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.

Bears Receive Larry Sells Sportsmanship Award


JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor


THE BRADLEY CENTRAL football team took a timeout from spring practice Tuesday for head coach Damon Floyd (center, right) to accept the Larry Sells Sportsmanship Award from Tri-County Football Officials Association assignor Craig Phillips (center, left).


“Among the 12 schools we serve, Bradley showed the best sportsmanship in the way they treated the officials,” related Phillips, who said this is the first time in his association with the group that Bradley has been so honored. “Bradley has made great strides in the past few years to make sure the officials are well taken care of, from the time we arrive at a game to the time we leave.”


Phillips also stated the TCFOA is seeking “some new officials for the upcoming season. We are in need of anyone interested in officiating the games.” Call Phillips at 423-715-9471 if interested. The Bears will wrap up spring drills with a scrimmage against Soddy-Daisy at 6 p.m. Thursday evening at Bear Stadium.


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 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.

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.

Golf Tournament Set


By: Staff Reports 


The Annual Bradley Bear Football Golf Tournament has been set for Sunday Sept. 11th at Chatata Valley. Cost for the four man select shot tournament is 75 dollars per person. Those interested in entering or sponsoring should contact Mickey Clark at 423-716-2871.




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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Super 32


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.

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