SHORT GAP - The 8-2 Frankfort Falcons travel to Harrison County today at 7:30 to take on the 9-1 Bridgeport Indians in first round playoff action.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
SHORT GAP - The 8-2 Frankfort Falcons travel to Harrison County today at 7:30 to take on the 9-1 Bridgeport Indians in first round playoff action.
Frankfort finished 14th in the final WVSSAC AA playoff rankings, Bridgeport third. For Frankfort, this marks a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. For Bridgeport, this marks their 26th straight playoff appearance, having last failed to qualify for the postseason in 1992.
Friday’s matchup will be the sixth meeting between the two schools.  Each of the previous five meetings were playoff games, all won by Bridgeport.  The Indians defeated the Falcons 27-8 in 1989, 3-0 in 1991, 30-7 in 2003, 28-0 in 2012, and 43-7 in 2014. That 2014 game was for the AA state championship at Wheeling Island Stadium.
In Bridgeport, Frankfort faces a formidable foe. The Indians are nine and one on the season, but their record of success extends all the way back to the 1950s. Bridgeport won their first of nine state football championships in 1955, and most recently, won three straight in 2013, 2014 and 2015.  Bridgeport is also the only school to win football championships in all three of West Virginia’s classifications. Plus, the Indians haven’t had a losing season in 51 straight years.
For Frankfort coach Kevin Whiteman, there are no secrets or surprises when facing the Indians. “Bridgeport has been a powerhouse over the years. They have a great tradition of winning and we have faced them several times in the playoffs. Their style has remained the same. They still will line up in the Stick I and basically say, ‘Here we come can you stop us?’ They run the offense very well, are strong and disciplined, and make few mistakes.”
Despite the decided 5-0 advantage in the series, Bridgeport coach John Cole sees Frankfort as a stiff challenge. On his weekly radio show on the Bridgeport Radio Network, Cole said the following, “They've won eight football games, so they're a good football team. The thing about Frankfort is, it's sort of like Keyser in a way; they play hard. There's really not one or two players that stand out to you, but they have a system, they're Wing T.”
Defensively, Whiteman says, “Bridgeport runs a 4-3 defense and they are very disciplined.  They fly to the ball and tackle very well. We definitely have our work cut out for us. We have put in a few new things to try and attack them with, hopefully, we can have success with that along with the things we normally do.”
Bridgeport knows what Frankfort normally does; there’s very little left to the imagination for both teams. According to Cole, “They'll line that fullback three yards back and he's going to get the ball real quick. They've got two very good backs, and they're very big backs, they both block for each other, the team is unselfish. They're going to be happy, it's sort of like us, three to five yards a carry and they're going to be happy.”
Both teams have potent rushing attacks, and while Frankfort will toss the pigskin around  more often than Bridgeport, each team employs a “run first” mentality, and why shouldn’t they? Frankfort’s junior Nick Marley and senior Dalton Pollock have combined for 2,047 rushing yards and 35 rushing touchdowns on the season.  Marley’s 1,234 yards came on 141 rushes for an average of 8.8 yards per carry. Pollock has 813 rushing yards on 113 rushes, averaging 6.9 per carry.
Bridgeport is led on the ground by senior Jake Bowen with 1,680 yards on the year. Most impressively, however, is that in his 163-yard performance against Lincoln last week, Bowen became the all-time rushing leader in Bridgeport history with 3,814 yards. Being the all-time leading rusher at Bridgeport is like being the biggest eater in the Chestnut family, being the best quarterback in the Manning family, or having the best beard on Duck Dynasty. It is, no doubt, a most impressive feat.
The two teams share only one common opponent - Keyser. Frankfort was defeated by the Golden Tornado 27-13 in the Mineral Bowl, Bridgeport beat Keyser 28-19. While the Indians are considered the favorite, Coach Cole from Bridgeport knows he will have his hands full.
“It's a good program, it's a program that wins. Coach Whiteman's back, he was there in 2014, and that's another thing, familiarity. I mean yeah, we're playing a team we haven't played which is good, we always like that. But, they know us, what we do, they've played us in the past, they know exactly what's coming, they are familiar with us so, they're not in awe of us, they're not afraid of us one bit, so it's going to be a physical game.”
“They have a good team, but we also have a good team, and we are going down there to win a football game,” explains Frankfort’s coach Whiteman.  “It’s a very exciting time. There’s a special feel in the air when it’s playoff time. The community is excited and there’s a lot of talk around town about the games.”
Eight-2 and a trip to Bridgeport for an opening round playoff game has a good feel to it in Short Gap, especially coming after three straight losing seasons. Coach Whiteman is particularly happy for the players. Whiteman says, “I’ve very proud of the team and all they’ve accomplished up to this point.  I’m very proud of them for embracing everything we were trying to teach them. They’ve had a great attitude the entire year, they’ve worked hard together and been like a family.”
The kids, coaches, school and community are excited for Frankfort’s return to the playoffs. Whiteman is appreciative of the community support enjoyed this year, and every year. He’s confident that continued support will be on display at Bridgeport, “I know we will have a good following at the game. The Band will be there, it’s going to be a fun night. I’m excited for all involved.”