Relentless Pride …….Honored Tradition
Clark, Keeping the Tradition Alive
By PATRICK MacCOON
Saylor Clark is having a break out year for the Bears this season. Being the only returning starter at receiver from last year, Clark is ready to take on the responsibility of being the one of the go to guys this year.
Being born with "Black and Gold" in his veins, Clark has extra motivation as well for a region battle that once had to be discontinued for several years due to emotions running a little too high.
"I have wanted to be a Bear ever since I knew what it meant when I was really little," Clark said. "I was a water boy for my uncle's (Chuck Clark) basketball team. It's a huge tradition. The rivalry game with Cleveland is one you always want to win at all costs."
Dylan Standifer has carried over a strong chemistry with the 6-foot-2 surehanded Clark, who reeled in five TDs last season with a crucial one coming in a 27-21 win at home over Cleveland.
Clark has 19 catches for 255 yards (13.4 ypc) with a pair of scores against Walker Valley and Ooltewah.
"The guys ahead of him in the past set the bar high so he would know what to expect," said BCHS head coach Damon Floyd. "Saylor takes every week personally. He is trying to win and is the ultimate competitor. This week against Cleveland he may have a little extra motivation, though."
Once a part of a deep pecking order in the BC wide receiver room, Clark is the current leader by example at the position, even for highly sought-after D1 target Tray Curry to learn from.
No matter what his personal stats may read after one of the biggest games of his life this Friday, victory is all that matters to the true-blood Bradley standout.
"If I have zero catches and we win, that's great," Clark said. "I would take that over having 10 catches and losing any day. I am in this for the team. This is a huge region game."
Leading the Charge
By PATRICK MacCOON
As the only two returning starters from the "Black Hole Defense" last season, seniors Parker Johnson and Hayden Ownbey remained confident despite many starting spots having to be filled.
Instead of regression, Bradley Central's defense allowed nearly two full points less per game this regular season. The unit has gelled to limit its opposition to 18.4 points per game while holding six teams to two scores or less.
"Myself and Hayden knew they were ready," Johnson said of the starting 11 on defense. "Nobody was able to see them but us in practice. I was confident. They came in and have performed well."
In fact, the Bears have posted their best regular season scoring defense since allowing 17.1 points per game in a breakthrough nine-win 2010 campaign.
Pressure is something Johnson and Ownbey embrace, as third-seeded Bradley (7-3) will try to break down Region 1 runner-up Science Hill's (5-5) ball carriers in a rematch of last year's Class 6A opening round playoff battle tonight in Steve Spurrier country.
Leaders on their respective lines, both lead BC with 10 tackles for loss and have combined for 10 sacks.
"We can be versatile with them," BCHS head coach Damon Floyd said. "Parker can line up in one gap and go three gaps over because of his speed. We can send him or drop him in coverage at nose guard. He is not very tall, but is strong and wins the leverage battle."
"Hayden knows the defense so well. We have called blitzes for him and he will actually switch it because it puts us in a better situation. He has the green light to make calls, just like our quarterback."
Ownbey assumed the starting middle linebacker role for the Bears as a sophomore when a teammate went down with a torn ACL against Cleveland in Week 4.
Being able to make the right reads, thanks to dedication in the film room, a strong motor has also helped the 6-foot-1, 190-pound force spark a group that lost defensive menace Jay Person to Appalachian State, plus four others to the collegiate ranks.
He leads BC with 65 tackles (38 solo) and picked up one of his four sacks this season in a fourth-straight victory over the Blue Raiders.
"Being a leader on this team means a lot to me," said Ownbey, who has accumulated 180 tackles (26 TFL) and 10 sacks over his career. "I always have been a Bear fan. To wear the jersey and be able to go out there and hit somebody fires me up."
Watching a teammate his head coach considers to be "one of the best linebackers we've ever had," Johnson would go to war any day with Ownbey.
"Hayden's leadership stands out along with how he is always in a good mood," Johnson said. "He has the right energy around the field. We are going to have a lot of fun and fight to make it as far as we can."
A weight room warrior, Johnson has provided big plays for the Bears on both sides of the ball. Attacking up the middle, the 5-foot-6, 195-pound running back/nose guard has earned considerable respect.
Johnson has carried the ball 29 times for 181 yards (6.2 yards per carry) with four rushing scores. At times when carrying the ball, he has had Ownbey join his blockers on "heavy sets."
Meanwhile, 10 of his 31 tackles this season have come behind the line of scrimmage, with six of those being quarterback sacks.
"I do whatever my team needs me to do," Johnson said. "The coaches always have the best idea for how to win. Coach Floyd really helped set up a plan in the weight room for us to get bigger and stronger."
Johnson may be hidden behind his offensive line and overlooked as a defender, but his strength does not go unnoticed as he can squat over 450 pounds.
The heads-up, two-way player has flashed his strong football IQ in knowing what lanes to attack. Johnson also led the team in interceptions in 2017 with a pair of picks offs of intended screen passes.
With three postseason victories over the past two seasons and 33 wins for the senior class, which has a .717 winning percentage, Bradley hopes another memorable postseason is in store.
"Hopefully, we can keep this season rolling," Floyd said. "Any success we have, Hayden and Parker are a pretty good reason why. They are two guys who are exactly what you want to coach. Great effort, smart, tough, physical, unselfish and very dependable."
While a lack of returning starters left question marks, the Bears have answered in force, only allowing 274 yards per game and just a 32 percent third-down conversion percentage to their foes.
"Everybody playing hard and disciplined is the key to moving on to the second round," said Ownbey. "We all need the right mindset and energy. We don't want this season to end."
Bear JV Wrap Up Unbeaten Season
By GARY OWNBEY
The season came to a close for the Bradley junior varsity football team on Monday night, when they rolled to another blowout win with a 41-6 victory over the McMinn Central Chargers at Bear Stadium.
The win completes back-to-back seasons without a blemish on their record. This year’s team ran off six consecutive wins without a close match.
The Bears averaged 43.8 points per game while surrendering only 12.8 defensively, an average margin of 31.0 ppg in each win.
The season began with their closest game when they knocked off Walker Valley 32-21 at BCHS, and they followed that game with another big win over cross-town rival Cleveland in a 42-12 blowout on Raider Field.
With Rhea County cancelling their encounter with the Bears due to bad weather, the Cherokees of McMinn County fell victim to the fresh legs of a staggering Bear offense and relentless defense in a 55-7 win.
The seemingly unstoppable offense then cruised to a 49-19 victory over the Trojans of Soddy-Daisy before whipping the Owls of Ooltewah 44-12 to improve to 5-0 before Monday evening's encounter with the Chargers.
Coach Isaac Robison and his staff feel they have prepared the Bears well for the future, with the expectation that they’ll carry over their success to the varsity level.
Coach Robison is very proud and said, “We take great pride in our JV program and make coaching them up and helping them improve a real priority. Our overall speed at the skill positions was the difference week in and week out, as the offense made dozens of big plays throughout the season. Defense terrorized opposing offenses every week with relentless pride and effort.
“This kind of success at the JV level is so important, because that winning attitude and the skills they learn on the JV team translates to wins on Fridays. I would especially like to thank my offensive coordinator Tyler Pope and defensive coordinator Garrett Payne for their contributions to our success” he mentioned.
Bradley varsity head coach Damon Floyd will be tasked with replacing over 20 seniors on this year’s roster, similar numbers to what he dealt with replacing for the 2018 season. That will make for a challenge for the longtime Bear mentor, but one Coach Floyd and his staff are certainly capable of accepting.
Coach Floyd is well aware of what the JV staff and team mean to his future success, noting, “The great job that Coach Robison and his staff do throughout the JV season helps future varsity players understand what it takes to be successful under the Friday night lights. Much of our recent success can to attributable to the effort they put into coaching our kids about the ‘Bear’ way of playing with character, effort, honored tradition and relentless price.”
Standifer Chosen 6-A All State Again
By JOE CANNON
Somebody at Bradley Central obviously knows how to coach quarterbacks, as for the fourth straight year a Bear signal caller has been named to an all-state team.
Following in the footsteps of a trio — Bryce Copeland, Brett Standifer and Cole Copeland — of great Black-and-Gold gunslingers , Dylan Standifer was chosen as one of two QBs on the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Class 6A All-State Team earlier this week.
The younger Standifer brother set several passing records for the 102-year-old Bradley program in 2017, his first season as the starting QB, earning him all-state honors from the Tennessee Football Coaches Association.
"He comes from a very successful family (parents Brian and Ginger Standifer, as well as big brother Brett). They are great people and Dylan's the same," proclaimed Bradley head coach Damon Floyd. "He's consistently good in every thing he puts his mind to.
"He came in as a freshman with Cole (Copeland) still having two years (at quarterback), so he played wide receiver while being the backup quarterback. He had 18 catches for 276 yards and five touchdowns in his first four games as a (varsity) starter his sophomore year."
After filling in for an injured Copeland for 2 1/2 games at QB that season, Standifer pulled in eight passes for 78 and 84 yards, plus a touchdown, in back-to-back TSSAA playoff games. He was voted by the opposing coaches to the All-Region 1 Team as a 10th-grader for his efforts.
This past season, he averaged 225 total yards per game to go with an area best 27 total touchdowns.
The 5-10, 170-pound, quadruple-threat athlete completed 165-of-245 passes (67.3) for 2,068 yards and 19 TDs. He also rushed 102 times for 402 yards and seven scores, along with punting 35 times for 36.1 average, with a long kick of 46 yards.
An All-Region performer for the third straight season, he lead a Bear offense that gained 4,180 yards and put 334 points on the scoreboard while making their ninth straight trip to the TSSAA playoffs.
Bradley went 7-4 this past season, falling on a last-second field goal to Science Hill in the opening round of the playoffs, plus were 33-14 during Standifer's four seasons as part of the sleuth.
"Being a Bear means everything to me," stated Standifer, who found the end zone 77 times (52 passing, 18 rushing, 7 receiving) in his prep career.
Over his four gridiron campaigns, Standifer completed 399-of-576 passes for a 69.3 percentage. He posted 5,728 passing yards and a 52-20 touchdown-interception ratio. On the ground, he carried the ball 217 times for 657 yards and 18 scores.
Standifer is also the fourth straight Bear signal caller to sign a college scholarship, inking to play baseball for NCAA D-II Lee University.
His older brother Brett played football for Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala., while Bryce Copeland was a four-year basketball standout at Lee and Cole Copeland is currently on the gridiron squad for the University of Tennesse at Chattanooga.
Vols Come After Curry
By PATRICK MacCOON
Looking to aid its hopes of one day becoming a power in the Southeastern Conference again, Tennessee made the trip to Bradley Central High School Friday to visit with one of the state's most sought-after second-year standouts.
Head coach Jeremy Pruitt and company know as well as any that winning recruits such as Tray Curry in the home state is as important as ever.
The Volunteers became the fifth Division-I offer for Curry, who also has Virginia, Virginia Tech, Arkansas and UTC after his talents.
"I am very humbled to be offered by Tennessee," the sophomore 6-foot-5, 210-pound two-sport standout said. "I've dreamed about these type of moments, but didn't think they would happen this early. Growing up, my family and I have always liked the Vols."
UT offensive line coach Will Friend came in to the Bears' stomping grounds to recruit a versatile player who could go one of two ways at the next level.
"I could see myself in college being both a deep threat wide receiver or a tight end, who can really stretch the field," he said. "I really like to watch Amari Cooper and DeAndre Hopkins play at the professional level."
Watching those professional standouts, Curry also looks to break off defenders with pristine routes and have a vacuum for hands. His size and jumping ability makes him a major red-zone threat, as well.
Curry reeled in 51 catches for 562 yards and four touchdowns this past season despite being limited at times and sitting out one game due to a high-ankle sprain. He averaged nearly 70 total yards per game and also rushed for 101 yards and a score.
Maryville had a tough time containing the towering and powerful receiver, as he caught 10 passes for 120 yards and a score in a home loss to the state power in October.
At UTC's 7-on-7 scrimmage this past July, recently-named Akron football head coach Tom Arth and Mocs players raved about Curry.
Athleticism runs in the family as his older brother, KK (6-foot-7), was a former star basketball player at Cleveland High School and recently signed to play collegiate hoops for South Alabama
With a unique blend of size, athleticism and speed, Bradley Central will be a hub for many major collegiate programs to check in on the Class of 2021 playmaker.
The Big Orange have taken their shot, with many more expected to follow suit along the way.
Standifer Selected to 6-A All State Team
By; Stephen Hargis
Bradley Central's stranglehold on all-state quarterback selections continues.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Bears have had a quarterback named to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association's Class 6A all-state team. Senior Dylan Standifer earned his second straight all-state honor, following predecessor Cole Copeland, a two-time honoree who is now at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Standifer, a Lee University baseball signee, threw for more than 2,100 yards and 20 touchdowns to help the Bears reach the playoffs once again.
"If you can make all-state in 6A, that speaks for itself," Bears coach Damon Floyd said. "That's a testament to what Dylan meant to our team and just how hard he worked. He's a great competitor, a true leader, and the type of guy you want to coach and (have) lead your team."
Moody Named Offensive Assistant of the Year
By PATRICK MacCOON
Play-calling as well as play-making abilities for two from Bradley County were recognized as the Region 2-6A postseason football awards were announced earlier this week.
Leading a balanced offensive attack, first-year Bradley Central offensive coordinator Matt Moody was shown a great amount of respect around the league being named the Offensive Assistant of the Year.
A complete team-effort led the Bears to over 30 points per game for the fourth straight season. The ground attack led by junior Ricky McCleary (1,124 rushing yards) averaged 5.6 yards per carry and 182 yards per game to go along with a solid 198 aerial yards per game.
"This award really is a reflection of all the hard work put in every day from our players and entire offensive staff," Moody said. "Our group is full of hard-working, unselfish, team-first guys. Not to mention, we have some really good players."
"Matt did a great job putting stress on defenses," said BCHS head coach Damon Floyd. "He has a great feel for the game. All of the players love and respect him so much. They give great effort and fight to make Coach Moody proud."
Memorable moments for the award-winners included a check at the line made by Dylan Standifer to an option play for McCleary, who burst and cut sideline-to-sideline for a 50-yard score against Cleveland.
Bradley Central had several others earn postseason recognition for impressive showings on the gridiron.
Selected to the All-Region 2-6A team for the seven-win Bears were: Saylor Clark, Jared Fox, Kins Hooper, Hayden Owenby, Tucker Still, Parker Johnson (Academic) and Standifer.
Clark broke out for an area leading 67 receptions for 934 yards and 11 touchdowns a season after learning under one of the most experienced and talented receiving corps in the state.
Standifer totaled 2,470 yards from scrimmage and 26 touchdowns, while pinning opposing teams back with his boot on punts (36.1 yards per punt).
The all-state quarterback was protected extremely well by Fox. The junior left tackle led the line with 23 pancake blocks and graded out at 89 percent. BC will return four of five on the O-line for next season.
On the defensive side, Hooper shut down opposing attacks with 50 tackles (8 TFL) and shared a team-high in sacks (6) with Owenby who led the team with 76 tackles (10 TFL).
Still recorded 44 tackles and was a strong blanket at the safety position.
Johnson impacted all sides of the ball. The senior nose guard/full back finished with 43 tackles, 11 TFL, six sacks and carried the ball 32 times for 190 yards and four scores.
Several Bears make All-County Team
By PATRICK MacCOON and JOE CANNON
With the equipment and jerseys tucked away, the Friday night lights dark and nine TSSAA state champions crowned, all is quiet on the Tennessee high school football front.
Before Mother Nature gets winter settled in, it's time to honor the gridiron warriors who kept the field ablaze for local fans, earning a spot on the 2018 All Bradley County Team.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
With a strong arm and relentless drive, Bradley Central senior quarterback Dylan Standifer averaged 225 total yards per game to go with an area best 27 total touchdowns.
"Being a Bear means everything to me," said Standifer, who found the end zone 77 times (52 passing, 18 rushing, 7 receiving) in his prep career. "Bradley is a representation of so many people. I could not be more thankful to have led this team."
With an ability to carve up a defense with precision passing (.691 career completion percentage) and timely wheels, the dual-threat field general backed up an all-state junior season that saw him set several records for the storied Bear program with a highlight-filled senior campaign.
This past season the 5-10, 170-pound signal caller completed 165-of-245 passes (67.3) for 2,068 yards and 19 TDs.
The Lee University baseball signee also rushed 102 times for 402 yards and seven scores. He also punted 35 times for 36.1 average, with a long of 46 yards.
An All-Region performer for the third straight season, he lead a Bear offense that gained 4,180 yards and put 334 points on the scoreboard while making their ninth straight trip to the TSSAA playoffs.
In a 42-8 win at home over Region 4-5A champ Soddy-Daisy, Standifer threw for 281 yards and rushed for 75 yards in a three-touchdown effort in a game in which Bradley put forth a season-high 507 total yards of offense.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
The heart and center of the Bears defense did not let much past him as senior Hayden Ownbey was a stout presence at middle linebacker.
Ownbey finished with at least one tackle for loss in all but two games and posted double-digit tackles in three games. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder led the county with 47 solo stops, plus was in on 29 other tackles.
The defensive captain and three-year starter made 10 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, plus had four sacks and 10 QB hurries.
"Being considered a leader for our defense is an honor that means a lot to me," Ownbey said. "I can't brag on our coaches enough. They make playing for them fun. They help us have an extra edge every week. They deserve all of the credit for helping us get to the level we have along with those who set the tone before us."
COACH OF THE YEAR
With a 65-38 overall record and 37-18 region mark since 2010, Bradley Central has seen a complete rejuvenation of its football program with nine straight TSSAA playoff appearances.
Over the past four seasons the Bears are 8-0 against Cleveland and Walker Valley with a 36.8-15.5 average margin of victory.
"Bradley is a unique place," remarked veteran Bradley Central mentor Damon Floyd after winning his second straight Coach of the Year award.
"I am honored to be a part of the program. Each year we try to give relentless effort and make the ones that wore the 'B' before us proud alumni, whether it be on the football field, in the weight room, classroom or out in the community.
"It takes a lot of unselfish people buying into roles to understand every part of the program is important."
A record-setting running back for the Bears in the mid-1990s before playing defensive back for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Floyd took over a Bradley program in 2006 that had only won nine games in its previous five years.
Without the drive from this often under appreciated group, running lanes and clean pockets for big pass plays would have severely lacked.
Despite being thrown into the fire, a brand-new starting offensive line for the Bears led the way with three selections.
Junior left tackle Jared Fox (6-foot-4, 310) led the way with 23 "pancake blocks" and an 89 percent grade on the line.
Bradley averaged nearly 200 yards a game on the ground as senior left guard Trevor Wallace (6-foot-2, 215), grading out at 85 percent, while and junior center Jacob Tipton (5-foot-10, 225) was right behind at 82 percent.
Ricky "Sweet Feet" McCleary became a true workhorse back, totaling 1,191 yards and 12 touchdowns on 190 touches in his junior season for the Bears. The speedster also hauled in nine receptions for another 67 yards and a score.
Despite dealing with a turf toe injury, McCleary accumulated 133 yards and four scores to extend the Bear winning streak to four over the Blue Raiders.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound back also put forth totals of 184, 180, 172 and 141 yards against Heritage, William Blount and Science Hill and Walker Valley. His long run run from scrimmage was 52 yards against Heritage.
Playmaking wide receivers develop in Bradley County at a very frequent rate, as was the case this past season.
Bradley Central junior Saylor Clark averaged six catches for 85 receiving yards and one score per game. Clark provided consistency and big plays, finishing with five 100-yard games.
In a 21-7 win over McMinn County he hauled in 10 of Standifer's 11 completions for 102 yards and a score, while Clark landed a season-best performance with six grabs for 140 yards (76 long) and two scores in a 42-35 thrilling victory over Rhea County. He also had two touchdown performances against Ooltewah and Walker Valley.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound All-Region 2 performer finished with 67 receptions for 934 yards (13.9 average) for 11 TDs.
The Bears presented another nightmare matchup for opposing defenses with sophomore Tray Curry.
The 6-foot-5 Curry, who has already received several Division I football offers, averaged 66.3 yards per game and scored five times.
Curry's standout performance came in a 10-catch, 123-total yard performance against Maryville, in which he reeled in an 80-yard touchdown pass just before halftime.
He finished the season with 51 catches for 562 yards and four scores, plus he carried the ball 26 times for 101 yards and a TD. Curry also completed a pair of halfback passes for 88 yards, one coming up just shy of the goalline.
Proving to be a standout on both sides of the ball, 5-foot-8, 200-pound Bear senior Parker Johnson was a terror in the middle with 43 total hits, including 24 solo take downs. He had 11 tackles for loss and a half dozen sacks from his noseman position.
As a power, short-yardage running back, Johnson led the team in rushing yards in two games. He finished with 32 carries for 190 yards (5.9 ypc), crossing the goalline four times.
Disguising blitz packages well, Bradley saw sophomore linebacker Kins Hooper share a three-way tie for the team lead with six sacks.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder tied for second on the team with 50 total tackles, 30 of which were solos, plus he had eight TFLs and a takeaway. Hooper recorded eight-tackle outings against Rhea County and Maryville.
Bear senior teammate Cole Reyher shared a tie for the team lead with four takeaways, including his 65-yard touchdown fumble return providing a spark to help beat Rhea County.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder matched Hooper's 50-tackle effort, but had 38 by himself, plus made eight behind the line of scrimmage and trapped opposing quarterbacks four times while trying to pass.
Junior Tucker Still is a 5-foot-11, 175 strong safety net for the Bears with 36 solos in his 44 tackles, plus he had a takeaway.
Clay Shoemaker led the county with 10 touchbacks on kickoffs, plus split the uprights on 35 extra points and a field goal.
He finished his Bradley Central career accounting for 142 points — eight field goals, 118 extra points.
2019 Football Schedule
Aug. 23 Farragut Home
Aug. 30 Walker Valley Away Sept. 6 Heritage* Home
Sept. 13 Bearden Away
Sept 20 Ooltewah* Away
Sept. 27 Open
Oct. 4 Cleveland* Home
Oct. 11 Maryville* Away
Oct. 18 William Blount* Home Oct. 25 Soddy Daisy Away
Oct. 26 McMinn Co* Away
McCleary Overcomes Injury To Shine
By PATRICK MacCOON
Limping over to see his family after Bradley Central's second ever four-year sweep of Cleveland, Ricky McCleary clearly gave everything he had for the 'Black and Gold'.
After being held out of practice for the majority of the past two weeks, only logging a limited practice two days before the Region 2-6A showdown, McCleary put forth a powerful performance.
Even with a turf toe injury, the junior versatile running back fought his way to find pay dirt four times to lead a 32-14 road victory for the prideful Bears Friday night.
"I definitely went through a little bit of adversity," McCleary said, who got stepped on and hurt in the Ooltewah game. "But I knew I had to stick with it for my team. I toughed it out and played hard. I am tired, but I pushed through it."
In a 54-year-old rivalry where legends are remembered, the fight head coach Damon Floyd received from his first-year starting back was a great example of how his Friday night star has earned his moment.
As the full-time gunner last year on special teams, attention-seeking has never encompassed McCleary.
Playing for his team and supporting everyone, as they do for him, has revealed his character.
"I loved being a special teams guy last year," McCleary said. "I knew I was going to get my opportunity if I kept working and stayed hungry. With my number being called, I went as hard as I could."
McCleary was the first to brag about his teammates play after he out-rushed Cleveland by 77 yards all together on two less carries.
"I always work. I really don't talk much. I want to thank everybody who blocked for me tonight. Even Dylan (Standifer) threw some blocks and cleared a way for me. They deserve a lot of credit too. I could not have done it without them."
In the first half McCleary showed his capability as an all-purpose back by totaling 42 of his 67 first half yards through the air.
Bradley's offensive line blocked well on screen passes to help spring loose a shifty and speedy runner.
McCleary capped a 10-play scoring drive for the first score of the night.
With outstanding vision, he made an abrupt cut back to the middle as he zigged and zagged to make three tacklers miss on a 14-yard touchdown dash.
His second score was helped set up by junior Saylor Clark's 57 yard reception on a play-action pass from Standifer to start the drive. Clark went on to land his first 100-yard receiving game of his career.
Standifer was effective on the ground too as his six yard push behind his line set things up on the one yard line for McCleary to clean up for a 14-0 lead with 4:09 left in the second quarter.
On every one of his four trips for six points, strong emotions were released in a meaningful rivalry game.
"I went to Cleveland Middle School and I transferred to Bradley," McCleary said. "It meant a lot for me to show them I am somebody and capable of something. This game means a lot to me."
The highlight of the night for the FNF star was a sideline reversing 46 yard touchdown run to send a gut-punching blow to the Blue Raiders.
Instead of getting the ball back inside the Bradley 40 down 20-14 after what looked to be an impressive three-and-out, a roughing the kicker penalty cost CHS dearly.
Mental mistakes were far and few between for the Bears, who had an 11-4 penalty advantage.
With 2:12 left in the third quarter and a 26-14 lead, which would grow a little over a minute later on a Tray Curry "Randy Moss like" touchdown grab, McCleary had done his damage with 120 total yards and four TDs.
Shining in a game where over 6,000 people were easily in attendance, the win for Bradley once again kept the bragging rights on the south end of town.
McCleary stamped his mark on a night the Bears made a familiar statement. He finished with 20 carries for 95 yards to go with two catches for 42 yards.
"Everybody thought we were trash and said this would be our off year," McCleary said. "This is not our off year. It's another year for us to get better. We are going to be good."
After Nick Howell pummeled Cleveland for 186 total yards and a score last year in a 27-21 BC win, it was McCleary's turn.
He followed a motivated O-line to help bring back a fourth straight victory for 26 seniors, many of whom have waited patiently for their time.
"I learned a lot from guys like Adam Mullis and Nick Howell," he said. "I watched them for two years and really wanted to step in and not miss a beat. I want to be a threat in every way possible out of the backfield. Blocking included."
The shoes of those before him have not been too big to fill, even though McCleary had to wear a size 13 shoe on his injured left foot compared to his typical size 10 on his right.
He has now toted the rock 66 times for 362 yards (5.5 ypc) and five scores, while hauling in five passes for 50 yards in four games. He has rushed for over 90 yards in three of four games to start the season.
Another tough road trip is up next with a trip to Rhea County next Friday for the Bears, who continue to run Bradley County on the gridiron. Print
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