 300 yards and three touchdowns. In total this season, he’s racked up a Big 10-best 1,814 yards. That’s 600 more than the second-leading rusher.
Though the game will surely be a challenge, the Polar Bears aren’t shying away from it.
“We’re dealing with a lot more adversity each week,” Hrapchak said. “I think we’re definitely performing. We’re not letting it get in our way and we’re staying focused.”
He added: “We’re coming back, I’ll tell you that much. We’re not going to lie down this time.”
Email Mike DeFabo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.