SPORTS HEADLINES

Soccer: Bridgeport preparing for another run at state title

By Reece Waddell | Published Wednesday, December 20, 2017
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Ready for New Year

READY FOR NEW YEAR – Juan Amador and the Bridgeport Bulls will try to follow up last year’s trip to the state final. The Bulls open the season Jan. 4. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

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 in a shootout, Bridgeport returns 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. 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 were 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 coach Ben Parks, and inherits a Bridgeport team that went 20-4-5 last season. The Bulls’ high-powered offense averaged three 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 and Progreso in the playoffs last season before falling in the epic 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 returns 10 players that received District 3-4A honors last year. Leading the returners are last year’s district MVP Aguilar, midfield MVP Miguel Olmos and top newcomer Milton Iniguez. The Bulls also welcome back junior Giovanni Martinez, senior Jesus Aguilar, sophomore Jonathan Juarez, sophomore Rigoberto Alvarez, sophomore Eddie Munoz, senior Andrew Stotts and senior Juan Amador.

The amount of returning players is something the Bulls expect will help their 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. Jan. 4 against Little River Academy in the Alvarado Tournament. Bridgeport plays its first home game on Feb. 16 against Wichita Falls Hirschi in the 3-4A opener.

“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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