BRIDGEWATER, Va. – Head coach Michael Clark and the Bridgewater Eagles football team will meet a familiar foe on Saturday afternoon when they travel to suburban Pittsburgh for the 2012 season opener against St. Vincent.
St. Vincent has been the first stop for the Eagles over the last two seasons and it's been a rocky start each time, despite Bridgewater pulling off two victories over former offensive coordinator Bob Colbert's Bearcats.
The last time the two teams met at Chuck Noll Field was the first time the two teams ever played on the gridiron and the Bearcats gave Bridgewater everything it could handle before the Eagles squeaked out a 19-14 victory, with the assistance of an 80-yard Tyler Beiler kickoff return for a touchdown.
Last season at Jopson Field, similar heroics were needed as the Bearcats controlled play through three quarters, owning a 17-3 lead over the Eagles with 15 minutes left in regulation. Over the final quarter of play, the Eagles scored twice to force overtime before Will Davis slipped a 23-yard field goal through the uprights following a St. Vincent turnover to open the overtime set to hand the Eagles a 20-17 victory.
This season, a new-look Bridgewater team will take to the field on Saturday looking to improve upon last year's 6-4 record.
Offensively, the Eagles will look to junior Willie Logan to lead a nearly brand new offense at the skill positions. Logan was named the starting quarterback on Monday by Clark after a battle throughout camp with senior Carlos Gonzalez who started in eight games for the Eagles a year ago.
In the backfield, sophomore Jacob Wright is expected to be the week one starter after showing signs of brilliance a season ago in late-game situations. Wright will be joined in the backfield by junior Nick Wimer at the fullback position with both Wright and Wimer sharing time at their respective positions.
On the edges, the Eagles will look to a number of new players to provide a significant impact , while the tight ends could provide a new threat in offensive coordinator J.D. Shaw's scheme.
Bridgewater's strengths lie in the trenches on both sides of the ball as a veteran offensive front returns to protect Logan and block for a new Eagles' backfield.
Defensively, the one-two punch of seniors Danny Grogg and Joel Francis will hold down the middle of the front in defensive coordinator Jack Johnson's 4-2-5 system. Grogg returns after earning All-ODAC accolades a year ago, while Francis earned all-conference honors as a sophomore.
Bridgewater's defensive backfield is almost entirely brand new with a number of freshman expected to see significant playing time on Saturday.
The Bearcats are coming off of their most successful season since the rebirth of the football program in 2007. SVC finished 5-3 in the PAC and 6-5 overall after qualifying for the program's first postseason berth since 1949 when the Bearcats earned a bid to the ECAC Southwest Bowl against Lebanon Valley.
Wide receiver Ricky Douglas and running back Huey Ehredt are back to lead the way for the Bearcats offense in 2012. Douglas returns after hauling in 49 passes for 689 yards and two scores a season ago and is the top returning wide receiver for the Bearcats. Ehredt rushed for 827 yards and six touchdowns a year ago and is the top returning running back after leading the way for the St. Vincent backfield last season.
St. Vincent also welcomes a relatively new offensive front as two starters return from a year ago in Darius McGhee and James Haggerty. The young offensive line will need to hold up to protect new quarterback Manny Speal who saw limited time as the backup to Aaron Smetanka in 2011.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bearcats return just two starters from a season ago in defensive end, turned defensive tackle Alex Zupanovich and cornerback Darius Brown.
The Eagles will be looking for their 39th victory in the month of September under Clark and their seventh straight season opening victory when action kicks off on Saturday at 1 p.m. from St. Vincent's Chuck Noll Field. For fans who are unable to attend, the game will be aired live on ESPN 1360 WHBG in the Shenandoah Valley starting with the pregame show at 12:25 p.m. For fans outside of the area, St. Vincent will be providing a video stream of the game.