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​​Bradley Football 


Bears Claw Cavaliers


By JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor

Having their field general back in the saddle spurred a “complete team effort” for Bradley Central to repel a group of determined Cavaliers Friday night as the Bears notched their first TSSAA playoff victory in a half dozen years.

“We knew they’d be tough and we’d have to fight. It was nice to have Cole (Copeland) back, but we had a lot of people step up tonight for us to get this big win,” proclaimed veteran head coach Damon Floyd after his seventh-ranked Bears held off Cookeville 29-25 in a tooth-and-nail tangle that saw the lead change hands seven times.

Now 9-2 on the season, Bradley will travel to Murfreesboro to face Region 2-6A runner-up Blackman (8-3) in this week’s second round matchup.

After being named a Mr. Tennessee Football semifinalist for the second straight year earlier in the day, Copeland returned to the gridiron after missing 11 quarters with a shoulder injury and promptly put on a performance for the Bradley record books.

Completing 30-of-37 passes for 411 yards and four touchdowns, the UT-Chattanooga commitment set the third best game yardage total, plus tied his older brother Bryce for the third most completions in a single game.

The younger Copeland also owns the second, fourth and fifth best game yardage totals, with 456 against Dobyns-Bennett last year, 382 verses McMinn County earlier this season and 331 against Riverdale in last year’s playoff game. However, he still trails his uncle Brent Copeland’s 506 yards, which ironically also came against Cookeville, in 1996.

Copeland wasn’t the only one rewriting the century-old Bear record book as Lameric Tucker pulled in 15 aerials for 242 yards and a pair of scores. He set school marks for most receptions in a season with 86, yardage with 1,298 and touchdowns with 12 so far this year.

He also became the Bear all-time leader in career receptions (135) and yardage (1,851), plus tied Tyler Carpenter for the top spot in receiving TDs (18).

The junior wideout’s performance Friday evening is also the third best individual game in both receptions (tying his own mark of 15 against McMinn County in September) and yardage.

“Cole and Lameric both had a heck of a game,” declared Coach Floyd. “I didn’t realize how good of numbers they had, but I knew they were doing what we needed them to do tonight, as well as all our other guys.”

After the two teams traded three-and-out possessions to open the game Friday, Bradley was able to march all the way from its own 9 to the Cookeville 1 yard line, where an incomplete pass and another one caught by Tucker came up just short of the goal line.

Taking over just inches from their own end zone, the Cavaliers (6-5) were stuffed for no gain by Bear linebackers Hunter Duggan and Henley Headrick.

On the second play, the visitors went to the air and Bradley junior Jake Presley out jumped the receiver for the ball and came down with the interception at the Cookeville 30.

Once again the Black-and-Gold marched inside the visitors’ 5 yard line, but had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by sophomore Clay Shoemaker for the game’s first score with just 32 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.

After the ensuing kickoff, Cookeville put together a massive 17-play drive to cover 74 yards to paydirt.

Faced with a third-and-9 at the Bear 12, quarterback Cade Smith couldn’t find an open receiver, but was able to pull the ball down and run in for the Cav’s first lead of the night.

Chewing seven minutes off the clock, Cookeville went up 7-3 when Jarrett Talbott tacked on the extra point with 5:39 left in the frame.

Not to be outdone, the hosts answered with an 11-play march that took up the majority of the remaining first half, culminating with a beautiful 17-yard scoring strike from Copeland to Dylan Standifer in the back of the end zone. The sophomore, who had filled in at QB the last three games, made a nice over the shoulder catch for one of his eight receptions for 78 yards on the night.

When Shoemaker split the uprights for a 10-7 edge there were just 29.3 ticks left on the clock.

That, plus a little good fortune, turned out to be enough for the visitors to knot the score at the intermission.

After returning the ensuing kickoff to its own 22, Cookeville quickly moved the ball downfield on four straight Smith completions to the sidelines.

After the last catch, the referees said there was one second left and had the clock reset.

Talbott ran on the field and set up for a 55-yard field goal. Just before the ball was snapped, Floyd called a timeout and the attempt, which fell short and to the right of the goal post, had to be redone.

On the second try, the left-footed, 135-pounder was true with plenty of room to spare, setting a Bear Stadium record, surpassing a 53-yarder by Ooltewah’s Laszlo Toser in 2014.

After the visitors came up empty on their first possession of the second half, Bradley needed just two plays to find the end zone again.

Starting on their own 12, the Bears got a short run by junior Adam Mullis, who had 60 yards on 17 carries, before Copeland hit a streaking Tucker down the left sideline for an 86-yard touchdown, tying Chris Davis and Chris Smith (1999) for the fifth-longest completion in program history.

After Cavalier standout Blake Asburn broke through to block the extra point kick, Cookeville retook the lead with a seven-play, 59-yard scoring march. Smith hit David Gist with a 23-yard toss for the score and Talbott added the PAT with 4:01 left in the third frame.

Not to be outdone, Bradley answered with a dozen-play drive, covering 94 yards to paydirt.

Having to scramble away from the rush, Copeland hit fellow senior Trevon Hill for a 31-yard scoring strike.

With just a five-point edge, the Bears went for a two-point conversion, but Copeland was stopped just shy of the goal line on the run.

Once again the lead changed hands on the following possession with the Cavaliers needing just a half dozen plays for a 62-yard march.

Ashburn took a direct snap before running the ball in from 10 yards out. Smith hit 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end/linebacker David Dyal for the two-point conversion and a three-point advantage with just over 10 minutes left.

After the ensuing kickoff, Bradley made it five straight scoring drives, going 80 yards in just seven plays, including Copeland hitting six straight passes, including the final one for 28 yards to a leaping Tucker.

Shoemaker booted the all important extra point for four-point lead with 7:46 to go.

The “Black Hole Defense” then took over the contest with junior outside linebacker Jay Person making a tackle for a three-yard loss on the first play after the kickoff.

After an incomplete pass attempt, senior defensive end Malik Whaley trapped Smith for the game’s lone sack, throwing him for a seven-yard loss and forcing a punt.

The Cookeville defense returned the favor with a three-and-out of its own.

Once in possession of the ball, the Cav offense drove from their own 22 to the Bear 27 in just three plays, but once again the Bear D rose to the occasion, allowing just one yard on two running plays and an incomplete pass.

Whaley then preserved the win on a big fourth-and-9 play when he batted Smith’s pass to the ground, allowing Bradley to run out the clock, earning its first playoff victory since beating Coffee County in the opening round of the 2010 postseason.

“We came up with the big plays when we needed them most,” praised Coach Floyd. “We’ve got some fighters, who aren’t ready for this thing (season) to end.

“I’m so proud of these guys,” he added. “They (Cookeville) are without a doubt the second-best team we’ve faced this year and we were able to make adjustments to what they were doing and get some key stops.”

“We know going to Murfreesboro (to play Blackman) is going to be tough, but if we play like we did tonight, I feel good about our chances.”

The Blaze, who downed Cookeville 35-21 during the regular season, defeated Jefferson County 41-12 Friday evening. The Bears downed the Patriots 44-14 in September.

Region 1 took five of the eight games against Region 2 teams Friday evening, with top-ranked Maryville (11-0) blasting Coffee County 56-14, while fifth-seeded Dobyns-Bennett (6-5) upset Smyrna 33-23. The Indians will face the Rebels in Round 2 Friday.

The other half of the top end of the East bracket will find Region 1 runner-up Hardin Valley (8-3) hosting Region 2 third seed Riverdale (6-5).

The eighth-ranked Hawks dropped Warren County 35-14, while the Warriors drilled Bearden 48-20 in the opening round.


Bradley beats William Blount


By JOE CANNON Baner Assistant Sports Editor

MARYVILLE — The Bradley Central football coaches wanted to try out a few new things, not get anybody hurt and post a win to go into the TSSAA playoffs on a positive note.

They accomplished all of those objectives Friday night to post the 28th eight-win (or better) record in the 100-year history of the program, the first since 2010.

“We were trying to be smart, try out a couple of different things, do a few new things to help our running game and not get anybody hurt to get ready for the playoffs,” declared veteran head coach Damon Floyd after the 28-13 victory over William Blount in the regular season finale.

After dropping the previous two games to top-ranked Maryville (10-0, 7-0 Region 1-6A) and No. 6 Hardin Valley (7-3, 5-2), the seventh-ranked Bears (8-2, 5-2) knew they were going to enter their seventh straight postseason as the Region 1 third seed regardless of Friday’s outcome.

The Black-and-Gold will return to Bear Stadium this Friday for a playoff battle against a familiar foe — Cookeville.

The Cavaliers, who were state ranked after winning their first four games this season, come to town with a 6-4 overall record and a 3-4 mark in Region 2 play after a 39-22 victory over Riverdale Friday in Murfreesboro

“Cookeville got a big win last night,” Coach Floyd said Saturday. “Everybody knows that region (2) is one of the toughest in the state with the five Murfreesboro teams in it. Their (Cookeville’s) four losses are all to Murfreesboro teams.”

The last time the Bears and Cavaliers met was the opening round of the 2011 playoffs in Cookeville in the infamous “soaked field” game in which Bradley senior quarterback Bryce Copeland suffered a broken arm in a 34-28 Cav victory.

The Bears, who have been without the services of younger brother Cole Copeland for the last 11 quarters after suffering a shoulder strain in the opening frame at Hardin Valley, hope to have the 2015 Mr Tennessee Football semifinalist back in the lineup for Friday’s rematch.

“We are hopeful to have Cole back, but he hasn’t been released (by the doctor) yet. He will have another scan this weekend and we hope to know by Monday,” related Coach Floyd.

Without the UT-Chattanooga commitment in the lineup again Friday in Maryville, Bradley took a very conservative approach for the second straight week, but did add a few of new wrinkles to the old standards to shake things up a bit.

The Bears scored on their opening drive after junior Lameric Tucker set them up at the Blount 47 with a 13-yard punt return.

After the standard back-to-back runs up the middle for short gains and a quick pass to sophomore Parker Johnson, junior Jake Presley lined up in a “Wildcat” slot and took a direct snap for a 12-yard gain on a key fourth-and-2 play.

Two plays later sophomore quarterback Dylan Standifer found a new receiver in speedster Cason Still, hitting him for a 34-yard touchdown pass. Still, the senior standout safety on defense, had said before the season that he’d like to play some offense and got some time as a wide out Friday.

Sophomore Clay Shoemaker came on to boot his first of four extra points on the night for a 7-0 Bear lead with 7:11 on the opening quarter clock.

Bradley got on the scoreboard again on the opening play of the second frame when Presley once again took a direct snap and bulled in from four yards out to cap a seven-play, 72-yard drive.

Standifer and senior Trevon Hill had connected to cover most of the yardage on the march with a 49-yard pass play to put the ball on the Governor 5.

After junior Jay Person and sophomore Hayden Ownbey sacked the Blount QB for losses of 13 and 10 yards respectively on the ensuing possession, the Bears got the ball back on a punt and drove 83 yards on 10 plays to find paydirt again.

A 33-yard pass from Standifer to Still almost resulted in the score, but the referees said Still stepped out of bounds at the 1.

Junior running back Adam Mullis powered across the goal line on the following play for a 21-0 halftime advantage.

The hosts got on the scoreboard with their opening possession of the second half, going 55 yards on five plays with a 39-yard hook up between senior QB Austin Myrick and classmate Isaiah Hannah.

“Our defense played well all night, but on that play we let them get behind us,” declared Coach Floyd.

The Bears answered right away with an eight-play, 71-yard scoring march after the ensuing kickoff. Standifer and Hill hooked up again, this one for 33 yards to find paydirt.

The Governors were able pick up a fourth-quarter score when both teams were playing their reserves, marching 96 yards on 13 plays with a one-yard sneak by sophomore backup QB Drew Blair for the touchdown with 3:56 left in the contest.

Bradley finished with 131 yards on 38 rushing plays, with Mullis once again being the workhorse, gaining 112 yards on 27 carries. He had went for career highs of 144 yards on 29 rushes against Maryville the previous week.

Standifer continued his strong play in Copeland’s absence, completing 12-of-17 passes for 194 yards and a pair of scores. He maintained his better than 71 completion percentage, with season-total numbers of 42-of-59 with 496 yards and four TDs.

Hill pulled in a trio catches for 90 yards and his second score of the season, while Still gained 67 yards just a pair of receptions, finding the end zone on one and just missing breaking the plane of the goal line on the other.

Presley had the 16 yards with a score and a key fourth-down conversion on his two carries, plus was in on eight tackles from his defensive position.

The “Black Hole Defense” made 11 tackles for no gain or lost yardage, including four sacks, with seniors Kevin Gentry and Malik Whaley joining Person and Ownbey in getting to the Governor QB in the backfield. Whaley was able to strip the ball and recover the fumble in his fourth-quarter sack.

Bradley allowed the hosts just 79 yards and 26 rushes, but did bend with 179 yards on 15-of-21 passing by the hosts.

As the No. 8 seed from Region 1, William Blount (2-8, 1-6) will travel Murfreesboro to take on second-ranked and unbeaten Oakland (10-0) in the opening round of the “Super 32” playoffs Friday.

In other Region 1 action, Maryville blasted Hardin Valley 45-0 in the region championship game, meaning the Rebels will entertain Coffee County (1-9) and the Hawks will host Warren County (2-8) in opening round playoff games Friday.

Science Hill (7-3, 4-3) claimed the No. 4 seed in the region with a 56-35 victory over arch-rival Dobyns-Bennett (5-5, 3-4). The Hilltoppers will welcome Siegel (3-7) to Johnson City Friday, while the Indians will make the long journey from Kingsport to Smyrna (6-4).

Bearden (4-6, 2-5) downed Jefferson County (3-7, 1-6) 21-10 Friday in Dandridge, meaning the Bulldogs will bark up the Riverdale (5-5) tree this week, while the Patriots will trek to Murfreesboro to take on Region 2 runner-up Blackman (7-3), which was ninth in last week’s AP state poll.


Cole Passing Bryce's Numerous Records


By JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor

In the Copeland household today, big brother Bryce won’t be allowed to give his baby brother a birthday whooping after Cole shattered a pair of Southeast Tennessee records the elder sibling held until Friday evening.

Leading the fourth-ranked and unbeaten Bears to a 44-14 victory over Jefferson County during homecoming celebrations at Bradley Central, the younger brother surpassed his sibling’s records for career yardage and touchdowns in 16 less starts.

Bryce, a senior on the Lee University basketball team, set lofty marks running and passing for 8,204 yards and 85 touchdowns in 43 games for the Bears from 2009-12.

In just his 27th start, Cole, who turns 18 today, now has 8,279 yards and 89 scores after completing 20-of-21 passes for 299 yards Friday evening.

He also tossed a trio of touchdowns and ran for two others, while gaining 90 yards on just seven carries.

“Bryce is Cole’s biggest fan,” related dad Brian Copeland. “Bryce is proud of Cole, just like all of us are.”

Along with his dad and brother, plus uncles Chad and Brent, Cole is the fifth Copeland to play under center for the Bears and with a summer commitment to play for the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga will play on the collegiate level like his predecessors.

Also earning all-state honors for his football and basketball skills last season, he is the second in the Copeland family to do so as older sister Brooke, now a junior playing hoops at the University of Florida, did so twice in basketball and volleyball.

In 2013, Brooke and Bryce became the first brother-sister tandem in Tennessee sports history to be named all-state in the same school year.

A two-time District 5-AAA Player of the Year on the basketball court, Cole led the Bear hoop attack, averaging a double-double each time out this past season as the team made its second TSSAA substate appearance in his three years as a starter.

After breaking Bryce’s mark for career completions with No. 481 in his final pass against Cleveland High the week before, Cole was just one touchdown behind big brother coming into Friday’s game.

Cole evened the mark just over two minutes into the second quarter with a six-yard pass to sophomore Dylan Standifer, who ironically is the younger brother of Brett Standifer, the Bear QB for one year between the Copeland brothers. Dylan is also the heir apparent as the next Bradley signal caller after Cole graduates in May.

Deciding to break the scoring mark himself, Cole got free on a 62-yard touchdown run, the second-longest of his career, with 6:22 on the first half clock. He added another 1-yard plunge just before the intermission for good measure.

Just 82 ticks into the second half, Cole snapped the yardage record and added another score on the same 57-yard TD toss to junior Adam Mullis.

He later capped his near 400-yard night by hooking up with Standifer for another score, this time for 26 yards with 2:28 left in the third quarter before turning the reins over to him for the rest of the evening.

“Cole and Bryce are both great competitors,” proclaimed Bradley head coach Damon Floyd, who has had the privilege of coaching both through their high school careers, plus played with their uncle Brent in the mid 1990s for the Black-and-Gold. “I’m glad they were on my team. I’d hate to have coached against them.”

“Both of them had great weapons around them, which they are quick to credit with their success,” the veteran Bear coach added. “The whole Copeland family has had a tremendous impact on Bradley sports. They’re winners.”

Local sports historian and radio broadcaster Gary Ownbey, who has published a book on the Bradley basketball history and has one on the 100-year-old football program coming out in December, agrees.

“The Copelands are without a doubt one of the top athletic families in Bradley history and Cole is possibly the best quarterback the Bears have ever had,” Ownbey remarked.

“I was talking to (former University of Alabama standout and Atlanta Falcon) Steve Sloan, who is regarded by most as the top all-around athlete in school history, the other day and he stated that he didn’t have the arm that Cole has.

“It was a different game back then, without as much passing, but Cole, and Bryce, have done what they’ve done both passing and running the ball,” he added.

Between the two brothers they hold 16 school gridiron records, plus both are hardwood all-staters, just like their mother Kim (Collins) Copeland was for legendary coach Catherine Neely at East Ridge High School.

For now Bryce still holds the career program mark for pass attempts (820) and passing yardage (6,474), but little brother is close on his heels for both with 757 aerials and 6,219 yards.

A family and Bear record neither want is dad Brian’s mark of five interceptions in a 1986 game at East Ridge, tying him with Mike Smith, who did the same against Lafayette, Ga., in 1970.


Blaze End Season for Bears on Last Second FG


By JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor

MURFREESBORO — Having a great season come to a close is always tough on a team, but when it happens on the final play of the game, it burns a little deeper.

“It hurts right now. After some time passes, we’ll be able to look back and appreciate the great season we’ve had, but not right now,” a dejected Coach Damon Floyd said Saturday morning after his Bradley Central squad dropped a 38-35 heartbreaker to Blackman the night before in Murfreesboro.

“I hate to lose it that way. It’s a tough way to go out, but the reality is only one team is going to be happy when the season is over. This year that’s not going to be us,” he remarked.

Traveling to the home of the Region 2-6A runner up for the second round of the TSSAA Playoffs, the seventh-ranked Bears were playing catch up to the eighth-ranked Blaze most of the night.

Bradley had just come back to tie the score for the fourth time with a tremendous 34-yard TD pass from senior Cole Copeland to his favorite target, junior Lameric Tucker, who out jumped a trio of defenders in the end zone on a fourth-and-22 play with just over two minutes remaining in the contest.

However, the hosts were able move the ball 57 yards to the Bear 14 on eight plays, thanks in part to controversial pass interference call, setting up junior Thomas Burks for the game-winning 31-yard field goal as time expired.

“It was a hard fought game the whole night,” assessed Coach Floyd. “We lost the field position battle, with us having to make long drives to score, but giving them short fields. We got hurt by some penalties (nine for 110 yards) as well.

“The fact of the matter is they (Blackman) made a few more plays than we did. We weren’t able to stop their run game,” Floyd said after the Blaze had 43 carries for 327 yards and five rushing TDs.

For his part, Copeland wrapped up his Bear pigskin career with another tremendous performance, connecting on 26-of-41 passes for 375 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga commitment added a pair of one-yard rushing scores, despite finishing with five carries for a minus five yards overall.

“Cole played unbelievable again,” praised Coach Floyd. “We are really going to miss him around here.”

Despite missing 11 quarters due to a shoulder injury, the two-time Mr. Tennessee Football semifinalist finished the season completing 169-of-242 passes (a 69.8 completion percentage) for 2,541 yards and 23 TDs. He also gained 451 yards and found paydirt a dozen times on 87 carries (5.2 ypc).

The youngest of five Copeland Bear quarterbacks, Cole pushed his Southeast Tennessee and Bradley career records to 9,855 total yards and 106 combined (passing and running) TDs in just 32 starts. He also owns the vast majority of the Bears’ century old passing marks for individual games, as well as season totals.

With eight catches Friday for 157 yards and a score, Tucker added to his school records for most yardage (1,456), receptions (94) and receiving touchdowns (13) in a season.

Bradley (9-3) got on the scoreboard first, taking the opening kickoff and driving 80 yards on 11 plays, with Copeland hitting sophomore Dylan Standifer, who will be taking over the reins at QB next season, for a 14-yard TD strike.

Sophomore Clay Shoemaker booted the extra point with 8:16 on the first quarter clock.

Blackman (9-3) answered with a seven-play march to cover 66 yards with junior Master Teague breaking free from 24 yards out for the first of his four touchdowns on the evening.

The 5-foot-11, 205-pounder finished with 172 yards on 22 carries, after putting up more than 320 yards and three scores the previous week.

“There’s a reason he has several colleges after him,” Floyd remarked. “He already has offers from Tennessee and Louisville, plus a lot of others.”

After the Blaze defense forced a three-and-out and pinned the Bears back on their own 8 on the next series, the hosts took possession just 41 yards from the end zone. Five plays later, Teague scampered in from 20 yards out.

After the teams traded punts, Bradley had another chance to score midway through the second frame, driving the ball into the Red Zone with a first-and-goal from the 8. Despite getting the ball down to the 2, the Bears had to settle for a 20-yard field goal try, which went wide left.

The Black-and-Gold were able to find the end zone on their next possession, going 58 yards on five plays, including a 39-yard hook up between Copeland and Tucker, plus a trio of runs by junior Adam Millis, the last of which was a nine-yard scoring jaunt. However, the extra point attempt went wide as well, leaving Blackman up 14-13 at the intermission.

After just four scores before the break, the teams combined to put points on the board seven times in the final two frames, including on each of the first five possessions.

Having deferred after winning the coin toss before the game, the Blaze got the second half kickoff and returned it to their 44 before using seven plays to score again, with Teague dashing in from 16 yards out. The PAT made it an eight-point deficit with just 2 1/2 minutes gone in the third quarter.

Bradley answered with an 11-play, 67-yard march, with Copeland breaking the plane of the goal from a yard out for the score. The Bears evened the game with a two-point conversion pass from Copeland to Tucker.

Getting another good return on the ensuing kickoff to their own 38, the Blaze needed just a half dozen plays to go back up by a touchdown, with junior QB Conner Mitchell doing the honors on a five-yard run.

With Burks’ kickoff hitting the crossbar for yet another touchback, Bradley once again started on its own 20, but were able to work its way downfield on a dozen plays, with Copeland capping the march with another one-yard score.

After returning the ensuing kickoff to near midfield, Teague scored on the fourth play of the following series on another 27-yard dash.

The teams had to trade punts on the next two possessions, but Bradley opened the following drive with a surprise pass from Copeland to sophomore fullback Parker Johnson, who had just entered the game, that covered 38 yards.

Seven plays later Copeland and Tucker connected on their dramatic 34-yard scoring pass on a fourth-and-22 play. Shoemaker evened the game with his third PAT of the evening with just 132 ticks left on the clock.

Taking over on their own 29 after the kickoff, Blackman appeared stalled by the “Black Hole Defense” after a pair of runs that went for just a yard apiece and a five-yard penalty set up a third-and-13. However, Mitchell, who finished with 109 yards on 14 carries, was able to move the sticks with a 20-yard dash.

Bradley senior Jake Tolleson and junior Jay Person then stopped Teague for a one-yard loss on the next play, but a penalty flag on an uncatchable pass moved the ball across midfield for the home team.

A 20-yard jet sweep by Cordell Braxton put the pigskin in the Red Zone with less than a minute to go. A holding call against the Blaze moved the ball back to the 26-yard line, but Teague gained his final dozen yards on back-to-back runs to get it in the middle of the field at the 14 before Blackman called a timeout with 3.6 seconds showing.

After back-to-back Bear timeouts to try to ice him, Burks, who was true on five PATs and put half of his six kickoffs into the end zone, hit a low line drive kick just out of the reach of Bradley rushers on its way to split the uprights as time expired.

“This game could have went either way,” proclaimed Floyd. “Neither team turned the ball over, so we didn’t give each other any extra chances. When you get to this level, you’re playing tough teams and sometimes things don’t work out your way.

“This team (the Bears) have a lot to be proud off,” he added. “This group of seniors, although small in number (only 10 players), are quality players.

“Guys’ like Cole (Copeland), (Cason) Still, (Hunter) Duggan, Jake (Tolleson), Logan Swafford, Malik (Whaley), Trevon (Hill), (Chris) Keller and Dalton Taylor have been a big part of our success.

“I’m proud of the way they’ve performed during their four years with us. Hopefully we have some younger guys ready to step up and fill their shoes,” the coach remarked. “You get close to these guys and it’s going to be hard not having them around all the time. We’ve been through a lot together.”

Mullis, who will be back for his senior year next season, finished with 90 yards on 20 carries Friday. Having the main running responsibilities thrust on him when classmates Devin Moore and Nick Howell went down with injuries early in the season, Mullis finished the year with 974 yards on 197 carries and a pair of receptions, finishing in the end zone nine times.

Standifer pulled in eight passes for 84 yards and his seventh TD of the season Friday evening. On the season, the sophomore, who has stepped in at receiver, QB and punter, was the team’s second-leading receiver. He hauled in 34 passes for 438 yards, plus completing 42-of-59 passes for 496 yards and five scores in relief of Copeland.

Junior Stephen Muhonen pulled in seven aerials Friday for 59 yards to up his season marks to 33 catches for 316 yards and a score.

Hill had a pair of receptions for 37 yards in the season finale, giving him 24 catches for 285 yards and a trio of TDs for the year.

With a half dozen solo tackles Friday, Duggan paced the “Black Hole Defense” this season with 81 tackles, including 53 solos, 14 tackles for loss and four sacks.

Person led the squad with eight tackles in Murfreesboro, giving him 72 total hits this year, 17 coming behind the line of scrimmage, five sacks and a trio of takeaways.

Junior Jake Presley was in on five hits Friday, upping his season total to 78 with a half dozen for loss, while Jeffrey Brewer collected 59 total hits on the campaign.

Having a leg infection drained Tuesday didn’t keep Still out of the lineup as was expected. The senior safety was in on seven tackles, five solos, raising his final season numbers to 64 total, 43 solos, six for minus yardage and a trio of takeaways.

As a team, the Bears posted 4,854 yards of offense this season, scoring 388 points and had a 24-11 takeaway-to-turnover ratio.

Several Bears won’t get to rest long as four head to basketball, which opens its season Thursday at home against William Blount, while a half dozen or more will rejoin the state champion Bradley wrestling squad, with the first match set for two days after Thanksgiving.


Bears Fall to Maryville


By JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor

Sixth-ranked Bradley Central matched 16-time state champion Maryville point-for-point in the second half Thursday evening.

Unfortunately for the Bears, they were already in a 27-0 hole by intermission.

“We didn’t move the chains in the first half, plus we just couldn’t stop them,” declared Bradley head coach Damon Floyd after the 48-21 defeat at the hands of the top-ranked Red Rebels.

“They are where they are for a reason, and they showed that last night,” the Bear mentor said this morning. “They are better than most every team in the state. There’s nobody on their level year in and year out.”

The victory was Maryville’s 67th straight regular season victory, dating back to the opening game of the 2010 campaign.

Coach George Quarles improved his record to 246-15 in his 18 seasons in Maryville, for a 94.3 winning percentage. The Rebels have been in all but one TSSAA state championship game since 2000, winning 11 of them.

Despite a perfect 9-0 overall and 6-0 Region 1-6A mark, Maryville hasn’t secured the conference championship as it still has to face ninth-ranked Hardin Valley (6-2, 4-1) in the regular season finale next week.

The Hawks travel to Maryville tonight to take on William Blount (2-6, 1-4) before making a return trip to face the Rebels on Oct. 28.

Bradley Central (7-2, 4-2) has secured third place in the region race and will travel to William Blount next Friday to wrap up the regular season before hosting the No. 6 seed out of Region 2 in the opening round of the TSSAA playoffs Nov. 4.

With Mother Nature adding some much-needed moisture to the Bear Stadium playing field, Bradley started off strong Thursday night.

After the visitors returned the opening kickoff to midfield, senior defensive lineman Jake Tolleson tackled a Rebel runner for a 2-yard loss on the first play from scrimmage.

Classmate Logan Swafford then made a diving knockaway of Maryville’s first pass attempt before picking off the second one on the following play to give the ball to the hosts.

Unfortunately, that was the extent of the first-half highlight reel for the Black-and-Gold, as the hosts managed just 45 yards of offense in the first two quarters.

Meanwhile, the Rebels scored on five of their next half dozen possessions with a pair of Matthew Cone field goals (44 and 27 yards) in the opening frame, plus finding paydirt three times on a pair of short runs (4 and 1 yard) by Jordan Ervin and a 9-yard pass from Dylan Hopkins to A.J. Davis all in the second quarter.

Three of the scores came after Bear turnovers — an interception, a lost fumble and a bad snap on a punt attempt that sailed over the kicker’s head to the 4-yard line.

“You can afford turnovers against a team like Maryville. They’ll make you pay,” commented Coach Floyd.

After the intermission, the Rebels struck quickly, forcing a three-and-out before Isaiah Cobb broke free for a 63-yard scoring dash on their first offensive play.

Bradley was finally able to get its offense going in the ensuing series, putting together an eight-play, 61-yard scoring drive.

After completing just 1-of-4 first half passes for minus-five yards, sophomore signal caller Dylan Standifer connected on the first half dozen passes of the third quarter for 50 yards, including a 5-yard hookup with junior Lameric Tucker for the initial Bear score with 5:32 remaining in the period.

Maryville answered just before the end of the quarter with a 44-yard scoring pass from Hopkins to Byron Brown.

Bradley came right back with a strong ground attack as junior Adam Mullis, who set personal career marks of 147 yards on 29 carries in the contest, broke off runs of 22 and 20 yards.

Tucker did the honors from nine yards out on a jet sweep 33 seconds into the final frame.

With the Rebel reserves taking over for the fourth quarter, Maryville was able to tack on a final score with a 57-yard march that Bryson Teffeteller capped off with a 15-yard scoring scamper at the 8:12 mark.

Bradley was able to come up with the last touchdown of the evening when Damon “Deuce” Floyd, the coach’s son, pounced on a Rebel fumble just 21 yards from paydirt in the final two minutes.

On the second play after the turnover, Standifer found Trevon Hill in the end zone and the 6-foot-4 senior outleaped a Rebel defender for the score with 71 ticks on the clock.

Standifer finished his first varsity start completing 11-of-15 passes for 87 yards and a pair of scores.

Tucker, the area’s leading receiver, pulled in a half dozen aerials for 36 yards and a TD, while Hill grabbed a pair for 28 yards and a score. Senior Stephen Muhonen gained 21 yards on two catches.

Copeland, Tucker take major region honors


By PATRICK MacCOON Banner Sports Writer

Bradley Central dominated the Region 1-6A postseason accolades, which were released Wednesday morning.

Senior quarterback Cole Copeland took home the Player of the Year honors and his trustworthy junior wide receiver Lameric Tucker was named Athlete of the Year.

Copeland’s precision and efficiency were second to none throughout the season.

The UT-Chattanooga commitment completed 168-of-242 pass attempts, which made him the second most accurate passer in the state, while he compiled 2,985 total yards (2,480 pass, 473 rush) and 35 total touchdowns. Copeland leaves his prep career having set every major record for a quarterback at Bradley, except for most passing yards in a single game. He also set a personal best with six touchdown passes in a 39-7 win against McMinn County on Aug. 26.

As a junior, Copeland contributed to 38 total touchdowns and was named Region 6-A Offensive Player of the Year.

Tucker was a nightmare matchup for opponents as he totaled 16 touchdowns (13 receiving, 2 rushing, 1 KR) and led the state with 94 catches and was second with 1,459 receiving yards. He burned a Cookeville defense for 15 catches, 242 yards and two scores in a first-round 29-25 victory.

The 6-foot-3, 172-pound receiver had two games over 200 yards receiving this season and seven games in triple digits. Tucker scored four touchdowns in a 41-33 victory against Dobyns-Bennett on Oct. 10. He scored at least one TD in 10 of 12 contests and also was a key member on special teams.

With one more season left to play, Tucker is on pace to break all receiving records for the Bears.

Bradley also had eight players selected to the All-Region team after finishing 9-3 on the season.

Those players were athlete Dylan Standifer, lineman Tyler Collier, lineman Tucker Bentley, lineman Kevin Gentry, outside linebacker Jay Person, defensive back Cason Still, defensive back Jeffrey Brewer and linebacker Hunter Duggan.

Standifer, just a sophomore, had 35 receptions for 413 yards and scored 12 total touchdowns (7 receiving, 5 passing, 1 rushing). Person led the Bears with 16 tackles for loss and had 64 tackles and five sacks. Duggan led the team with 75 tackles and had 13 tackles for loss and four sacks.

Still and Brewer were impressive in the secondary. The ballhawks finished with 57 and 56 tackles respectively, while combining for double-digit pass deflections and seven tackles for loss.

Jake Tolleson was the Scholar Athlete of the Year for Bradley.



Bears Corral Mustangs 


By JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor

The fact the scoreboard got lit up for 68 points didn’t surprise anyone at the “County Conflict” in Bear Stadium Thursday night, but the varied manner of how it occurred proved interesting.

Fifth-ranked (6A) Bradley Central took advantage of a trio of key miscues by eighth-ranked (5A) Walker Valley for three touchdowns in the first 5 1/2 minutes. The hosts, known for their passing attack, scored on four short runs, a kickoff return and a halfback pass.

As expected, the Mustangs fought back with a deft aerial attack of their own, but in the end, digging themselves a 14-point hole in the first five minutes proved too much to overcome, as the Bears claimed their 11th victory in a dozen tries over the Herd from the north end of the county.

“A win is a win,” declared Bradley head coach Damon Floyd after the 40-28 victory. “I told the guys after the game, that’s probably the ugliest wins we’ve ever had. We made some boneheaded plays and messed up some of our formations, but we also came through with some big plays when we needed them, and were able to take advantage of opportunities.

“We were able to do some things we wanted to do, especially running the ball (for 211 yards), but overall it wasn’t pretty. We’ve got a lot of things to fix before next week, but we’ll take it.”

The Bears will be remain home next Friday night as McMinn County comes to town to renew the second-longest continuous rivalry in the state, while Walker Valley will hold its home opener at “The Corral” with Hixson slated to pay a visit.

In last year’s game, Bradley opened the season with a bang as Cason Still ran back the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown.

This time around it was sophomore Cole Reyer who started the Bear attack, jarring the ball loose from a Mustang return man on the game’s first play and then pouncing on it at the Walker 24-yard line.

Six plays later junior Adam Mullis powered into the end zone from four yards out with just 122 seconds gone off the clock.

Walker Valley was able to hold onto the football on the ensuing return, but after the Bear “D” forced a three-and-out, the ball was snapped over the Mustang punter’s head for a 26-yard loss, setting the hosts up just 15 yards shy of paydirt.

After losing yardage on their first two plays, Bradley offensive coordinator Keith Freeman dug into his bag of tricks for a halfback pass from junior Devin Moore to classmate Nick Howell for a 19-yard TD. Senior all-state QB Cole Copeland ran the ball in for the two-point conversion to put the Bears up 14-0 with 7:10 still left in the opening quarter.

Down, but not out, head coach Glen Ryan’s offense retook the field and looked more like the Stallions they’ve recently been, breaking senior Alex King free on a 23-yard dash that Bear junior Jake Presley prevented from being six points with a TD-saving tackle.

On the next play, junior signal caller Kolten Gibson threw a swing pass out to senior Cooper Melton, who made a couple of Bears miss and went 51 yards to the house for the first Blue-and-Navy score of the season.

After senior Sam Gibson tacked on the extra point, his ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, but instead of taking the ball at their own 35, the Bradley coaches elected for a rekick and it showed why immediately as junior Lameric Tucker snagged the ball at his own 13 and was off to the races for an 87-yard return to paydirt. Sophomore Clay Shoemaker added the PAT to complete a string of 22 points going up on the scoreboard in a 50-second span.

The first quarter scoring wasn’t done, as Walker Valley put together an 11-play drive after the ensuing kickoff, covering 82 yards, with senior Alex King becoming the school’s all-time scoring leader (186 points) on a 4-yard plunge. Sam Gibson split the uprights to cap the 35-point opening period.

After another out-of-bounds kickoff and rekick, a pair of Mustang penalties pushed the Bears over midfield once again, with Mullis picking up his second score of the night on a 2-yard run to cap a nine-play march for the lone touchdown of the second quarter.

Walker Valley had a chance to tack on three points when Sam Gibson booted a 38-yard field goal just before the half, but their ninth penalty of the opening 24 minutes took the points back off the board.

Each team scored twice in the second half, with the Bears capping an eight-play drive with a Moore 2-yard plunge in the third frame and Howell also scoring from two yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter. Both drives started in Mustang territory after a shanked punt set them up at the 45 on the first series and a failed onside kick and ensuing unsportsmanlike penalty put the ball at the 34.

The visitors scored in both second half frames as well, the first coming on a 45-yard hookup from Gibson to senior Dylan Towers, who had the ball knocked loose by Bear safety Cason Still. The ball rolled forward to the 10-yard line, where Mustang Cody Morfield scooped it up and ran it into the end zone.

The game’s final score came during Walker Valley’s final possession when it drove 67 yards on eight plays, with Gibson (who set a school record with 374 passing yards) hitting senior Zach Eslinger for a seven-yard strike with 1:39 to go.

“Our playmakers had good games, both Kolten (Gibson) and Alex (King) set school records, but you can’t spot any team, especially one as good as Bradley, 14 points and expect to win,” lamented Coach Ryan. “Even after we settled down and got our first score, then we turn right around and give up a kick return for a touchdown. We have got to make plays when it counts.”

“All of the concerns I had earlier in the week (mistakes, turnovers, penalties) came to a head. The good news is while this is an emotional loss, it doesn’t affect our ultimate goal of making the playoffs,” the veteran mentor assessed. “We have got to put this game behind us quickly and get ready for the next one.”

While King finished with 67 yards on 16 carries, as a team the Mustangs tallied just 11 yards on the ground with more than 60 yards subtracted on bad snaps.

Gibson completed 28-of-40 passes, but had one picked off by Bear junior Jay Person at the 5-yard line and returned 27 yards.

Melton, the leading receiver in Mustang history, pulled in a half dozen passes for 113 yards, while Eslinger pulled in 10 receptions for 75 yards and Tennessee-Chattanooga commitment Bryce Nunnelly gained 98 yards on five catches.

The Bears, who are also known for their passing attack, purposely stayed on the ground the vast majority of the night, gaining 211 yards on 49 carries. “We wanted to establish our running game and keep their offense off the field as much as possible,” explained Coach Floyd.

Moore, who broke his leg in the fifth game last season, came back with a vengeance, with 147 all-purpose yards. The junior powered his way to 102 yards on 16 carries, caught a 26-yard pass and threw the 19-yard toss on the halfback pass TD.

“Devin played great tonight,” praised Coach Floyd. “He did everything we asked of him, and then some.”

Mullis helped out with 60 yards on 16 carries himself, including the two scores, while Howell had 19 yards on four rushes and caught a pair of passes for 39 yards.

Copeland, who has also committed to UTC, completed 9-of-17 pass attempts, for 125 yards and gained another 33 yards on 10 carries, but only found the end zone on a two-point conversion.


Copeland Mr. Football Semi-Finalist Again


NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Titans Mr. Football Awards will be presented to

the top 16 backs and linemen in eight classifications of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association on Monday, November 28, 2016, at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. For the 15th consecutive year, the top kicker in the state will be recognized with a Mr. Football Award, regardless of classification.

The Chattanooga-area had eight nominees on this season's list. In Division 1A South Pittsburg's Mitchell Butner is nominated as Lineman of the Year, In Class 2A Marion County's Alex Kirkendoll and Hunter McClain are both up for Lineman of the Year and in Class 3A, Sequatchie County's Hunter davenport is nominated in both the lineman and back categories, the only player in the state to accomplish this.


In Class 6A, Cole Copeland of Bradley Central is nominated again this year as Back of the Year. McCallie's Giovanni Hightower is up for Division II-AA Lineman, while teammate Robert Riddle is nominated for Back of the Year.


our semifinalists are announced in this release for each category and each classification. There are six classifications in Division I and two in Division II. With “Back of the Year” and “Lineman of the Year” for each classification, as well as the “Kicker of the Year” award, that makes for a total of 17 award categories. Two finalists for each category will be announced by Mike Keith on the Titans website at www.titansonline.com on Tuesday, November 15 at 11:00 a.m. CST / 12:00 p.m. EST. The two finalists for each award will be the ones invited to attend the awards luncheon at Nissan Stadium, where the winner of each award will be announced.

A committee of statewide sports writers selected winners based on performance in the 2016 regular season. Academics and character were also taken into consideration. High school head coaches and members of the media nominated the finalists.

“We are very excited and appreciative about being involved with the Tennessee Titans for the 10th consecutive year,” stated Bernard Childress, Executive Director of the TSSAA. “They have helped make the recognition of these 68 student-athletes, their families, and schools possible. The sponsorship of the Tennessee Titans Mr. Football Awards and numerous contributions to high schools across the state since the team moved to Tennessee have meant a great deal to the member schools of the TSSAA.”

This is the 32nd year that the Mr. Football Awards have been presented to Tennessee’s best high school football players. A Mr. Football trophy will be presented to the winners of each category. A Mr. Football plaque will be presented to the runner-up in each category. The other semi-finalists will each receive a certificate.

More than 400 people, including the 34 finalists, their families, coaches, school administrators and members of the media from all parts of the state, are expected to attend the 2016 luncheon.

Mike Keith, play-by-play voice of the Tennessee Titans, will emcee the awards 

Copeland Chosen Player of the Week


by Ward Gossett Times-Free Press


Of the top 20 single-game passing performances in 100 years of Bradley Central football, 13 belong to Cole Copeland.

He has six of the top 10, including second, third, fourth, seventh, ninth and 10th. The all-time best showing is 506 yards and was set by another Copeland, Cole's uncle Brent, in 1995 against Cookeville. The No. 2 performance is 456 yards, by Cole last season against Dobyns-Bennett.

He got No. 3 Friday passing for 366 yards while accumulating 437 yards of total offense. For his performance, he has been selected by the Times Free Press as the Waffle House All-Star player of the week.

"We played pretty well," Copeland said of the Bears' 39-7 victory against visiting McMinn County. "I guess I played all right. Everybody got in the flow of the game, and I got more confident with each throw."

The senior, who has committed to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, completed 27 of 37 passes and tied a school record with six touchdown passes. He also rushed for 71 yards.

"When he gets rolling and gets hot, he's hard to stop," Bears coach Damon Floyd said. "He checked off a couple of times and got us in the right play, but there wasn't anything that he didn't do."

Floyd nodded when asked if he has depleted his store of positive adjectives to describe the 6-foot-3, 195-pound star.

"A lot of (recruiters) call and ask about Cole," the coach said. "I just say he's the ultimate competitor, he's so accurate and he has so much poise. And if everything is covered, he can tuck it and run."

Cleveland radio broadcaster Gary Ownbey, the Bears' unofficial sports historian, is working on a book — "100 Years of Black-and-Gold Glory" — and has included a records section, by extension including Copeland.

The list includes the school's top two performances for passing yards in a season (2,489 last year and 2,355 in 2014 by Copeland), single-game touchdown passes (six, tied with his uncle), most career passing yards (currently second, 5,613 yards; 861 yards from tying the leader, his brother Brice); and the two top spots for most passes completed in a season (211 in 2015 and 183 in 2014). And on the lists for most passes in a game and most completions in a game, he holds four of the top five positions.

It was news to Copeland. He has no idea where he stands in the Bears' record books.

"All I'm really worried about is winning," he said, "and with the offensive line and the wide receivers making plays, that other stuff will take care of itself."

That was the case Friday.

"He was a little out of sync early," Floyd said. "He had good reads, but he probably needed to hold it a split-second longer. Then he settled in."

Said Copeland: "Everything we do starts with the offensive line, and you also have to give a lot of credit to the receivers. Both groups are reasons I had a big night and the receivers had a big night, but without the O-line there are no passes thrown or caught."

Bears to Dedicate 2016 Season to Jace Taylor 


By Staff Reports:


The BC Nation came together at Clingan Ridge Baptist Church to remember  the incredible life of Bradley Bear football player, Jace Taylor,  while mourning the loss of a talented, funny, and caring teammate. The entire staff and team would like everyone to continue to pray for Jace's family, Scott (Father) Angie (Mother) and Brooke (Sister) as we all try to find comfort through this difficult time. We hope to carry on Jace's legacy by dedicating the 2016 season to Jace and his family. 






Bears Roar past Hilltoppers


By JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor

While the coach explained you take what a defense gives you, a 2015 Mr. Tennessee Football semifinalist made a “statement” of his own Friday night as he put up a record-tying performance.

In Bradley Central’s season-opening 40-28 victory over Walker Valley, senior QB Cole Copeland completed just eight passes for 106 yards, plus for the first time in 23 games didn’t throw or run for a touchdown.

Friday night, the UTC commitment lit up the sky as much as Mother Nature did, completing 27-of-37 aerials for 382 yards (third best in the Bears’ 100-year history) and a school record-tying six touchdowns.

“We knew it would be tough to run against McMinn County’s (defensive) front four, so we spread it out more this week and turned Cole loose to do what he does best,” proclaimed Bradley head coach Damon Floyd of the 39-7 victory.

“We want to be versatile on offense and make teams defend the whole field on us,” he added. “Last week Walker Valley gave us the run and this week we were able to go to the air more. The good thing is we have the ability to do either or a good balance of both.”

The fifth-ranked Bears put up 497 yards of offense and led 26-0 before allowing the lone Cherokee score on a 58-yard busted play with just over a minute to go in the third quarter.

“Our defense played great, except for that one play,” declared Floyd, who doubles as the team’s “D” coordinator. “They got about a fourth of their (242) yards on that one play.”

The victory marks the third straight over the Athens squad in second-longest continuous rivalry in the state, but just the first at Bear Stadium since Nov. 11, 2000, when Bradley claimed a 42-0 win in the second round of the TSSAA playoffs. Dating back to 1927, the Bears now hold a 51-39-3 edge in the series.

With a pair of home rivalry wins in their pocket, Bradley will make its longest road trip of the season to open Region 1-6A play this Friday in Johnson City for a battle of state-ranked squads as it faces No. 8 Science Hill.

The Hilltoppers opened their campaign with a 28-21 road win over seventh-ranked (3A) Elizabethton Friday evening. Former Bear QB Brent Standifer is helping coach the Cyclones this season.

“I think we’ll be talking later tonight,” joked Floyd.

After a 50-minute lightning delay before kickoff, the Bears did what they had done the week before, forcing an early turnover to set up their opening score Friday evening.

Stopping the Cherokees (1-1) cold on their first two plays, junior Jake Presley had to make a TD saving tackle after a 27-yard run on the game’s third play.

On the next play, the ball came loose and junior Kevin Gentry pounced on it, giving the hosts possession at midfield.

Going to the air immediately, Bradley covered the needed yardage in nine plays, with Copeland hitting senior Stephen Muhonen with a 16-yard strike at the 8:09 mark for the lone first quarter score.

Running the old Wing T offense, the Cherokees chewed up a lot of clock on the ensuing series, moving the ball from their own 32 to the Bear 5 before back-to-back big defensive plays stalled the drive.

Senior linebacker Hunter Duggan came up with the first one, trapping a Cherokee runner for a three-yard loss, before junior Jay Person got the first of three Bear sacks on the evening on a fourth down play to give possession back to the hosts.

The visitors returned the favor a few minutes later, putting the brakes on Bradley’s nine-play march at the 5 yard line as well, with very tight coverage on a pair of incomplete passes in the end zone.

Only able to move the ball for one first down, the Tribe was forced to punt after another sack, this one by junior Henley Headrick, and a tackle for loss by blitzing safety Cason Still.

After a skipped snap, McMinn’s punter booted the ball off the side of his foot and it headed out of bounds just 14 yards from the line of scrimmage.

Taking over just 32 yards from the end zone, Copeland found junior Lameric Tucker for the first of a trio of touchdown hook ups between the pair on the night, this one covering 33 yards with 6:19 left in the first half.

Bradley tacked on one more score before the intermission, cashing in on their next possession with an 11-play drive covering 63 yards.

Copeland and Tucker connected for the score on a four-yard pass. Sophomore Clay Shoemaker booted the extra point with just 12 seconds left in the quarter for a 19-0 tally at the break.

After being stalled for the second time inside the Cherokee 5 to open the second half, the Bears overcame a pair of penalties that moved them back from the Tribe 2 to the 26 before Copeland capped a seven-play, 57-yard march with a 10-yard toss to junior Nick Howell. Shoemaker added the PAT with 2:27 on the third quarter clock.

McMinn spoiled the shutout on the third play after the ensuing kickoff when senior Zane Byas broke through the line and exploded quickly into an open secondary before outrunning a pair of Bear defenders 58 yards to the house.

The hosts answered with a seven-play, 78-yard drive, which featured a half dozen passes, including a 33-yard over the shoulder scoring strike from Copeland to junior Adam Mullis in the end zone.

Copeland capped his big night with another touchdown in the final Bear offensive series with a one-yard dink to Tucker to finish off a eight-play, 67-yard march. The big play of the drive came when Tucker leaped over a Tribe defender, who had an apparent interception and took the ball away for a 38-yard gain.

The half dozen aerial TDs for Copeland, equals the team record set by his uncle Brent Copeland, who had six scoring tosses in a 52-43 loss to Cookeville on Oct. 29, 1996.

The elder Copeland also set the team mark for passing yardage in that game with 506 on just 17 completions.

Friday night’s 382 yards is third-best in Bear history, as Cole also holds the second spot with 456 and five touchdowns in a 56-42 win at Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett last season.

The younger Copeland unseeded himself at No. 3, moving his 331-yard performance against Riverdale in the playoffs last November down a notch.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound signal caller now has 77 career touchdowns (passing and running) as well as 7,451 total yards as he chases his older brother Bryce’s Southeast Tennessee record of 8,204 yards and 85 scores.

With 136 receiving yards, Tucker’s dozen receptions on the night ties him with Tyler Carpenter for third best for a single game in Bear history, behind only James Stovall’s 20 and Carpenter’s 17, which are second and fourth in the TSSAA record book.

Howell hauled in a half dozen passes for 126 yards before going out with a broken collarbone that will sideline him for four to six weeks, Floyd said Saturday.

Copeland spread the ball around to six different receivers, including Muhonen four times for 44 yards, junior Devin Moore with a pair of catches for 33 yards, senior Trevon Hill for 23 yards on two receptionss and Mullis 20-yard TD catch. Muhonen also recovered both of Bradley’s fumbles in the contest to keep drives alive.

The Bears gained 115 yards on 24 rushes with Copeland gaining 67 on nine carries, while Moore had 24 on five tries and Mullis 14 on a half dozen.

Defensively, Still led the Bear attack with 11 tackles, while Duggan was in on seven, including two for loss yardage.

Person had five tackles, including a pair behind the line of scrimmage, with Headrick and senior Logan Swafford making four hits apiece.

Junior Jeffrey Brewer had a trio of tackles, plus made a nice interception while tip-toeing the sideline to stall a Tribe drive. Sophomore Jesse Foley and junior Damon “Deuce” Floyd were in on three tackles each.

Still to play in Toyota All-Star Game


Cason Still has been selected to play for the 2016 Toyota East All-Stars, set to be played at Tennessee Tech Friday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m.  The Senior All-Region Safety was in on 71 Tackles, 5 TFL, and 1 INT on the season. The two way player also caught a TD pass against William Blount.


"Cason was our leader on defense, he made all the calls for us and got us in the right defensive allignment. We are excited that Cason has been selected and will represent the Bears in this years all-star game. This is a very big honor for him and our program." stated Coach Floyd.



Bears Claw Cherokees


By JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor

While the coach explained you take what a defense gives you, a 2015 Mr. Tennessee Football semifinalist made a “statement” of his own Friday night as he put up a record-tying performance.

In Bradley Central’s season-opening 40-28 victory over Walker Valley, senior QB Cole Copeland completed just eight passes for 106 yards, plus for the first time in 23 games didn’t throw or run for a touchdown.

Friday night, the UTC commitment lit up the sky as much as Mother Nature did, completing 27-of-37 aerials for 382 yards (third best in the Bears’ 100-year history) and a school record-tying six touchdowns.

“We knew it would be tough to run against McMinn County’s (defensive) front four, so we spread it out more this week and turned Cole loose to do what he does best,” proclaimed Bradley head coach Damon Floyd of the 39-7 victory.

“We want to be versatile on offense and make teams defend the whole field on us,” he added. “Last week Walker Valley gave us the run and this week we were able to go to the air more. The good thing is we have the ability to do either or a good balance of both.”

The fifth-ranked Bears put up 497 yards of offense and led 26-0 before allowing the lone Cherokee score on a 58-yard busted play with just over a minute to go in the third quarter.

“Our defense played great, except for that one play,” declared Floyd, who doubles as the team’s “D” coordinator. “They got about a fourth of their (242) yards on that one play.”

The victory marks the third straight over the Athens squad in second-longest continuous rivalry in the state, but just the first at Bear Stadium since Nov. 11, 2000, when Bradley claimed a 42-0 win in the second round of the TSSAA playoffs. Dating back to 1927, the Bears now hold a 51-39-3 edge in the series.

With a pair of home rivalry wins in their pocket, Bradley will make its longest road trip of the season to open Region 1-6A play this Friday in Johnson City for a battle of state-ranked squads as it faces No. 8 Science Hill.

The Hilltoppers opened their campaign with a 28-21 road win over seventh-ranked (3A) Elizabethton Friday evening. Former Bear QB Brent Standifer is helping coach the Cyclones this season.

“I think we’ll be talking later tonight,” joked Floyd.

After a 50-minute lightning delay before kickoff, the Bears did what they had done the week before, forcing an early turnover to set up their opening score Friday evening.

Stopping the Cherokees (1-1) cold on their first two plays, junior Jake Presley had to make a TD saving tackle after a 27-yard run on the game’s third play.

On the next play, the ball came loose and junior Kevin Gentry pounced on it, giving the hosts possession at midfield.

Going to the air immediately, Bradley covered the needed yardage in nine plays, with Copeland hitting senior Stephen Muhonen with a 16-yard strike at the 8:09 mark for the lone first quarter score.

Running the old Wing T offense, the Cherokees chewed up a lot of clock on the ensuing series, moving the ball from their own 32 to the Bear 5 before back-to-back big defensive plays stalled the drive.

Senior linebacker Hunter Duggan came up with the first one, trapping a Cherokee runner for a three-yard loss, before junior Jay Person got the first of three Bear sacks on the evening on a fourth down play to give possession back to the hosts.

The visitors returned the favor a few minutes later, putting the brakes on Bradley’s nine-play march at the 5 yard line as well, with very tight coverage on a pair of incomplete passes in the end zone.

Only able to move the ball for one first down, the Tribe was forced to punt after another sack, this one by junior Henley Headrick, and a tackle for loss by blitzing safety Cason Still.

After a skipped snap, McMinn’s punter booted the ball off the side of his foot and it headed out of bounds just 14 yards from the line of scrimmage.

Taking over just 32 yards from the end zone, Copeland found junior Lameric Tucker for the first of a trio of touchdown hook ups between the pair on the night, this one covering 33 yards with 6:19 left in the first half.

Bradley tacked on one more score before the intermission, cashing in on their next possession with an 11-play drive covering 63 yards.

Copeland and Tucker connected for the score on a four-yard pass. Sophomore Clay Shoemaker booted the extra point with just 12 seconds left in the quarter for a 19-0 tally at the break.

After being stalled for the second time inside the Cherokee 5 to open the second half, the Bears overcame a pair of penalties that moved them back from the Tribe 2 to the 26 before Copeland capped a seven-play, 57-yard march with a 10-yard toss to junior Nick Howell. Shoemaker added the PAT with 2:27 on the third quarter clock.

McMinn spoiled the shutout on the third play after the ensuing kickoff when senior Zane Byas broke through the line and exploded quickly into an open secondary before outrunning a pair of Bear defenders 58 yards to the house.

The hosts answered with a seven-play, 78-yard drive, which featured a half dozen passes, including a 33-yard over the shoulder scoring strike from Copeland to junior Adam Mullis in the end zone.

Copeland capped his big night with another touchdown in the final Bear offensive series with a one-yard dink to Tucker to finish off a eight-play, 67-yard march. The big play of the drive came when Tucker leaped over a Tribe defender, who had an apparent interception and took the ball away for a 38-yard gain.

The half dozen aerial TDs for Copeland, equals the team record set by his uncle Brent Copeland, who had six scoring tosses in a 52-43 loss to Cookeville on Oct. 29, 1996.

The elder Copeland also set the team mark for passing yardage in that game with 506 on just 17 completions.

Friday night’s 382 yards is third-best in Bear history, as Cole also holds the second spot with 456 and five touchdowns in a 56-42 win at Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett last season.

The younger Copeland unseeded himself at No. 3, moving his 331-yard performance against Riverdale in the playoffs last November down a notch.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound signal caller now has 77 career touchdowns (passing and running) as well as 7,451 total yards as he chases his older brother Bryce’s Southeast Tennessee record of 8,204 yards and 85 scores.

With 136 receiving yards, Tucker’s dozen receptions on the night ties him with Tyler Carpenter for third best for a single game in Bear history, behind only James Stovall’s 20 and Carpenter’s 17, which are second and fourth in the TSSAA record book.

Howell hauled in a half dozen passes for 126 yards before going out with a broken collarbone that will sideline him for four to six weeks, Floyd said Saturday.

Copeland spread the ball around to six different receivers, including Muhonen four times for 44 yards, junior Devin Moore with a pair of catches for 33 yards, senior Trevon Hill for 23 yards on two receptionss and Mullis 20-yard TD catch. Muhonen also recovered both of Bradley’s fumbles in the contest to keep drives alive.

The Bears gained 115 yards on 24 rushes with Copeland gaining 67 on nine carries, while Moore had 24 on five tries and Mullis 14 on a half dozen.

Defensively, Still led the Bear attack with 11 tackles, while Duggan was in on seven, including two for loss yardage.

Person had five tackles, including a pair behind the line of scrimmage, with Headrick and senior Logan Swafford making four hits apiece.

Junior Jeffrey Brewer had a trio of tackles, plus made a nice interception while tip-toeing the sideline to stall a Tribe drive. Sophomore Jesse Foley and junior Damon “Deuce” Floyd were in on three tackles each.


Complete Game Give Bears 5-0 Start


JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor

Coach Damon Floyd was worried his fourth-ranked Bradley Central squad might be a little “down” after four straight highly emotional games to start the season before playing Jefferson County, a team the Bears have very little history with.

When the Patriots began the annual homecoming game with a 9 1/2-minute, 16-play scoring march, the veteran “Papa Bear” was even more concerned, but then his offense took the field and turned things around in a hurry.

“We weren’t ready at first, but our offense came out and picked us up,” Floyd declared after the 44-14 Region 1-6A victory. “Our defense played great after that.”

After the 80-yard opening drive, the “Black Hole Defense” allowed the visitors just 62 yards the rest of the night, forcing five punts and snatching a pair of Patriot passes, including a 35-yard “Pick 6” by senior Cason Still.

While the explosive Bear offense has put 183 points on the scoreboard so far this season, the Bradley “D” has allowed just 61 points total, including only 24 by the starting unit in the past four games.

Starting the season 5-0 for the first time since 1999, Bradley will enjoy a bye this week before returning to the gridiron Sept. 30 in Knoxville against Bearden (3-2, 1-1 Region 1-6A).

Trailing 7-0 going into the second quarter Friday evening, the Bear offense exploded for three scores before the half.

Senior quarterback Cole Copeland surpassed his older brother Bryce’s Southeast Tennessee career touchdown record (see related story this page) with a six-yard scoring toss to sophomore Dylan Standifer before carrying the pigskin to paydirt on runs of 62 and 1 yard himself before the intermission.

After classmate Sydney Morgan was crowned homecoming queen, the 2015 Mr. Tennessee semifinalist then eclipsed big brother again to open the second half, surpassing his career yardage mark on a 57-yard touchdown toss to Adam Mullis on the third play after the intermission.

Copeland added another 26-yard scoring pass to Standifer before exiting the game with 2:28 to go in the third frame.

The two-sport all-state performer finished the night having completed 20-of-21 passes for 299 yards and a trio of scores. His lone incomplete pass on the evening came on a scramble to avoid a sack.

He also carried the ball seven times for 90 yards, finding the end zone twice.

Mullis finished the night with 114 yards, split evenly between 11 carries and his 57-yard TD reception.

Junior receiver Lameric Tucker hauled in 10 passes for 155 yards, while Standifer had five catches for 60 yards, plus completed all three of his passes for 18 yards after taking over at quarterback for the final 14-plus minutes of the contest.

Senior Trevon Hill and junior Stephen Muhonen caught a trio of passes each for 26 and 19 yards respectively.

Defensively, the Bears were lead by senior linebacker Hunter Duggan, who was in on nine tackles, including five solo shots.

Senior Logan Swafford and junior Jake Pressley also notched four solo tackles, with the latter also making a pair of tackles for loss, plus having an assist.

One of senior Malik Whaley and sophomore Cole Reyher’s three tackles were behind the line of scrimmage, while juniors Kevin Gentry and Jay Person also had a tackle for minus yardage.

Still made a TD-saving tackle in the opening half before snatching his “Pick 6” with 1:12 left in the third quarter.

Junior Jeffrey Brewer had a trio of solo tackles in the victory, plus intercepted a Patriot pass at the 5-yard line and returned it 50 yards to set up Bradley’s final score of the night.

Putting a cap on a strong night himself, sophomore kicker Clay Shoemaker, who had already hit 5-of-6 extra points, split the uprights with a 42-yard field goal with 7:49 to go in the contest.

The kick tied for the fourth longest field goal in Bradley’s 100-year football history.

Jay Graham holds the Bear record with a 44-yarder against Red Bank in 1988, plus he booted a pair of 43-yarders against Cocke County the following season.

Shoemaker tied Tracy Ellis, who’s 42-yarder was the lone score in a victory over Cumberland County in 1983.

“Clay did a great job tonight,” praised Coach Floyd. “That field goal got backed up five yards by a penalty, but he didn’t’ let that faze him. He just stepped right up and booted it with room to spare.”

The top Bear also credited new assistant coach Andy Bailey, a former kicker for the University of Georgia, who was hired this week.

“Three days on the job and he’s already helped Clay more than any of us other coaches have been able to,” Floyd commented. “He knows how to kick, where none of the rest of us do.”

“We had a combination of a lot of great efforts tonight,” the veteran coach assessed. “Coach (Keith) Freeman did a great job of calling plays. Our offensive line did a great job of blocking.

“Our defensive really stepped it up after that opening drive. Our ball carriers and receivers did a great job of getting yardage. These are the things that have gotten us to 5-0.”

2017 Football Schedule


Aug.  18   Farragut                 Home
Aug.  25   Walker Valley         Away    
Sept.   1   Ooltewah*              Away
Sept.   8   Bye
Sept   15  Cleveland*              Home
Sept.  22   Rhea County         Home
Sept.  29   McMinn County*    Away
Oct.     5    Soddy Daisy         Away
Oct    13    Heritage*              Home
Oct.   20    William Blount*     Home
Oct.   27    Maryville*              Away

​​Copeland commits to Chattanooga Mocs


By JOE CANNON

Banner Assistant Sports Editor

Getting ready for his senior season, one local multisport all-stater has made up his mind where and what kind of ball he will be playing with on the next level.

A Mr. Tennessee Football semifinalist last fall, Cole Copeland earned all-state honors this past school year for his abilities not only on the gridiron but the hardwood as well.

He has drawn the attention of numerous colleges desiring his talents in one sport or the other, including at least one which has offered him the opportunity to play both.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder has decided to play football on the NCAA Football Championship Series level, verbally committing to nationally ranked University of Tennessee at Chattanooga over the weekend.

“The coaching staff is really doing a great job there and it’s close to home, so it will make it easy for family can come watch me play,” the youngest of a trio of standout siblings who are part of possibly the most prolific Bradley Central athletic family in the 100-year history of the school.

“Brooke (his older sister) plays for Florida and we don’t get to see her games (in person) but three or four times a year,” he related. “I had offers from bigger schools, but my family is important to me, and being able to stay close to them means a lot.”

Drawing interest from several SEC schools, Copeland was also being recruited by Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Eastern Kentucky and numerous FCS schools.

His dad (Brian) and grandpa’s (Kent) alma mater — Tennessee Tech — invited him to play both football and basketball for the Golden Eagles.

“It would be tough to play two sports in college, and I feel like I’m better suited for football,“ he explained.

“UTC is getting a steal,” proclaimed Bradley head coach Damon Floyd, a former Moc standout himself. “He’s the ultimate competitor. He has all the tools you want in a quarterback.

“He’s always had great ability and comes from a very strong athletic family, but the thing he’s done the best with recently is improving his knowledge of the game.

“He wanted to stay close to home, and UTC is one of the top programs in the nation,” the Bear mentor added. “I love UTC, so I’m always glad to see our players go there.” 

After seeing very limited action as a backup to Brent Standifer his freshman season, Copeland has been Bradley’s starting quarterback the past two seasons.

He is second only to his older brother Bryce in Bear career passing and overall yardage, as well as total touchdown records.

Bryce Copeland, a senior on the Lee University basketball team, in football holds the Southeast Tennessee record for total career yards, with 8,204, and total touchdowns, with 85. He was the starter in 43 games for the Bears from 2009-12. 

He completed 480-of-820 passes for 6,474 yards and 61 TDs, plus rushed for 1,730 yards and 24 found paydirt 24 times.

In almost half as many starts (22), younger brother Cole is right on his heels with very impressive career marks of 6,863 combined passing and rushing yards, plus having accounted for 71 scores. He is looking to pass his older brother in both categories this fall in his final season for the state-ranked Black-and-Gold.

Along with his dad Brian, uncles Chad and Brent, as well as brother Bryce, Cole is the fifth Copeland to play under center for the Bears, and so far has connected on 419-of-644 aerials for 5,028 yards and 45 scoring strikes, plus pounded out 1,835 yards on the ground and scored 26 times.

The Bear signal caller was voted by the Region 1-6A coaches as the Offensive Player of the Year last season, after recording more than 3,300 total yards and accounting for 39 touchdowns.

Completing 64 percent of his aerials, Copeland connected on 184-of-289 passes for 2,451 yards, tossing 25 TD strikes and throwing just a half dozen interceptions. He also ran the ball 203 times for 862 yards and found the end zone 14 times himself. 

Copeland directed the Bears, ranked in the Top 10 by The Associated Press writers for most of the 2015 campaign, to a 7-3 mark in the regular season and their sixth straight trip to the TSSAA playoffs.

Also earning all-state honors for his basketball skills last season, he is the second in the Copeland family to do so as older sister Brooke, now a junior at the University of Florida, did so twice in basketball and volleyball. In 2013, Brooke and Bryce became the first brother-sister tandem in Tennessee sports history to be named all-state in the same school year.

A two-time District 5-AAA Player of the Year on the basketball court, Cole Copeland led the Bear attack, averaging a double-double each time out this past season as the team made its second TSSAA substate appearance in his three years as a starter.

The shooting guard averaged 20.9 points, plus pulled down an average of 11.6 rebounds a game. He also dished off 81 assists, copped 73 thefts and blocked 45 shots. He connected on 59 3-pointers in 150 attempts (39 percent). 

He will be joining a UTC team that is No. 7 in the Athlon Sports Preseason FCS Top 25.

The Mocs posted a 9-4 overall record in 2015, plus won their third consecutive Southern Conference title last year, finishing with a school-record-tying No. 8 national ranking.

Copeland will be joining former Bear all-state receiver James Stovall, who is getting ready for his junior season this fall, on the Mocs.

Walker Valley senior receiver Bryce Nunnelly also made his verbal commitment to UTC, last Thursday. Former Mustang offensive linemen Alex Hooper and Tanner Dillard are a junior and sophomore respectively on the current Moc roster.

“The recruiting process is very stressful, so I wanted to get this (the decision) out of the way before the season began,” Copeland related. “I want to be able to be completely focused when I go into battle with my brothers (teammates).

“UTC is the right fit for me and my family,” he said of the nonbinding verbal commitment.

Copeland’s uncles, Chad (basketball) and Brent (football) both played for UTC.


Bears Fall short at Hardin Valley


By JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor

KNOXVILLE — “Injuries are part of the game. It’s next man up,” declared Bradley Central head coach Damon Floyd, refusing to blame the fourth-ranked Bears’ first loss of the season on the early exit of the Southeast Tennessee career yardage and touchdowns record holder.

“Cole (Copeland) getting hurt didn’t cost us this game,” the veteran coach said after the 14-13 upset at the hands of Hardin Valley Friday evening in Knoxville.

“We’re not going to make excuses. We lost the turnover and field position battles. We missed two tackles on their only touchdown.

“We knew they had the best defense in the region (having given up just 45 points in four previous 1-6A games) and our defense played great, but they (HV) just made one more play than we did,” Floyd assessed. “It’s not the end of the world. We’ll regroup and keep fighting.”

Bradley won’t have much time to gather its wits, and adjust to Copeland’s absence, with a short turnaround to play 16-time state champion and unbeaten Maryville Thursday evening at Bear Stadium.

“Cole will have a scan this week, but he’s likely out for several weeks,” related Floyd. Copeland left the game late in the opening quarter with a shoulder injury and spent the rest of the night on the sideline with his throwing arm in a sling. “It’s not the same injury he got last week (against Dobyns-Bennett). It’s something different, but we don’t know the extent of it yet.”

With the Bears seven-game winning streak snapped and the 2015 Mr. Tennessee Football semifinalist on the shelf, this week’s showdown with the top-ranked Rebels will be an uphill battle.

“We’re not crying or whining about it (losing Copeland) over here,” declared Floyd. “We have a lot of confidence in Dylan (Standifer, the sophomore backup QB). He’s done a great job filling in for Nick (Howell, who was out four games with a broken collarbone and got shook up again Friday evening) at receiver and punting, and he’ll get better and better at quarterback as we go. He’s a fierce competitor.”

The younger brother of former Bear standout QB Brett Standifer, Dylan completed his first five passes on his way to a 14-for-19 perforamnce for 187 yards and a touchdown, but he did throw a pair of picks. Standifer was the starting third baseman and clean up hitter as a freshman on the Bear baseball team that advanced to the TSSAA Sectional playoffs last May.

Now 7-1 overall and 4-1 in Region 1-6A play, Bradley is guaranteed no worse than a third place finish in the region race and an opening round home playoff game the first Friday in November.

Both the Bears and Hawks (6-2, 4-1) still have games with Maryville (8-0, 5-0) and William Blount (2-6, 1-4) to wrap up the regular season.

The “Black Hole Defense” was the highlight of Friday night’s game for the Black-and-Gold, making 19 tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage on Hardin Valley’s 50 offensive plays.

Bending some but not breaking in the first three quarters, Bradley kept the hosts out of the end zone, forcing five punts, senior Cason Still blocking a field goal attempt and surrendering just a pair of long (47- and 39-yards) field goals to Hawk senior kick Andrew Foster, who put three of his four kickoffs into the end zone.

In the final frame, the Bear “D” allowed just 66 yards, 31 of which came on touchdown run by tailback Aaron Dykes, who went over the 1,000 yards for the season with 105 yards on 25 carries in the contest.

Despite Dykes’ total eclipsing the century mark, overall Hawks had just 96 net yards on 40 carries, plus gained 113 on 6-of-10 passing by QB Gavin Greene.

Holding the hosts to just 209 yards of offense, Bradley’s aggressive defense had a trio of sacks with linebackers Hunter Duggan, Jay Person and Henley Headrick each trapping Greene while he was trying to throw.

The trio were also in on other tackles for loss, along with Malik Whaley, Jake Pressley, Hunter Owenby and Still making stops behind the line of scrimmage.

Cornerback Logan Swafford also made a TD-saving tackle on a 52-yard pass play, catching the receiver from behind at the 7 yard line.

The Bear “D” then made their second goal line stand of the opening half, forcing the Hawks to settle for a field goal.

Still had capped the first “stuff” with his block of a 20-yard field goal attempt, which Duggan recovered, to end the game’s opening drive.

Cornerback Jeffrey Brewer drew praise for his work against Hardin Valley’s top receiver, including an interception that was nullified by a roughing the passer penalty.

After Foster’s 47-yarder opened the scoring as the lone first frame points, Bradley took the lead with a swing pass from Standifer to junior speedster Lameric Tucker, who raced 61 yards to paydirt after making the catch behind the line of scrimmage.

Sophomore Clay Shoemaker was good on his lone PAT of the evening to make the score 7-3 with 7:47 remaining in the second quarter.

Foster added his 39-yard boot with 4:49 in the opening half, pulling the hosts within a point (7-6) at the intermission.

The second half got off on the wrong foot for the Bears with back-to-back penalties — a holding call on the kickoff return and then not being able to get their first offensive play snapped in time.

Three plays later came the strangest play of the game. Standifer dropped back to pass, but the ball was snagged by Hawk defensive back Tim Frizzell and returned nearly 30 yards for what appeared was going to be a “Pick 6,” but Bradley was able to strip the ball and recover it at the 1-foot line.

On the third play following the two-turnover play, Standifer was caught in the end zone for a safety by Ellis Chapman, giving the lead back to Hardin Valley.

After the ensuing free kick, Person rose to the occasion, spearheading a three-and-out by stripping the ball lose on the first play, but the Hawks recovered. The junior then threw Greene for a minus 10-yard sack before bringing down Dykes after a short gain to force a Hawk punt.

Taking over on its own 33, Bradley’s offense responded with 10-play scoring drive to vault back into the lead.

Junior running back Adam Mullis gain 21 yards on a trio of carries in the march, while Tucker and Standifer connected for 46 yards on a pair of passes. Standifer carried the ball across the goal line from a yard out with four minutes on the third quarter clock for a 13-8 advantage.

With just a five-point difference the Bears went for a two-point conversion, but the pass was incomplete.

Hardin Valley came up with the fifth and final lead change of the night early in the fourth frame, covering 56 yards in five plays, with Dykes breaking a pair of tackles while carrying the mail for the final 31.

The Hawks also tried a two-point conversion but the run was stuffed by the Bear defensive line, led by Jake Tolleson and Kevin Gentry.

Although there were still almost nine minutes left in the contest, Bradley couldn’t get another offense drive sustained until the final of three possession, moving the ball from its own 17 to the Hawk 37 before getting stalled on a fourth down play with 40 seconds remaining.

With the two tough defenses dominating, only a combined 25 first downs were recorded in the contest.

Bradley was able to manage just under 300 yards of offense, with 220 coming through the air and 78 on 31 carries.

Tucker had another standout performance pulling down 10 passes for 148 yards, including the 61-yard scoring scamper, and a pair of rushes for 24 more.

Mullis had 51 yards on 10 carries, while Howell caught a trio of aerials for 39 yards before getting his bell rung on the third play of the second half, sending him to the sidelines to be checked out. He was able to return to the field for a pair of fourth-quarter punts.

Copeland completed 4-of-6 passes for 33 yards and was stopped for no gain on his lone rush.



Bears defeat Bearden


By JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor

KNOXVILLE — Bradley Central visited a place called “Bear”“den” Friday night, but it certainly isn’t a cave they’d like to hibernate in.

Despite having to battle a hungry pack of Bulldogs, a laundry-loving zeal of zebras and “some self-inflicted wounds,” the fourth-ranked Black-and-Gold were able to claim their sixth straight victory.

“We had to face a lot of adversity,” declared Bradley head coach Damon Floyd Saturday of the 31-21 victory over Bearden the night before. “All I’ll say about it is, I’m proud of our guys on 99 percent of the plays.”

The Bears were penalized 13 times for 139 yards, including a stretch of four straight unsportsmanlike or personal foul flags that help set up a Bulldog score as Bradley led 17-0 just before halftime.

“We’ve got to keep our composure,” the veteran coach stated. “Most of their points came off of us giving them yardage in frustration.”

The victory helps the Bears (6-0, 3-0) keep pace with top-ranked Maryville (6-0, 3-0), a 56-35 winner in Kingsport over Dobyns-Bennett Friday, atop the Region 1-6A standings.

Bradley returns home to face Dobyns-Bennett (3-4, 1-2) this week in the real “Bears Den.”

Posting their lowest point of the season, the Bears still managed four touchdowns and a field goal Friday evening in Knoxville, plus were right at their average of 420 yards of offense.

“We didn’t execute as well as we can, but having a week off (the previous week) could have had something to do with that, as well as Bearden has the best defense we’ve faced this year,” remarked Coach Floyd.

“We didn’t play really well in some phases of the game, but we came away with a win and in the end that’s what counts the most,” he assessed.

Despite 10 of the team’s penalties being thrown on them, the “Black Hole Defense” did put the pressure on the hosts with 14 tackles for loss, including eight sacks of the Bulldog quarterback, as well as breaking up a half dozen pass attempts, including junior Jake Pressley picking one off.

Bearden gained just 78 yards on 33 rushes, plus connected on 28-of-44 aerials for 225 more. A pair of the Bulldog touchdowns came from within the 2 yard line.

After senior Cason Still opened the game with an exciting 50-yard kickoff return, all 17 Bear points in the first half came from sophomores.

Receiver Dylan Standifer hauled in a pair of passes from UT-Chattanooga commitment Chad Copeland, then picked up plenty of YAC (yards after the catch) for scores of 41 and 26 yards, both in the second quarter.

The game’s first points of the contest came off the foot of Clay Shoemaker, who capped the opening drive with a 26-yard field goal, plus split the uprights on four extra points on the evening.

Bearden’s lone score before the homecoming intermission came on a 12-play, 72-yard march with the trio of dead-ball fouls preceeding a two-yard pass for the score with 2:37 on the clock. As the teams headed off the field after the PAT, another yellow flag was thrown, moving the kickoff across midfield.

With less than 20 seconds remaining before the half, a Bear defender was ejected after a late hit on an incomplete Bulldog pass. Somehow in marking off the 15-yard penalty, Bearden gained an extra four yards, but a sack by Easton Clark, who had come on for the disqualified Bradley player, on the next play negated the difference.

The hosts got the ball after the break, but a pair of big defensive plays — a sack by senior Jake Tolleson and sophomore Hayden Owenby, plus a pass break up by Still on a fourth down play — gave the Bears the ball on their own 38.

Five plays later, Copeland found favorite target Lameric Tucker in the flat and the junior speedster was able to juke-and-jive his way 50 yards to the end zone.

Bearden answered with 13-play scoring drive of its own, aided by another pair of 15-yard flags on the Bears. Freshman quarterback Collin Ironside scored on a one-yard plunge with 1:10 left in the third frame.

Bradley also found paydirt on its second possession after the half with junior Adam Mullis highlighting the seven-play, 78-yard march with a 38-yard break away, as well as a nice nine-yard run.

Copeland took it to the house with a 21-yard “Houdini” run, escaping numerous would-be tacklers before breaking the plain of the goal line just 94 second into the fourth quarter.

The Bulldogs came up with the final scoring drive of the evening with a “flagless” 16-play drive that covered 95 yards against the Bear back ups. The hosts were able to connect on a 15-yard pass with just eight seconds remaining to give the game its final tally.

Tucker had a big night for the Bears with 127 total yards on a half dozen runs and a trio of catches. “Lameric did a great job on those running plays and it opened other thing up for us,” Coach Floyd stated.

Mullis bulled his way for 100 yards 13 carries. “Mullis is a tough competitor. Our offensive line played really well and he got us some tough yards, plus broke a few of them for big gains,” praised the Bear mentor.

Standifer pulled in a half dozen passes for a total of 102 yards, including the two scores, while senior Trevon Hill pulled in a 21-yard catch.

Copeland collected 252 total yards, completing 11-of-22 passes for 203, plus keeping the ball himself seven times for 49 more.

Defensively, Owenby led the Bears with 10 total hits, including five solo shots, was in on a trio of sacks, plus had three other tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Junior Jay Person was in on nine tackles, including a half dozen solos and another for loss.

Jeffrey Brewer also made five solo take downs and was in on another tackle. The 5-foot-11 junior cornerback had four pass breakups while covering Bearden’s top receiver — 6-foot-3 Jordan Ferguson, who has also committed to play at UT-Chattanooga.

“Brewer played really, really well tonight,” praised Coach Floyd. “He got flagged a couple of times, but he did a good job of shutting down their big receiver.”

Duggan and Still were both in on a half dozen tackles, the latter getting a sack.

Junior Kevin Gentry, who had a pair of sacks, and Clark both had five total hits, while Logan Swafford made four solo tackles.

Senior Malik Whaley pulled down the Bearden QB twice in four tackles, while Pressley also had four hits and the takeaway.

Senior Jake Tolleson recovered a Bearden fumble, plus was in on a pair of sacks in his three tackles.

Sophomore Jesse Foley had the final sack of the night for the Bears.


Bears Rout Raiders


By SARALYN NORKUS Banner Sports Writer

The Cleveland Blue Raiders may have had a number of weapons coming into Friday’s historic rivalry game, but the Bradley Central Bears had a Hulk — or a Cole Copeland to be more exact.

Copeland accounted for 278 of the Bears’ 355 yards and ran in three of the team’s five touchdowns in the 34-5 win, which kept Bradley undefeated and handed Cleveland their first loss of the season.

“It’s what we expect. He’s a big time player who has played big time and big games. Cole has done this time and time again, and I’m just glad to have him on our team,” Bradley Central coach Damon Floyd declared.

Aided by his offensive line and receivers, Copeland was able to complete 16-of-22 passes for 220 yards with a lone interception. After the game, the quarterback rated his performance a six out of 10, thanks to that interception.

“I can’t throw interceptions. I can’t turn the ball over,” Copeland lamented. “I have to stay in the pocket a little bit longer, trust my offensive line and trust the process, too. I have to trust the development of the play and not bail too early and just stay in the pocket.”

The Bears defense posted a show-stopping performance, taking the Raiders to task for the entirety of the game.

Coming into Friday, Cleveland was averaging 521 yards and 47 points per game on offense. Bradley held their hosts to only 145 yards and never once allowed them to reach the end zone.

“I cannot give enough credit to the defense. It’s unbelievable. The defense had our back, and Coach Floyd had them playing and rallying to the ball,” Copeland stated. “We’ve got to work on the stupid mistakes, like personal fouls. Other than that, I like their fire.”

If there was one area that the Bears could complain about, it would be the 14 penalties they racked up for a total of 173 yards.

“I would have liked to not have 14 penalties, so we’ll be cleaning that up again,” Floyd commented.

Cleveland coach Scott Cummings knew coming into the “Crosstown Clash” that his team had not truly been tested yet this season, and, in terms of their first stress test, it’s safe to say that the Raiders failed.

“We laid a huge egg from the very beginning. We got outplayed. They played faster, and we were outcoached. There’s really nothing we did right,” Cummings stated.

“Early on they hit us and I said from the beginning, we haven’t played anybody that will hit us yet. (Friday) we played somebody that would hit us and we did not respond.”

“We had some things happen out there that were very embarrassing and very uncharacteristic of a Scott Cummings-coached team,” he added. “Until we decide that we’re going to do the little things right and not be front runners, we’ll struggle when teams hit us back.”

Cleveland’s night started out with a quick three-and-out that saw them cover only six yards before punting the ball.

The Raiders were able to hold the Bears off the board in the first quarter, but found that their 6A opponent was more than capable of shutting down what had been a lightning-hot offense.

“Our defense was really getting lined up correctly, and we recognized some things on film to their formation, and we had to make sure to read our keys and play sound football,” the Bradley coach explained. “Every guy pretty much did their job and trusted their teammates to do their job — it was fun to see.”

During a 17-play drive, which included two personal foul calls on the Bears, Cleveland proved unable to break past the 11-yard-line and was forced to bring Toren Beck out for a 27-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 3:12 left in the first quarter.

That lead carried over into only the first two minutes of the second quarter.

The Bears started out the second quarter on the Raiders’ 15 and saw Logan Strickland pick off Copeland’s pass in the end zone. Bradley’s lone turnover of the game was negated three plays later when Cleveland lost a fumble to Kevin Gentry on their own 27-yard-line.

With the ball back in their possession, Adam Mullis moved the Bears to the 23. Copeland connected with Dylan Standifer for the 23-yard touchdown reception.

On their next series, Cleveland saw the Bears pick off a pass that had been intended for ZaDarius Williams on their 48. Bradley worked their way into the “Red Zone” and ultimately saw Copeland reach the end zone on a 15-yard carry, but a penalty called back the touchdown.

After getting the ball back, the Raiders turned around and lost it four plays later on a bad snap. That turnover position Bradley just 19 yards out. On a third-and-10 play, Copeland linked up with Lameric Tucker to move the ball to the 5-yard-line. The quarterback kept the ball on the next play for the TD with 1:37 left in the first half.

Down 14-3 at halftime, hope was not lost for the Raiders as the third quarter began.

Hope did begin to dwindle quickly though, as Copeland once again found Tucker for a 61-yard reception, that left the Bears clawing at the 5-yard-line. The quarterback easily picked up his second touchdown of the night just 27 seconds into the second half.

Copeland traversed nine yards for his final TD of the night, which came at 5:05 in the third quarter and put Bradley up 28-3

Injury was added to insult for Cleveland on their first play following that touchdown. Quarterback Dallas McCrary went down with a knee injury and was not able to return to the game.

Things got sloppy following another interception by Bradley and resulted in multiple flags. The Bears took over on their own 6-yard-line, but three plays later, Ashton Dunn was able to put two-points up on the board for Cleveland after sacking Copeland in the end zone for a safety with 1:23 left in the third quarter.

Those were the last points scored by the Raiders.

Bradley’s final touchdown came a little over two minutes into the fourth quarter.

Picking up on Cleveland’s 45, a small scuffle broke out which resulted in a Raider being ejected from the game and the Bears being moved in 10 yards.

Copeland ran the ball in 29 yards and not too long after, Mullis took the ball in one-yard for the TD. A failed extra point attempt left the score 34-5.

When the dust settled, the Raiders had managed only 37 yards on 25 carries and 108 yards receiving.

McCrary completed 6-of-14 pass attempts and back up QB Jackson Moore went 2-for-7. Both quarterbacks threw an interception in the game.

McCrary was the leading rusher for Cleveland with 26 yards on eight carries. Micaleous Elder was held to just 15 yards on seven carries.

For the Bears, a total of 122 yards were picked up on 37 carries. Standifer had 33 yards on one carry, and Mullis had 23 yards and a TD on 12.

Tucker was Copeland’s go-to receiver for most of the night and racked up 151 yards on nine catches. Standifer had 52 yards and a touchdown on four receptions.

Bradley’s defense saw Gentry recover two fumbles as well as having a total of five tackles, which included a sack. Jake Pressley had four solo tackles and was in on three more. Jeffery Brewer and Jordan McIllwain had the two interceptions for the Bears.

Cleveland’s Romeo Wykle had a strong night on defense with a fumbled punt recovery, as well as six solo tackles and four assists. Logan Stutzman had four solo tackles and was in on another. Chase Oliver, Victor Dodd and Ashton Dunn all had a sack in the game.

The Bears have not gotten off to a 4-0 start since 1999, when playing under Coach Bill Price.

“That’s the thing, we’ve had some injuries, guys are going down, but the next guys are stepping up. They are filling in, and we’re not missing a beat. That’s good to see,” Floyd said.

“It’s a total team effort. We have a lot of guys who are doing a lot of good things; it isn't just Cole. Offensive line played well, Adam ran hard, a lot of guys were doing their job and I’m very proud of them.”

Both teams were ranked fourth in this week’s Associated Press state poll heading into their 42nd meeting.

Despite back-to-back victories by the Bears, the Raiders still lead the overall series 27-15.

Returning to region play, Bradley hosts Jefferson County for their homecoming game this Friday, while Cleveland looks to right their ship against McMinn County.

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