BRIDGEWATER — Football is starting a little later for Bridgewater College than neighboring programs such as James Madison and local high schools, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t high expectations for the Eagles as coach Michael Clark begins his 25th season with the school.
Bridgewater opens the season Sept. 7 at home against Gettysburg, and a year after being picked last in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference preseason poll, the Eagles could be among the favorites in 2019.
“We don’t play on Labor Day weekend, so we are getting a little later start,” Clark said Wednesday morning. “Players are checking in today and we’ll begin some football activities tomorrow and we’ll begin to see how we look. But I think I have a group back that can be competitive.”
That’s particularly true on the defensive side of the ball where preseason All-American linebacker Re’Shaun Myers is expected to lead the way for a veteran unit that helped Bridgewater surprise almost everyone with a second-place ODAC finish last season.
With players arriving at the athletic facility on Wednesday, the Eagles were set to begin some workouts today and Friday while splitting into various units for those days before gathering as a full squad for practice Saturday morning.
After starting the season 2-4, including a three-point overtime loss to eventual ODAC champion Randolph-Macon, the Eagles surged up the standings with four consecutive victories to close out the campaign.
With veteran leaders expected back on both sides of the ball, including Myers and quarterback Jay Scroggins, who started every game last season, not to mention Clark — now the winningest active coach in Virginia — Bridgewater could be a trendy pick to finish near the top when the ODAC poll comes out in the coming weeks.
But Clark has been around long enough to know he doesn’t really know what his team will be like until it has at least a few practices.
“Unlike Division I, I don’t see my guys during the summer,” Clark said. “I am in contact with them and we challenge them to do the right things, but you never know for sure until they get in here. I think we’ll have a competitive group, but it’s a little different when you are expected to be good and we finished strong those last four or five games last year. You have to rise to that challenge.”