Building robots, building futures

Bridgeport, Texas, is a long way from Silicon Valley – but a new club at Bridgeport High School is giving students an opportunity to learn about technology and entrepreneurship.

The Bridgeport Robotics Club, led by math teacher Stuart Highlander, will compete in the upcoming Texas Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology (BEST) Robotics tournament in October. The club is currently building a robot for the competition, using materials given to them by the organization.

I Robot

I, ROBOT – Gus White and Kyle Baker make some adjustments to the wheels on the Bridgeport Robotics Club’s robot last week. The robot is designed to evade obstacles put in its place, such as prairie chickens. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

But they’re not just building robots and programming code – they’re learning how to market the robot as a product, just like any other tech start-up.

“We run it like a company,” Highlander said as he gestured around at the group of students. “I’m technically the CEO, and [Principal] Jaime Sturdivant is the president, and we have different components to the operation.”

The club was an after-school activity years ago but folded after Highlander left teaching for a 10-year hiatus working at a bank. Now he’s back, teaching math at Bridgeport High School.

When some students expressed an interest, he decided to get the club going again.

Dream Team

DREAM TEAM – Gus White, Nathaniel Strother, Lance Coe and Timmy Tamplen each work on their respective duties as members of the Bridgeport Robotics Club. White helps build the robot, Strother documents engineering changes and Coe and Tamplen handle the marketing for the robot. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Among the “components” Highlander mentioned are marketing, engineering and programming teams that will all help the club on its way to the BEST Robotics competition Oct. 18. This year’s game is “Blade Runner” – an exercise in building wind turbines while avoiding common farm obstacles, like prairie chickens.

In the actual competition, the robot will have to move along a set path through a simulated farm to avoid obstacles the judges put in its way.

The Bridgeport club will be competing against 22 other teams in the “Heart of Texas Hub,” one of 20 “regions” in Texas. They will enter the marketing, documentation, exhibit and interview and spirit and sportsmanship categories. The winner goes on to the regional competition at UT Dallas.

More than 11,000 students compete each year, according to Best’s website.

Highlander said his engineers are an interesting bunch to work with.

“They’re an eclectic team with all sorts of traits,” he said. “Academically, some are on top, some aren’t on top, but they all contribute different things to the project.”

Building Success

BUILDING SUCCESS – Gus White, Kyle Baker and Lance Coe examine the Bridgeport Robotics Club’s robot last Thursday. The team will compete against other North Texas robotics teams Oct. 18 in the Texas BEST competition. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Every day after school, in room 104, the dozen or so members of the club work in organized chaos – a robot here, a programmed calculator on wheels there, laptops everywhere. The team sometimes stays until 6, tweaking their robot.

Freshman Timmy Tamplen is responsible for marketing the club, which includes everything from helping build product logos to designing merchandise to sell to potential shareholders. Yes, they sell shares just like any other company ($5 a share) and will begin bringing in money once the school board approves.

“Right now, we’ve got wristbands, lanyards, stress balls, buttons, customized playing cards and koozies,” Tamplen said. “We’ve been pledging those going door-to-door, and we’ll deliver them once we get our stocks approved.”

That money will go to fund other ventures like a 3D printer, junior Lance Coe said.

“I also want to get them involved in other stuff, like computer assisted design [CAD] and things like that,” Highlander said.

Coe is on the marketing team with Tamplen, along with Keaton Harvester and junior Zane Brown.

Other team members include sophomore Nathaniel Strother, who documents every engineering move; senior Kyle Baker, who helps program the robot; junior Gus White, who helped design the robot’s wheels and forklift; and sophomore Kellen McCauley, who helps out where ever he can.

And then there’s 11-year-old Elizabeth Highlander – the head programmer. She’s Stuart Highlander’s daughter and said she has no problem working with a bunch of boys who are older than her.

“It doesn’t really bother me that I’m the youngest, since I rarely come to the meetings anyway,” she said. “I’ve been doing robotics stuff since I was 2.”

It’s clear that other members don’t mind having her around. Most of the students defer to her on important decisions.

“She’s technically the most experienced of all of us,” Coe said.

Principal Sturdivant gave Elizabeth permission to help out. The McCarroll Middle School sixth grader helped program a game for the Bridgeport club that simulates what the competition will be like in real life.

Highlander said while his daughter was the only girl in the room on the day of the Messenger interview, some of the best work the club has done in the past has been done by female students.

“The best machine we’ve ever built was made by two girls a couple of years ago,” Highlander said.

Highlander said the robotics club and encourages students to pursue what they’re good at.

“It gives kids like her an avenue to be the star and to be the problem-solver,” Highlander said. “We don’t want to coddle these kids, and that’s the great thing about this competition. It’s entirely student-run. They don’t want me making parts or building the robot. Each decision is made by the kids, and nine times out of 10, they’re right.”

That type of learning environment means that often, the students themselves become the teachers. If one displays a skill the others don’t have, for instance, that student might end up teaching the rest of the group for two weeks on how to build or program something. It’s a setup that mirrors real life, Highlander said.

“It’s a great thing for these kids because it teaches them that there are direct consequences to their actions out there on the competition floor,” he said. “What we always try to tell them is to fail well, and to fail often, and that success is often only one step away from failure.”

Many students got involved in the club after recognizing an interest in STEM subjects early on.

Baker, who helps program the robot’s forklift, said he became interested in programming during his freshman year, when he learned he could hack his school-issued Mac computer.

“Once I figured that out, I got more involved in the programming side of things, and here I am,” Baker said.

Others are hoping to use the club as experience for their future careers.

“I like working with robots because it helps me with what I want to do – I want to be a Navy pilot,” McCauley said.

It’s a long way from Silicon Valley, but it’s entirely possible some of these students will end up there someday.

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Bridgeport ISD Student Spotlights for Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Elementary School

Angelica Rose Grube

Grade: 2nd
Parents: Absalom Grube and Dawn Weyand

Favorite subject: Reading

Activities: Drawing, coloring, playing with her fuzzball and playing with her brother, Vincent

Why this student was chosen: “Angelica Rose is kind, helpful and willing to do whatever you ask of her. She is very responsible and always has a smile on her face.” – Principal Martha Bock

Intermediate School

Brooklyn Tucker

Grade: 5th
Mother: Sylvia Longoria

Favorite subject: Science

Activities: Cooking and roller skating

Why this student was chosen: “Brooklyn is helpful in all areas of the campus, always smiling and courteous. She’s dedicated to learning in and out of the classroom. She speaks English, Spanish and Italian and is passionate about cooking. She is a friend to all students and always tries to look on the bright side of life.” – Principal Jared Laaser

Middle School

Madison Andreasen

Grade: 8th
Parents: Jennifer Bynum, Ronald Andreasen

Favorite subject: English

Activities: Maroon Band, art, “Buddy” for Wise County Special Needs Baseball, student trainer for boys’ athletics, works in technology for her church (Crossroads in Decatur)

Why this student was chosen: “Madison excels in advanced classes and plays clarinet for the band. However, Madison is truly special for her sweet spirit and the quality of her character. She enthusiastically donates her time to serving special needs students and adults through her role as a buddy for Wise County Special Needs Baseball. She is also genuinely kind to her peers and classmates.” – Principal Travis Whisenant

High School

Vanessa Rojas

Grade: 12th
Parents: Antonio and Isabel Rojas

Favorite subject: Pre-Calculus

Activities: Spending time with friends and family, National Honor Society, Spanish Club, student council

Why this student was chosen: “Vanessa is one of those students that everybody likes and respects. She approaches everything she does with a smile and positive attitude. She is a natural leader and a role model for all students. Vanessa is a hard worker in the classroom.” – Principal Jaime Sturdivant

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Cross Country: Bulls’ Aguillar wins race in Poolville

Bridgeport’s Eric Aguillar jumped out to an early lead and held on for the entire race last week at Poolville.

Aguillar ran a 17:20 to win the three-mile event.

“It was very exciting to watch Eric start in first place and remain in first place for three miles,” said Bridgeport coach Dayna Hudson. “He ran strong and smart throughout the course. It was a well-deserved first-place medal.”

Bridgeport finished third as a team.

Salvador Garcia took seventh in 18:24. Manual Garcia was 19th in 18:59. Kellen McCauley came in 44th in 20:24. Jose Ramirez ran 20:37 for 46th.

The Bridgeport Sissies finished second.

“The girls did a great job running a new course that none of us had ever seen before,” Hudson said. “The girls rose to the occasion again, beating every team except for Paradise.”

Diana Garcia finished seventh in 13:30. Liz Wiedemann took 18th in 14:09. Jordyn Armstrong ran 14:36 for 26th. Sheridan Shallene was 29th in 14:45. Naomi Baca garnered 32nd in 14:48 and Shelby Preston 46th in 15:39.

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Volleyball: Godley sweeps Bridgeport

The Bridgeport Sissies Friday failed to build momentum heading into Tuesday’s District 8-4A opener.

The Sissies fell in three games to Godley, 25-12, 25-10, 25-6.

“We didn’t end the preseason the way we wanted to but look forward to district play,” said Bridgeport coach Rebekah Cummings.

Bridgeport (5-19) struggled to mount an attack, putting down eight kills. Sadie White led the way with two.

Ryhan Read recorded four assists.

Kensley Turner made six digs. Mariah Leyva dug five shots, and Amellia Hurtado four.

Jessica White blocked four shots.

Bridgeport opened district play Tuesday against Springtown.

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Old Bridgeport schoolhouse gets transformed into haunted house

Old Bridgeport schoolhouse gets transformed into haunted house

Scary rednecks, hungry zombies, mad scientists and angry butchers are just a few of the scares awaiting visitors to the Fearaphobia Haunted House in Bridgeport.

Clowning Around

CLOWNING AROUND – A clown exhibit is just one stop on the haunted house tour through an old Bridgeport schoolhouse on Carpenter Street. The haunted house opened on Friday and will stay open on weekends until Nov. 1. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The haunted house started tours Friday night and is located at the old high school building at 1407 Carpenter St. Runaway Bay resident Robert Chaney put the house together once again after last year’s premiere on Halsell Street in Bridgeport.

The new location enticed Chaney because of its old, spooky feel.

“My big draw is to get people who actually went here – people that will say, ‘Oh, I went to junior high here; I went to high school here,'” Chaney, a construction engineer, said.

Up in Arms

UP IN ARMS – Haunted house designer Robert Chaney poses in the butcher’s room at Fearaphobia. Chaney purchases or makes all of the haunted house props himself. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

According to the Bridgeport Historical Society’s website, the building was erected in 1924 and served as a high school until a new high school was built in 1959.

With 90 years in one location, Chaney said he wanted to see if the schoolhouse was haunted.

“We had a paranormal investigation team come in and look around, look at the building and look at our props,” Chaney said. “They said they found a lot of stuff.”

The team told Chaney that they found spirits attached to an old coffin and an old 1800s-era piano that are being used as props, as well as the spirits of a Mexican miner and two little girls. One story Chaney said he heard about the schoolhouse was that the ghost of an old teacher would throw erasers at students who acted up in class.

That spooky aura, combined with volunteer actors and many of Chaney’s graphic props, are what he hopes will scare people the most.

“The evolution of haunted houses over the last 15, 20 years, with the way the [horror] movies have become, you really have to take it over the top to get the shock factor,” Chaney said.

Chaney began doing Halloween-themed events years ago, when his wife, Lalisa, decided she wanted to throw a Halloween party, and then that morphed into a small haunted house on his property, which grew into a bigger haunted house, until finally it got so big that the Chaney family had to take their scares to downtown Bridgeport, where they set up last year.

Last year’s haunt raised money for a local charity, and Chaney said that if he breaks even this year, he hopes to donate money to local Wise County charities again.

“Last year, we probably had 1,000 to 1,500 people [visit] throughout the month, but if I can average 100 people a night and still donate to charity and then still donate gift cards to the people who help us, I’ll be happy,” Chaney said.

Chaney bought or made most of the props himself, traveling to different “haunt conventions” across the country and renovating the schoolhouse with the help of his wife and a handful of volunteers.

The haunted house opened Friday and will be open 6 to 10 p.m. Thursdays and 6 to midnight Fridays and Saturdays until Nov. 1.

Tickets are $15 and $10 at the door for adults and children under 12, respectively, and $10 and $5 online at There will also be a children’s haunted house for those who feel they might get too scared going on the actual tour.

Catch a glimpse of the haunted house below:

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Christmas in October; Children’s Theater Group holds auditions for play

It’s not Christmastime yet, but a few Bridgeport residents are already getting ready for the occasion.

Shelley McComis, along with Debra Underwood and Sherri Jones, are directing the newly formed Children’s Theater Group in a holiday adaptation of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

Auditions for the play are being held today from 10 a.m. to noon and again 2 to 4 p.m. at the Bridgeport Stage, 1009 Halsell St.

McComis said the idea for the play came from wondering why the theater wasn’t being utilized by Bridgeport youth.

“We just figured, Bridgeport’s got this great theater, and there’s lots of sporting events around the area, but if you’re someone who doesn’t do sports, then there’s not so much left to do,” McComis said. “We’re looking to start a theater group and do a play maybe two, three times a year, but right now, we’re just looking for interest.”

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” is the story of six delinquent children who start going to the local church for the free donuts at Sunday school but soon get roped into participating in the annual Christmas pageant. It was written as a children’s book by Barbara Robinson in 1971, and it became a made-for-TV movie in 1983.

McComis said she chose the story because it was funny and had a good message. The story’s inclusive message could also be applied to the casting process that McComis is taking.

The play will need about 35 people, including cast, crew and technicians, McComis said. And, while the story’s main characters are younger children, anyone from age 6 to 18 can audition.

“There’s some adult parts in it, but we’re hoping to fill those with older kids, and just use costuming and makeup,” McComis said. “We want to get a lot more kids, kids that normally wouldn’t do theater.”

The Bridgeport Parks and Rec department agreed to help float the cost of the play, in an effort to see if the theater group would be something that the community would want.

“We’re always open to finding ways to offer more quality programming for the town,” Recreation Superintendent Chris Heasley said. “This could be a need for the community, especially if there’s a good showing at the audition, which I think there will be.”

Once a cast and crew is selected, rehearsals will be every Tuesday night starting Oct. 7, and the two performances at the Bridgeport Stage will be Dec. 13 and 14.

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Football: Blue Runaway – Eagles blast Bulls with big 3rd quarter

Football: Blue Runaway – Eagles blast Bulls with big 3rd quarter

After missing its opportunity to land knockout shots in the first half, the Decatur Eagles didn’t make the same mistake in the third quarter.

The Eagles turned an eight-point game at halftime into a 56-27 rout of the Bridgeport Bulls, putting up 21 straight points in the first seven minutes of the second half.

In the Open Field

IN THE OPEN FIELD – Bridgeport receiver Keenan Holdman breaks loose on his 80-yard jaunt to the end zone. He scored three times for the Bulls Friday. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Quarterback Justin Myers scored on runs of nine and one yards and Payton McAlister added a 7-yard dash to pay dirt in the 21-point blitz in the Battle of Big Sandy.

“We had a few hiccups in the first half but still scored on four of our eight possessions,” Myers said. “We then got to rolling in the third quarter. We were more focused and came out guns ablazing.”

KNOCKING IT AWAY – Decatur’s Ryan Durdon flies in to swat a ball away from Bridgeport receiver Dylan Garrison during the Eagles’ win Friday. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Myers turned in a stellar night running and throwing the ball. He rushed for 204 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw a pair of scores to Gunnar Parker, including a 50-yard strike barely two minutes into the game.

“We knew we were going to be able to get that first pass play and it was going to be open,” Myers said. “That got us rolling.”

Myers spent all but one possession on the sidelines in the fourth quarter after throwing for 252 yards, completing 15 of his 22 attempts.

“He did to us what he’s done to everyone else,” said Bridgeport coach Danny Henson. “He’s a good quarterback. In this era, if you have a true dual-threat quarterback they are hard to stop. The SEC couldn’t stop Johnny Manziel.”

The Decatur defense also did its part in turning a possible shootout into a one-sided affair in the second half. The Eagles held Bridgeport to a single touchdown – a 5-yard pass to Keenan Holdman from Trey Cook – after halftime. The Bulls, who had 232 yards at halftime, put up 135 in the third and fourth quarters and turned the ball over on downs three times and punted twice.

“We played great in the second half,” said Decatur linebacker Cole Vaughan. “We added five new blitzes this week and all of them worked well. We were able to contain Trey and their running game.”

Decatur coach Mike Fuller added praise for the defense, which was without some starters in the second half.

“We had some subs in but they did a good job of picking it up,” Fuller said. “We did a good job in the first half but No. 7 (Holdman) made some plays.”

Holdman caught touchdown passes of 69 and 29 yards in the first half. He also ran back a kickoff 80 yards to bring the Bulls within one, 21-20. Holdman finished with seven catches for 136 yards.

The Bulls trailed 28-20 at the break after McAlister’s second 2-yard touchdown run of the first half for the Eagles. McAlister scored three times, rushing for 56 yards.

Bridgeport twice drove inside the Decatur 10-yard line in the first half and turned the ball over on downs.

“There was the two big series in the first half where they stopped us,” Henson said. “That was a big turning point. We needed to capitalize on every possession to win a high-scoring game like this.”

Decatur jumped out to a 14-0 lead, scoring on its first two drives. Each possession took less than a minute, covering 70 and 90 yards.

Myers went 9-for-17 through the air for 164 yards in the first half. He added 125 yards rushing and an 8-yard touchdown run.

Decatur looked on the verge of breaking the game open after a Vaughan interception off a deflection at the Bulls’ 23. But the next play the Eagles gave the ball back to Bridgeport with a fumble.

Cook then connected with Holdman on a 69-yard touchdown pass. Then, after the Eagles were stopped on fourth down at their 39, Cook found Holdman again for a 29-yard touchdown.

When Efrain DeLuna’s PAT hit the upright and bounced back, the Eagles held on to a 14-13 lead.

Decatur never relinquished its lead or the jar of sand as the champions of the Battle of Big Sandy.


Bridgeport … 7 … 13 … 7 … … 0 – 27
Decatur … 14 … 14 … 2 … 1 … 7 – 56


Decatur – 9:55, Gunnar Parker 50 pass from Justin Myers, Jorge Martinez kick

Decatrur – 4:25, Payton McAlister 2 run, Martinez kick

Bridgeport – 0:00, Keenan Holdman 69 pass from Trey Cook, Efrain DeLuna kick


Bridgeport – 9:52, Holdman 29 pass from Cook, kick failed

Decatur – 7:30, Myers 8 run, Martinez kick

Bridgeport – 7:19, Holdman 80 kickoff return, DeLuna kick

Decatur – 4:37, McAlister 2 run, Martinez kick


Decatur – 9:49, McAlister 7 run, Martinez kick

Decatur – 7:51, Myers 9 run, Martinez kick

Decatur – 4:28, Myers 1 run, Martinez kick

Bridgeport – 0:41, Holdman 5 pass from Cook, DeLuna kick


Decatur – 11:43, Parker 10 pass from Myers, Martinez kick


First Downs … 16 … 26
Rushes-Yards … 33-122 … 47-344
Passing Yards … 245 … 260
Total Yards … 367 … 604
Comp-Att-Int … 20-35-1 … 16-26-0
Sacks-Yards lost … 4-17 … 0-0
Punts-Average … 3-37.3 … 3-34.6
Fumbles-Lost … 2-1 … 1-1
Penalties-Yards … 4-29 … 12-110


Rushing: Bridgeport, Grayson Mathes 13-62, Keenan Holdman 3-7, Brazier Talley 15-48, Trey Cook 4-20, Corbin Coleman 2-(minus 15). Decatur, Justin Myers 20-204, Mario Reyes 9-39, Eddie Martinez 7-15, Payton McAlister 10-56, Gunnar Parker 1-30.

Passing: Bridgeport, Cook 19-33-1-224, Coleman 1-4-0-21. Decatur, Myers 15-22-0-252, Jake Kemp 1-4-0-8.

Receiving: Bridgeport, Chayton Stotts 1-14, Talley 3-4, Raby Hawkins 3-28, Holdman 7-136, Jake Simmons 2-14, Dylan Garrison 4-54. Decatur, Aaron Shetter 1-9, Tanner Shields 2-15, Ryan Durdon 4-72, Martinez 2-29, McAlister 2-56, Parker 3-66, Carsen Medlin 1-6.

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Football: Myers ‘great night’ leads Eagles to win

As the final minutes ticked off the clock Friday night, Justin Myers stood on the sidelines with a chance to reflect and take in the night.

“This is a great night,” said the Decatur senior signal caller. “This outcome is a result of all the work all week. There’s still a few things that can get better. But tonight was great.”

Myers was a big reason it was a great night for the Big Blue and Decatur in the Battle of Big Sandy. In his first start in the 95th meeting between the two rivals, Myers torched the Bulls with his arm and legs to lead Decatur to a 56-27 win over Bridgeport.

Myers ran for 204 yards and three touchdowns and added 252 yards through air, completing 15 of his 22 attempts.

“He did a great job,” said Decatur coach Mike Fuller. “He did a good job passing and made plays with his feet when he needed.”

Myers wasted no time putting his mark on the game, hitting speedster Gunnar Parker for a 50-yard touchdown on the Eagles’ first possession.

After the Decatur defense made a stop at the 10-yard line, Myers broke free for a 65-yard romp to set up a second touchdown.

“I’ve always come to this game when I was little. The Battle of Big Sandy was always a big thing,” Myers said. “I got in last year after Grayson [Muehlstein] did great things. It’s great to be a part of it.”

Myers didn’t stop there. When it looked like maybe his team was losing grip on the game as Bridgeport rallied behind a pair of plays from the dynamic Keenan Holdman, it was the steady hand of Myers completing a 26-yard pass on a third-and-8 to get the Eagles back on track. He scored on a 8-yard run on the next play.

He then put the game away in the third quarter, marching the Eagles on four straight scoring drives. He capped one with a 9-yard scoring run. His final series he threw a pair of touchdowns. The first a 47-yard strike to Payton McAlister was called back for illegal touching. The next play, Myers connected with Ryan Durdon for 33 yards. He then closed the night with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Parker.

Aside from trotting back on the field to punt twice in the fourth quarter, he spent the rest of the night on the sidelines – where he’d hoped to be.

“We put in such a good week of work, we were confident this was going to happen,” Myers said.

But he reached the sidelines only after a truly great night in the Battle of Big Sandy.

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Volleyball: Sissies sink Diamond Hill-Jarvis

Kim Luco and Jessica White turned in big offensive efforts as the Bridgeport Sissies took down Diamond Hill-Jarvis in four games Tuesday.

Luco recorded 10 kills, and White nine as the Sissies won 25-26, 20-25, 25-11, 25-14.

Bridgeport coach Rebekah Cummings praised the work of her team in the win.

“We had a lot more energy tonight and hitters took care of the ball,” Cummings said. “We didn’t give away very many points, so we were able to control the pace of the game.”

Nikki Barbour handed out 15 assists, and Ryhan Read had 13.

White served up three aces. Kensley Turner, Barbour and Read added two each.

Barbour made 12 digs. Mariah Leyva dug 11 shots.

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Ava Grace St. John

Amy St. John of Bridgeport announces the birth of a daughter, Ava Grace, on Sept. 17, 2014, at Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

She weighed 7 pounds, 3 ounces and was 18 inches long.

Grandparents are Ashley and Kevin St. John of Bridgeport.

Great-grandparents are Kelli Cook and Jerry St. John of Bridgeport and Peggy Puckett of Ennis.

Great-great-grandmother is Nell Admire of Bridgeport.

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Kason Lee Morehead

Jimmy and Tabbetha Morehead of Bridgeport announce the birth of a son, Kason Lee, on Sept. 17, 2014, at Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

He weighed 6 pounds, 8 ounces pounds and was 18 1/2 inches long.

He has two sisters: Erin and Destiny, both 13.

Grandparents are Debbie and Grady Scott of Bridgeport and Tammy Blaylock of Decatur.

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Bridgeport names new chamber executive director

Bridgeport names new chamber executive director

Kelsey Cooley didn’t come to Wise County looking for a civic job, but she’s excited to fulfill the duties of her new post – Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce executive director.

Blazing a Trail

BLAZING A TRAIL – Kelsey Cooley, the new executive director for Bridgeport’s Chamber of Commerce, poses in the stagecoach at the Chamber Tuesday. Cooley said she wants to make an effort to bring more “young businesses” to the city. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Cooley officially took over the position from Tiffany Evans Sept. 15 after Evans left her post at the Chamber to become the Main Street and public relations manager for the city of Bridgeport in August.

“I got a phone call from a friend of mine who told me I’d be perfect for this and that I should look into it, and so I did, and the rest is history,” Cooley said.

Originally from California, Cooley moved to Wise County in 2006 while working for NRS and didn’t expect to stay long.

“I figured I’d stay out here for a year or two and then go home, but I ended up loving Texas, loving Wise County, and I decided to take a real job out here,” Cooley said.

After working in veterinary sales for five years, Cooley said that she and her husband, Matt, were thinking about starting a family, and she wanted to find a job that wouldn’t require as much traveling as she had done in the past.

The Chamber job seemed to fit the bill.

“I’m really good at networking, really good with people, event planning, stuff like that, and I’ve been loving the job here so far,” Cooley said.

Now pregnant with her first child, Cooley said that the best thing about working in Bridgeport is the community.

“I’ve already had a ton of business leaders come in and meet with me, and just introduce themselves, so that’s been really helpful,” Cooley said. “Several of them have come in after I’ve met with them to see if there’s anything else I need from them. It’s really been wonderful and welcoming.”

Cooley said she’s excited about the city’s upcoming Coal Miners’ Heritage Festival in October, as well as all of the ways she can impact the city’s businesses.

“I’m looking forward to the [Coal Miners' Heritage Festival] not just as an event, but also as a way to see how the Chamber works together as a team,” Cooley said.

She also has ideas for how to attract new businesses to town.

“Nothing against oil and gas, but we’ve always been just an oil and gas town, and we have a lot of opportunity to bring in younger and fresher businesses that don’t revolve around that,” Cooley said. “OHV park is a huge example of what’s possible for that – why couldn’t we put a shop for those ATVs out here? When those things break down out there, they have to go to Fort Worth to get fixed. We could set something up for them right here.”

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New airport plan put in motion

A new plan was revealed this week that would allow pilots to temporarily use part of a runway at Bridgeport Municipal Airport during an upcoming reconstruction project.

The plan was explained Monday at a pilots’ meeting at City Hall.

No members of the city council were there, but Gary Barnett, Bridgeport’s director of transportation and airport Services, was on hand to answer questions, along with Ed Mayle from the Texas Department of Transportation, Steve Gould from Austin Bridge and Road and Sheri Hollaway from Klotz Associates, all of whom will play a part in the upcoming airport construction.

The project, which is tentatively scheduled to last a year, calls for remodeling the runway and parallel taxiways, installing new runway lights and moving a Chevron pipeline on the airport property.

At previous meetings, pilots were worried that the airport closure would affect their ability to use the runway. The new plan presented by Hollaway would allow parts of the runway to be used for the first six months of the project, as opposed to the earlier course of action that would make pilots take off and land from a 3,000-foot strip of grass close to the runway.

Phase 1 of the project, scheduled to start Oct. 6, would still allow parts of the runway to be used for takeoff and landing at “the pilot’s own risk,” and only during certain hours at the beginning and end of the day, Hollaway said.

“We hope it’ll be quicker, but it’s looking like six months,” Hollaway said.

Phase 2, scheduled to start in March or April, would see the airport completely shut down, with no takeoffs or landings allowed. The entire project is scheduled to be finished next October.

“Roughly, the first of May is when we’re looking at starting construction on the runway,” Hollaway said.

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Football: Big Sandy showdown – Teams keep game going after realignment

Football: Big Sandy showdown – Teams keep game going after realignment

When the University Interscholastic League sent Decatur and Bridgeport their separate ways in February’s realignment, the two Big Sandy rivals immediately scheduled a 95th game in the series.

Ready to Clash

READY TO CLASH – The Bridgeport Bulls and Decatur Eagles will meet for the 95th time Friday night in the Battle of Big Sandy. Decatur won last year’s game and leads the all-time series in the battle named for the creek that runs between the two communities. Bulls mascot Ashton VanHoose and Eagle mascot Maliah Minor met at Big Sandy Creek for the shoot. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“They told me they’d fire me if I didn’t schedule [Decatur],” joked Bridgeport coach and athletic director Danny Henson. “But why would we not want to play in such a game?

“We’re excited and honored to play in such a game. The kids at Bridgeport and Decatur are lucky to play in a game like this. You are guaranteed one big game per year with a lot of excitement. You have to go a long ways in the playoffs to find an atmosphere like this.”

While that is the current sentiment, that wasn’t always the case. When the UIL split up the two in the spring of 1990, Bridgeport and Decatur failed to schedule games for the following two falls. It was the first time the two did not play since 1961, according to Wise County Messenger archives. The teams also didn’t meet in 1949-50 and 55-56. There were no seasons in 1942 and ’43.

The Eagles went to the eight-team District 9-3A in 1990 with Southlake Carroll, Springtown, Boyd, Aledo, Lake Dallas, Lake Worth and Diamond Hill-Jarvis. The Bulls landed in 4-3A with Vernon, Bowie, Iowa Park, Breckenridge and Graham.

Playing in a seven-team league, Decatur had three non-district slots available to keep the Battle of Big Sandy going. But former Decatur head coach Bobby Actkinson said there was little consideration for that from Bridgeport, who had already made plans to play Olney, Henrietta, Aledo, Kennedale and Holliday in non-district.

“We could’ve got a game,” Actkinson said. “But the coach at Bridgeport, who was a friendly guy, said that the people of Bridgeport put everything into that one game. If they would lose, they’d be done for the year.”

Decatur had won the game every year between 1979 and ’89.

So in 1990 and ’91, the Eagles and Bulls did not meet.

Carl Abseck, who was a senior on the 1991 Bridgeport team and is now the offensive coordinator at Cedar Park, recalls it being odd not to play Decatur.

“It was very disappointing to not have an opportunity to take part in such a great rivalry,” Abseck said. “I remember growing up, and looking forward to that game every year as one of the most exciting games to go to and cheer for the Bulls. In fact, our senior class is probably one of the only ones to not play “The Battle of Big Sandy” as either a junior or senior. We grew up playing throughout junior high and as freshmen and sophomores. Then after the UIL realignment, we weren’t placed in the same district and as a result no games were scheduled. The rivalry was missed in all sports because of the importance to both communities and the fact that we had competed against each other for so many years.”

For Sean Minor, a senior on the Decatur 1991 squad, not playing Bridgeport was not noticeable at the time.

“Bridgeport wasn’t our rival back then,” Minor said. “Carroll, Springtown, Boyd and Aledo were our rivals.”

In 1992, the two teams started playing again when they landed in the same district. When Henson arrived in 1993, the rivalry began to change and heat up. The series is 11-10 in favor of the Bulls since 1993. The last four have been split between the two.

“The game has gone back and forth a lot recently,” Henson said.

With the current disparity in enrollment and the two seemingly set to remain in separate 4A divisions for a while, the two will have to continue to agree to play. Henson doesn’t see that being an issue.

“I wouldn’t want to quit playing,” he said.

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Football: Bulls, Eagles set for 95th meeting

For the first time since 1997, the Bridgeport Bulls and Decatur Eagles clash on the gridiron in a non-district game.

While a playoff spot will not be on the line, something just as valuable will be at 7:30 Friday night when the two renew the Battle of Big Sandy at Eagle Stadium: bragging rights.

Looking to Get Away

LOOKING TO GET AWAY – Decatur quarterback Justin Myers tries to escape the grasp of a Ranchview tackler during the Eagles’ loss last week. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“This means so much. You don’t want to lose,” said Decatur senior receiver Ryan Durdon.

The feelings are the same on the west side of the creek.

“This is the greatest week every season,” said Bridgeport quarterback Trey Cook. “We’re fortunate to have a rivalry like this. I’m .500 in this game. I’d like to go 2-1.”

It will be the first time since 1999 that Decatur will be led into the showdown by a new coach with Mike Fuller replacing Kyle Story on the Eagle sidelines.

“I’ve always liked big rivalries. This one is longer and older than any that I’ve been a part of.”

The team Fuller leads scored a 52-7 win over Bridgeport last year as the Bulls were on the way to an 0-10 campaign.

But this year is a different year, and the Bulls have experienced resurgence under Danny Henson. The Bulls are 3-1 having won three straight in dramatic fashion against Boyd, Godley and Burkburnett.

“At this point, we’re happy with any win,” Henson said. “Every week, we keep getting into tight games with evenly-matched opponents. But after a season like last year, it’s fun. A lot of these same kids experienced a lot of disappointment last year. Now, they are having fun and pulling out wins.”

With the wins, the Bulls are gaining confidence. That showed last week as the Bulls staged a last-minute drive for the winning touchdown in the 34-29 victory over Burkburnett.

“We’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Cook said. “In a close game, we know we are going to pull it out.”

Cook had a solid game throwing and running against Burkburnett. He threw for 264 yards and added another 34 on the ground, making several key runs on the final drive.

“He was accurate throwing and had some timely runs,” Henson said.

The Bulls will be looking to keep their streak going into the start 3-4A Division II play Oct. 10. But Henson points out that it will not be easy against Decatur.

“They are a good team,” Henson said. “Decatur is as good or better than anyone in our district.

“Their offense is really good. They can win with the run or pass. They can do it all of it well. Their quarterback [Justin Myers] is really talented in both phases. They are also huge up front.”

Defensively, the Bulls are giving up 505 yards per game.

Decatur is coming off a 50-34 loss to Carrollton Ranchview Friday. Ranchview scored 37 points in the second half to ensure the victory.

Fuller said the Eagles were inconsistent on both sides of the ball, which cost them.

“Defensively, we played well in the first half and then had too many letdowns,” Fuller said. “On offense, we had two drives in the first half where we had to settle for field goals and both times we had opportunities if we executed plays.”

The Decatur offense put up 460 yards in the loss. Myers threw for 248 and rushed for 96.

Freshman Mario Reyes gave the Eagles a spark, rushing for 73 yards on seven carries.

“He’s getting more comfortable where we can use him more,” Fuller said.

Defensively, the Eagles must slow down a Bulls team that is averaging 452 yards per game. Cook has thrown for more than 1,000 in four games with 11 touchdowns.

“They are explosive on offense,” Fuller said. “You can tell they are playing with a lot confidence since the Boyd game.”

Friday one team will be leaving with confidence and bragging rights as they head into district play Oct. 10. The other will have a long two weeks to think about it.

“You never want to lose going into an open week,” Fuller said.

A loss to a rival will make for an even longer two weeks.


Bridgeport … Decatur
Rushing … 754 … 1,073
Passing … 1,055 … 698
Total Yds … 1,809 … 1,771


7:30 p.m. at Eagle Stadium

Bridgeport: Harris Rating 211

Notable: The Bulls are giving up 505 yards per game.

Decatur: Harris Rating 210

Notable: The Eagles are averaging 462 yards.

Harris line: Decatur by 7

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Volleyball: Lady ‘Dogs trounce Sissies

Burkburnett swept the Bridgeport Sissies in three games Friday.

The Sissies (4-18) fell 25-18, 25-17, 25-20.

Bridgeport coach Rebekah Cummings said the Sissies got off to a good start but could not maintain it.

“We have to work harder at staying focused on every rally of every point,” Cummings said.

Jessica White and Sadie White finished with five kills each. Mariah Leyva added four.

Ryhan Read handed out seven assists. Ally Raby had five.

Defensively, Raby and Jessica White made a pair of blocks. Leyva and Nikki Barbour dug eight shots apiece.

Bridgeport took on Diamond Hill-Jarvis Tuesday night at home.

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Bridgeport City Council sets tax rate, works on library flooding

Bridgeport has a tax rate for fiscal year 2014-2015.

Property owners in the city will pay 58.75 cents per $100 valuation after action at Tuesday’s meeting of the Bridgeport City Council.

This rate is the maximum the council could have voted on in the past, and it’s the same rate the city has had for the last eight years. It includes 30.03 cents for maintenance and operations, and 28.72 cents for debt payments.

The vote was 4-0, as Councilman David Correll was absent.

The council also heard presentations from two entities Tuesday night – the Bridgeport Public Library and Siemens Co.

Library board president Smith and director of library services Cindy Macon presented their case for renovations to the library’s roof, which has been leaking more lately due to recent rain.

“It leaks, but it’s not predictable and it never leaks in the same spot twice, so it’s hard to fight,” Smith said.

The library building was built in the 1970s, but wasn’t purchased by the city for use as a library until the 1980s. Since then, the library has had two roofs, according to city administrator Brandon Emmons.

“There’s been flooding by the doors, too, and that’s been going on for the last five years,” Smith said.

Emmons added that the city is planning to renovate the building this year as the budget allows, namely on the library’s front door. He said he would send someone to assess the building’s damage and see how it could be fixed.

The other presentation, from Siemens representative Chad Nobles, focused on the annual report of the city’s Performance Contracting Agreement with the engineering company.

The city has saved a little more than $137,000 since it entered into its contract with Siemens, he said. That includes new light fixtures on streets and lower-cost lighting in city buildings.

Other business:

  • The council approved an agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) aviation division for miscellaneous repairs and improvements on the airport. Speaking of the airport, there will be a pilots’ meeting at City Hall Monday at 2 p.m. to discuss the upcoming runway renovation.
  • The council approved a 36-month uniform rental agreement with G&K Services that will provide uniforms for field employees. The agreement will cost the city $5,788.64 per year.
  • An amended agreement between the Bridgeport Economic Development Corp. and Crisp Real Estate Partners, L.P. that clarified project expenses for a public access easement behind the Taco Bell on Highway 380 passed 4-0.

The council’s next regular meeting is Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. at 900 Thompson Street. It is open to the public.

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Football: Bulls charge back, beat Burk

Brazier Talley’s plunge into the end zone with 44 seconds left lifted the Bridgeport Bulls to a third straight victory Friday night.

The Bulls fought back after giving up the lead in the fourth quarter to get the 34-29 road win at Burkburnett.

The win moved the Bulls to 3-1 on the season.

Bridgeport couldn’t get much going on their first drive of the game, but on the second drive things started clicking. Bridgeport went nearly the length of the field with Grayson Mathes covering the final 12 yards for the first score of the game.

Burkburnett went ahead just a few minutes later when it scored and got the two-point conversion. The Bulldogs went on to score a touchdown in the second quarter to stretch their lead to 15-7 headed into the half.

The Bulls came out of the break on fire. Mathes punched in his second score of the game from four yards out to pull the Bulls within one point, 15-14.

Later in the third, Chayton Stotts caught a timely 18-yard pass from Trey Cook to put Bridgeport ahead for the first time since 8:11 was left in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs wouldn’t go down without a fight. Led by Bryan Lewis, Burkburnett marched down the field for a quick touchdown in the opening of the fourth quarter.

Twenty seconds and one play later, Grayson Mathes took a quick pass from Trey Cook 72 yards for a score. Mathes’ third score of the night put the Bulls back up 27-22 with 8:03 remaining.

Mathes finished with 37 yards on seven carries and 90 yards receiving on four catches.

The Bulldogs answered the call by driving all the way down the field and scoring on a very unfortunate play for the Bulls. Burkburnett’s Marquis Askew-Betts ran forward on second-and-goal from the 3-yard line before the ball came popping out. His teammate Brandon Ingram quickly fell on the ball in the end zone for the score.

Bridgeport calmly answered, methodically working its way down the field mixing passes and runs from Cook to score the game winning touchdown with just 44 seconds remaining. Cook finished 15-for-28 for 228 yards. He rushed for 34.


Bridgeport … 7 … 0 … 14 … 13 … – … 34
Burkburnett … 8 … 7 … 0 … 14 … – … 29


Bridgeport – 8:11, Grayson Mathes 12 run, Efrain DeLuna kick

Burkburnett – 3:56, Rizonn Hendricks 9 pass from Bryan Lewis, try successful


Burkburnett – 5:15, Brandon Ingram 14 pass from Lewis, Mason Everett kick


Bridgeport – 3:27, Mathes 4 run, DeLuna kick

Bridgeport – 2:21, Chayton Stotts 18 pass from Trey Cook, DeLuna kick


Burkburnett – 8:23, Bryan Lewis 1 run, Everett kick

Bridgeport – 8:03, Mathes 72 pass from Cook, DeLuna kick

Burkburnett – 4:09, Brandon Ingram fumle recovery in end zone, kick failed

Bridgeport – 0:44, Brazier Talley 1 run, run failed


First Downs … 14 … 20
Rushes-Yards … 26-126 … 48-332
Passing Yards … 264 … 96
Total Yards … 390 … 428
Comp-Att-Int … 16-26-1 … 8-18-0
Punts-Average … 2-43.5 … 3-30.3
Fumbles-Lost … 1-1 … 4-2
Penalties-Yards … 2-10 … 2-20


Rushing – Bridgeport, Brazier Talley 12-35, Grayson Mathes 7-37, Trey Cook 4-34. Burkburnett, Bryan Lewis 22-159, Marquis Askey-Betts 14-139.

Passing – Bridgeport, Cook 15-22-1-228, Corbin Coleman 1-4-0-36. Burkburnett, Lewis 8-18-0-96.

Receiving – Bridgeport, Mathes 4-90, Keenan Holdman 5-60. Burkburnett, Hayden McLelland 3-53, Brandon Ingram 3-41.

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Volleyball: Gainesville sweeps Sissies

The Bridgeport Sissies had little luck in slowing down the Gainesville Lady Leopards Tuesday.

Gainesville beat Bridgeport 25-8, 25-14, 25-9.

“We lost focus and played way too tense,” said Bridgeport coach Rebekah Cummings. “We never really got a rhythm going and gave up too many points.”

Bridgeport managed only 12 kills. Sadie White recorded three. Jessica White, Allie Mindieta and Kensley Turner netted two each.

Nikki Barbour handed out six assists and Ryhan Read three.

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Mary Sue Garces

Mary Sue Garces

Mary Sue Garces, 83, of Paradise, formerly of Bridgeport, died Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014, in Decatur.

Funeral is 3 p.m. Monday, Sept. 22 at Jones Family Funeral Home in Bridgeport. Burial will follow at East Bridgeport Cemetery.

Pallbearers are Shelton Garces, Kenny Salazar, Felipe Moncibiaz, Jim Bob Culwell, John Clifton, Austin Culwell, Joshua Vidal, Chris Martinez, and honorary pallbearer Cliff Ryan. Visitation is from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Jones Family Funeral Home.

Mary was born Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 1930 in Decatur to Carlos and Josephina (Burolas) Casillas. On Dec. 24, 1969 she married Cilfredo Q. “Sonny” Garces. She was a member of Cates Street Baptist Church in Bridgeport.

In years past, she was the owner of Mary’s Place Restaurant in Bridgeport. In addition to cooking, Mary loved to crochet and spend time with her grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her parents; daughters Gloria Martinez and Emily Vidal; son-in-law Marcos Torres Jr; and grandson Andy Martinez.

Survivors include her husband of 44 years, Sonny Garces; sons Cliff Garces and wife, Tracie, Lupe Salazar Jr. and wife, JoAnn, John Salazar Sr., and Tommy Salazar; daughters Julie Torres, Sally Salazar, JoAnn Salazar, Olga Evans, Norma Stith and Gloria Ramirez; sister Emilie Davila; numerous grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.

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