Building on foundation – Bridgeport looking to return to playoffs in 2018

Last season, Shannon Wilson laid the foundation for his Bulls’ football program, clinching Bridgeport’s first playoff berth since 2015.

It was a good start for a program that hadn’t missed the playoffs in consecutive years since 1994-95.

Entering his second season at the helm, Wilson is focused on finishing.

“We lost eight games last year, and we could’ve won eight,” Wilson said. “Finishing is one of our goals this year. For whatever reason, and it’s ultimately up to me, we weren’t confident in doing what we had to do to win some of those close games. We needed to tackle better and move better in blocking late. If we change that, we’ll get results.”

Bridgeport went 3-8, going 2-2 in District 3-4A Division II. But a quick glance at the schedule doesn’t tell the entire story for Bridgeport. Four of the Bulls’ losses were by less than four points.

The slim margins between winning and losing are a point Wilson is driving home. All this offseason, Wilson said he’s seen his message sink in.

Wilson said he’s seen leaders step up in the program after losing 21 players from last year’s team. In the summer, Bridgeport’s skill players, led by junior quarterback Jadon Maddux, flexed their muscles, making a run in the Division II state 7-on-7 tournament.

“I’m not sure when we first started that we could get a first down, and we literally could have won any game in that tournament,” Wilson said. “I’ve seen huge improvement. If anything, it gets me excited for the beginning of the season. They understand what we’re about, and they understand if we keep on schedule with what we’ve been doing that good things will happen.”

“My whole goal right now is to take our strength and conditioning and the improvement from 7-on-7 to week one. If we’re able to do that and continue to grow like they have, the results are going to be good. My focus is getting us to game one. I think if we do that, it’s cyclical and we improve.”

BRIDGEPORT BULLS IN A CAPSULE

2017 record: 3-8, 2-2

Bi-district qualifiers

Head coach: Shannon Wilson, second year (3-8)

OVERVIEW

Bridgeport played eight close games last year, but only came out on top in three. After losing the first five games of the season, the Bulls closed out the year by winning three of their last five regular season contests to clinch a berth in the Class 4A Division II playoffs. In the opening round against Godley, the Bulls fell in a controversial 32-28 contest to end the season.

OFFENSE

Bridgeport may have lost eight starters on the offensive side of the ball, but there will be plenty of talent returning to the Bulls’ backfield.

Junior quarterback Jadon Maddux is looking to continue the trajectory from his breakout sophomore season.

Maddux threw for 2,142 yards and 16 touchdowns, but don’t be fooled – he can do more than just pick you apart in the pocket. The junior gunlsinger is a fair bet to be the fastest player on the field at all times. Before taking third place in 4A at the state track meet in the 100, he rushed for 864 yards and 11 touchdowns on 127 carries.

Bridgeport will also see senior Christian Hand return to the backfield after recovering from a leg injury.

DEFENSE

Bridgeport gave up 455 points last year, but Wilson expects Hand’s return to also make an impact on the defensive side of the ball.

The senior ironman will take snaps at linebacker in addition to running the ball.

On the defensive line, Bridgeport will feature second-team all district defensive lineman Gonsalo Ibarra, senior defensive lineman Diangelo Sandoval, senior linebacker Carson Johnson, and senior defensive back Ty Read.

Ibarra recorded 29 tackles and three sacks last year.

OUTLOOK

Time will tell if the Bulls can take their 7-on-7 dominance to the 2018 season, but there’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic with the return of Hand, as well as the continued maturation of Maddux. Bridgeport has a favorable non-district schedule to start the season. If the Bulls can finish and have a few breaks go their way, there’s a good chance they will return to the playoffs.

Record prediction: 5-5 overall, 2-3 in 3-4A Division II for third place

2017 BRIDGEPORT RESULTS

Mineral Wells 47, Bridgeport 33
Burkburnett 21, Bridgeport 20
Gainesville 53, Bridgeport 28
Sanger 37, Bridgeport 35
Decatur 61, Bridgeport 28
Bridgeport 41, Benbrook 37
Graham 62, Bridgeport 7
Bridgeport 21, Krum 14
Bridgeport 37, Vernon 36
Iowa Park 55, Bridgeport 17
Godley 32, Bridgeport 28

2018 BRIDGEPORT SCHEDULE

Aug. 31 … Pilot Point
Sept. 7 … Bowie
Sept. 14 … @ Sanger
Sept. 21 … @ Lake Worth
Sept. 28 … Gainesville
Oct. 5 … BYE
Oct. 12 … @ Krum
Oct. 19 … Graham
Oct. 26 … @ Vernon
Nov. 2 … Iowa Park
Nov. 9 … Aubrey