Bridgeport starting fresh, preparing for another run at state title

By Reece Waddell | Published Tuesday, December 19, 2017.
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It’s a new season for the Bridgeport boys soccer team.

That is the message as the Bulls continue preparation for their upcoming 2018 campaign, which will begin shortly after the New Year. Only eight months removed from losing in the 4A state title game to Kilgore, Bridgeport has returned the majority of its team – but will have a new coach.

First-year man C.J. Cartwright is tasked with leading the Bulls this season, and although he has high expectations for his team, Cartwright wants people to remember one thing.

“It’s a completely blank slate,” Cartwright said. “The boys can play. They know that they can play, and we’re returning most of the team. They know what their standard is, and they’re pretty dang competitive.”

Originally a football player, Cartwright began his foray into soccer with help from his best friend, who is from England. Throughout high school, Cartwright’s friend always encouraged him to play, but he was hesitant.

It wasn’t until Cartwright started playing recreationally that he fell in love with the game, eventually joining competitive soccer leagues while he was in college.

“It was kind of a new obsession,” Cartwright said. “It was a new sport that I felt like I was surrounded by a lot of my friends who had been playing their whole life and we’re really good. I’m competitive and I don’t like to lose, so I had to catch up and learn how to play really quick.”

Cartwright takes over for former head coach Ben Parks, and inherits a Bridgeport team that went 20-4-5 last season. The Bulls’ high-powered offense averaged 3 goals per game last year, while their stingy defense allowed an average of 0.96 goals per game.

Bridgeport knocked off Brownwood, Borger, Burkburnett, Life Oak Cliff, San Elizario, Wheatley and Progreso in the playoffs last season before falling in the championship match.

Although they are coming off a deep playoff run, the Bulls are not stressing over lofty expectations.

“There’s no pressure when you’re just doing what you love,” said senior midfielder Eric Aguilar. “We love playing the game.”

Bridgeport had nine players selected to the 3-4A all-district teams last year. This season, the Bulls return seven of them, in junior Giovanni Martinez, senior Jesus Aguilar, sophomore Jonathan Juarez, sophomore Rigoberto Alvarez, sophomore Eddie Munoz, senior Andrew Stotts and senior Juan Amador.

Bridgeport also sports the reigning 3-4A midfield MVP and newcomer of the year, as senior Miguel Olmos and sophomore Milton Iniguez are also back. All told, the Bulls have over 10 players returning from last year’s team that finished second place in the state.

Something Bridgeport believes will only aid in its team chemistry.

“[Because we] know each other, we have confidence in one another to go out and do our job,” Amador said.

The Bulls open their season at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 4 against Little River Academy in the Alvarado Tournament. Bridgeport plays its first home game on Friday, Feb. 16 against Wichita Falls Hirschi.

“I think there’s a buzz right now,” Cartwright said. “Throughout football season the thing I heard from everybody was ‘I can’t wait for soccer. I can’t wait to watch these boys play.’ We’re excited about this season.”

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