Big cleats to fill: New faces lead Bulls into season

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, January 5, 2019
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Shot on Goal

SHOT ON GOAL – Bridgeport’s Ashley Ingram dives for a header during a bi-district playoff match against Mineral Wells last year. The Sissies fell 2-1 in double overtime. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

When Bridgeport’s season came to an end in the 4A Region I final last April to eventual state champion San Elizario, the Bulls said goodbye to several integral pieces of their program.

Seniors Juan Amador and Eric Aguilar – who were the backbone of the team since it was started in 2015 – graduated. A few months later in July, coach C.J. Cartwright departed for a job at Flower Mound Marcus.

FENDING HIM OFF – Bridgeport’s Juan Amador battles for the ball with a San Elizario defender during the region final last year. San Elizario won the match 1-0, ending the Bulls’ season. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

With the 2019 season upon them, Bridgeport has turned to several new faces to step in and keep its historically successful program going. The Bulls kicked off the year against Round Rock Thursday with a 1-1 draw.

“We’ve kind of taken the approach that those guys before us have laid the foundation and it’s our turn to build off what they’ve done,” said first-year coach JD Bales. “It is a challenge knowing the standard is already set. It’s a great challenge for me and a great challenge for the kids. That’s what has made this place such a good soccer place.”

Bridgeport posted a 21-4-1 record last year, winning its third consecutive district title. The Bulls return a senior-heavy back line that posted 13 shutouts in 26 games last year.

Senior defenders Rigoberto Alvarez, Sevastian Rodriguez, Giovanni Martinez and keeper Jason Espinoza anchor Bridgeport’s defense. Junior Miguel Alvarez rounds out the Bulls’ back line.

Rigoberto Alvarez was the District 3-4A Defensive MVP in 2018.

“Lots of guys who got quality minutes are coming back,” Bales said. “I think defensively we are the strongest, but I think it’s coming to those other two phases in the midfield and forward.”

Up top, Bridgeport will need to replace the scoring production from Amador and Aguilar. The Bulls averaged 4.2 goals last year, with Amador leading the team in goals scored. He was named 3-4A MVP.

Bales said several players are ready to step in and fill the void, including senior Edward Rodriguez. He was the 3-4A Newcomer of the Year in 2018.

“We’ve talked about it with the kids. Those guys [Amador and Aguilar] were vital to the success, but I kind of just started pointing at people and said, ‘Why can’t that be you?’ It can be any of them,” Bales said.

On the girls side, the Sissies opened their season Thursday on the road with a 1-1 draw at South Hills. Bridgeport won its first district title last year and went 9-10-4 before falling in the bi-district round of the playoffs to Mineral Wells.

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