FEATURE: Da Bears Have Arrived
HOUSTON – David Raffield didn't know when it would happen.
When Bridgeland football would be a force to be reckoned with. When the Bears could contend for a playoff spot. When the program that has its first senior class in 2019 could be in the conversation for a district crown.
Apparently, 2019 was the year.
Bridgeland has stormed out of the gates to a 4-0 record overall – setting a new program record for wins in a season after going 3-7 a year ago – and on top of that 2-0 in District 14-6A.
"It's been one of those things, yes we thought we could get here," Raffield said. "When? We didn't set a timetable. We said we are taking no shortcuts and just going to work hard. We're really seeing the kids grow and develop at a very rapid rate in the last few months. It's exciting."
The most recent of those two wins in district play is one that Raffield would consider a program-defining victory.
Beating reigning District 14-6A Champion Cypress Ranch 48-14 on Saturday.
"It's definitely a huge program win," Raffield said. "For three years this group of kids has been working to get to this point. This group of seniors, for them to go out and defeat the district champs and send notice that we're a team to be reckoned with is huge for the longevity of this program."
The success of the Bridgeland Bears has sent the community into a frenzy.
The excitement around Bridgeland is noticeable and Raffield is loving every single second of the support coming from the students to the community.
"Our student section was insane [on Saturday], they said there wasn't a seat available," Raffield said. "It's a Saturday night, it's six o'clock, when a lot of people want to be out watching Texas play or A&M play and they chose to all come out here and support the Bears. It is a great atmosphere for our kids."
Raffield has watched over this program from the beginning.
On January 25, 2017, Raffield was named the first-ever campus athletic coordinate and head coach of Bridgeland. Raffield had spent the previous six years at A&M consolidated.
Since that day, Raffield – who also helped open Cy Falls high school back in 1992 as an assistant coach – has watched his Bears' program grow from its infancy to where it is now.
"It has been exciting, it has been frustrating, it has been every time you take a step forward you take two steps back, but to watch the kids grow up is so much fun," Raffield said. "We have great relationships with the kids, the coaches and the parents. So, you can tell these kids anything and they're all in.
"Just to work with kids and watch them evolve is just spectacular. It gives you lots of pride."
One thing that people from the outside of the Bridgeland program didn't see coming was the early rise of sophomore quarterback Conner Weigman.
Last season, Weigman was the starting quarterback for the Bridgeland freshman squad. That team went 10-0.
Heading into spring football, Weigman competed with Finn Nicholson for the job. In the first two weeks of the season, Weigman and Nicholson continued the battle.
It was during the week of practice leading up to and then during the Cypress Springs game is when Weigman got hot and Raffield said that's when they decided to go fulltime with the sophomore.
"He has a great skill set, unbelievable accuracy, he has really good size and strength and can run," Raffield said about Weigman. "He's a tremendous multi-sport athlete … When the lights are on Conner just has that ability to relax and play."
Through the first four games of the year, Weigman is 85 for 113 (a 75-percent completion rate) for 1,084 yards, 14 touchdowns and no interceptions.
With Weigman at quarterback, Nicholson has shifted out to the wide receiver spot.
"Finn is the ultimate teammate," Raffield said. "He's ready to go if we need him. But he stepped in and made a couple of great catches [against Cy Ranch] as a receiver. He's going to help this football team win a bunch of games."
Other players to watch for the Bears, of course, includes wide receiver Dylan Goffney. Against Cy Ranch, Raffield said it opened up Trey Hunter at receiver, who finished with 13 grabs.
"It was a great tribute how a really great player can open the door up for other players," Raffield said.
Defensively, the secondary is something to take notice of.
Bryce McMorris, Gavan Kaspar and Weston Cadena are a trio of safeties, Raffield said can play lights out defense.
"Those three can run and they are making amazing plays on defense," he said.
So, where do the Bears go from here?
The Bears still have their goals that they set before and Raffield said nothing changes as the group will be back to work this week to prepare for another big District 14-6A showdown.
"We have to continue to develop," he said. "It's one of the things that we've built this program on is our day-to-day work ethic and the commitment. We will continue that; the kids will be back to work [on Monday] and they have a big game this week."
Bridgeland (4-0, 2-0) faces Cypress Woods (3-1, 2-0) on Friday.