Bridgeport puts end to Wayne winning streak
WHEELING -- Wayne quarterback Grant Ferguson's final heave to Mason Hodge fell to the snow-covered turf in the end zone.
The breakup by Bridgeport defenders meant the Class AA football championship torch was passed to the Indians, ending a two-year reign by Wayne and also snapping the Pioneers' win streak at 36 games,
"You go to the last play. The pass is incomplete and it hits you. ... it's over," Hodge said of the Pioneers. "I can say this. We gave it our all. It's a situation we haven't been in a while."
When Bridgeport defenders batted that final pass down, it sealed the deal on a 14-13 victory on a cold, snowy Friday night at Wheeling Island Stadium. Snow blowers, plows and shovels got extensive workouts so officials, fans and players had an idea where the ball was.
The snowball kickoff to Super Six weekend was expected to total 2 to 4 inches.
A win would've given Wayne the longest win streak in state history as well as a record-tying third straight state championship. Martinsburg, which seeks a record fourth Class AAA title in a row Saturday, and defunct Anstead (1968-70) share the 36-game record streak.
Wayne coach Tom Harmon had an emotional talk with his seniors on the field after the game. Then the Pioneers headed to the locker room where tears were in abundance.
"We tried our best," Harmon said as he surveyed the locker room scene. "Fate. Turnovers and mistakes catch up with you."
Wayne lost two of three fumbles and had one pass picked off. The Pioneers fumbled the ball away at their 28 with 23 second left in the first half.
The Indians converted with Anthony Caldera finding a hole up the middle and sprinting 15 yards to the end zone for a score with 15 seconds left. They went for two and Anthony Bonamico went over the left side and reached the end zone to put Bridgeport ahead to stay and touch off a wild celebration on that side of the stadium.
Turnovers and defense were the story in the second half when the teams didn't score.
"We prepare the same each week," said Harmon, who downplayed the streaks and records within Wayne's reach with a win. "We gave a super effort. That says a lot for the character of the team. We find out now how we handle disappointment."
In the locker room, Cody Stiltner and Ferguson sat by their lockers with their heads down as they tried to comprehend what happened.
"We messed up a lot," Stiltner said. "Then we have one last chance. The ball hits the ground and the heart drops. Life is over. We're in a place we haven't been. I feel so bad for the seniors. We'll come back and do it for them."
"We worked extremely hard. I've never seen anyone work that hard and not get there. It hurts," Ferguson said as teammates and assistant coaches came over to pat him on the back.
"We're facing adversity now and we have to work to overcome it. Next year new team, new attitude, same goal."
Hodge scored Wayne's first TD on a 1-yard run and Kurt Langdon-Arthur hauled in a well-executed play-action pass from Ferguson for a 34-yard TD. Bridgeport defenders closed on the fake and Arthur was all alone in the secondary.
"It's about making plays," Ferguson said. "In the end they made one more than we did."
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