Missed opportunities and costly turnovers proved the undoing of the Bridgeport Bulldogs Friday night.
Frontier made the long trip from Washington County a worthwhile one, capitalizing on the Bridgets' mistakes en route to an impressive 25-6 triumph at Perkins Field.
The outcome enabled the Cougars, coming off an 0-10 campaign, to even their mark at 2-2. Coach Rudy Vavrock's hard-luck charges, attempting to rebound from a tough-to-swallow loss to Conotton Valley, fell to 1-3.
PAUL KRAJNYAK Special to The Times
Frontier’s Jared Howell (40) runs to daylight against host Bridgeport in a prep football game Friday night. Frontier won 25-6.
Bridgeport was stymied by three turnovers, handcuffing its offense until the final chapter. By then, Frontier was safely on top 25-0.
"We had our chances but didn't take advantage of our opportunities. Mistakes really hurt us," Vavrock said. "Frontier controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
"Give them credit. They have nice size and some quality backs. They ran the ball very effectively," Vavrock added. "Frontier is a quality football team."
FRONTIER 25 BRIDGEPORT 6
Frontier 6 6 13 0 25
Bridgeport 0 0 0 6 6
Frontier -- Taylor Merckle, 24-yard run. Kick blocked.
Frontier -- Jared Howell, 4-yard run. Pass failed.
Frontier -- Howell, 57-yard run. Eddie Salazar kick.
Frontier -- Merckle, 5-yard run. Kick failed.
Bridgeport -- Colin Cooper, 7-yard pass from Bailey McGrath. Kick blocked.
RUSHING: Frontier 44-299 (Howell, 18-172, 2tds; Merckle, 16-87 2 tds; Salazar, 3-12). Bridgeport 30-165 (Fields, 20-132; McGrath, 8-35).
PASSING: Frontier 6-7-0 75 yards (All by Jordan Jefferson); Bridgeport 3-9-2int 45 yards (All by McGrath).
RECEIVING: Frontier (Salazar 5-70, Merckle 1-5); Bridgeport (Williams 1-35, Cooper 1-7 td, Britton 1-3.
FIRST DOWNS: Frontier 11, Bridgeport, 6.
FUMBLES/LOST: Frontier 3/1; Bridgeport 2/1.
PENALTIES: Frontier 7-52; Bridgeport 3-25.
Frontier's strength was reflected up front with its offensive line, which guided the Cougars to 299 yards on the ground. Junior Jared Howell did much of the damage with 174 rushing stripes and two TDs.
"This was a nice win for our program. We are beginning to make some progress," Frontier head coach Todd Bradford said. "We are still a young team and still putting some little things together.
"We need to develop a killer instinct. The kids need to know when they smell blood they need to be able to put the game away. We are still learning the mental aspects of the game. This win will help our growing process."
After a first quarter void of offense by both teams, the Cougars began mounting a drive late in the period. After a Bulldog punt, Frontier put together a sharp 7-play, 79-yard march capped by Taylor Merckle's 24-yard scoring run with just over two minutes to go in the first session. The extra point was blocked by the Bulldogs' Jacob Ray and Bailey Sieber.
Bridgeport found itself in immediate scoring position as Bradley Pritchett took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 53 yards, advancing to the Frontier 28. After a Bulldog first down, the threat ended courtesy of a interception in the end zone.
Frontier was able to stretch its advantage late in the second quarter. The Cougars used six plays to cover 54 yards, reaching paydirt on a Howell 4-yard burst with 3:04 left in the half. The bonus pass misfired, leaving Frontier holding a 12-0 edge.
With the game still up for grabs at halftime, the Bulldogs experienced the worst possible start after intermission as Howell took a handoff on the half's first play and exploded for a 57-yard scoring burst. Eddie Salazar's PAT kick was good for a 19-0 reading while deflating many of the Bulldog comeback aspirations.
Frontier added some insurance thanks to a 27-yard drive following a Bridgeport punt. Merckle climaxed the series by tallying from the five with 1:35 left in the third quarter. The kick again failed, leaving the score at 25-0.
The Bridgeport offense began to show glimmers of life early in the fourth quarter.
Taking possession near midfield after a Cougar punt, the hosts used a 35-yard pass connection from talented sophomores Bailey McGrath and Quar-Javious Williams to set up its lone touchdown of the night. McGrath rolled left and located Colin Cooper all alone in the end zone on a 7-yard scoring pass with 8:08 remaining. The PAT was blocked.
The Bridgeport defensive delivered a three-and-out, as the Dogs regained possession at its four following a Frontier punt. Senior Dallas Fields, who enjoyed a sparkling performance in a losing cause, broke loose on a 53-yard jaunt before adding a 13-yard gainer, moving the ball to the Cougar 22.
However, the rally was short-circuited by a Jared Irvin's interception.
Fields parlayed his explosiveness and strength into a 132-yard rushing performance on 20 totes.
"Dallas really runs hard. He had a fine night," Vavrock said. "We just need to get back to work and get ready for Buckeye Trail."
Frontier, which received 87 yards on the ground from Merckle, lost starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson to injury in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Cougars host Beallsville Friday as part of homecoming festivities.