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."
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.
The Bradley Bears will play at Finley Stadium on Friday, August 16th at 8:30. The Bears will face Chattanooga Central Purple Pounders first and then take on the East Hamilton Hurricanes at 9:00.
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.
Veteran Coaching Staff Provides Bears Stability
By JOE CANNON
While the other two local high school football programs spent the spring getting to know new head coaches, adjusting to new routines and schemes, the Bradley Central players knew exactly what to expect.
Starting his 14th season at the Bear helm, Damon Floyd will be facing his eighth and ninth opposing head coaches in the inter-country rivalry games this fall.
Over the years he, with the help of a crew of longtime assistant coaches, have honed Bear practices and offseason workouts to the point where returning players know exactly what is expected of them and how things are going to be run.
“Our guys know if they want to play on Friday nights in the fall, that means they show up for offseason conditioning. When we are allowed to practice, they are to be there and participate fully, unless they have an injury,” he related recently about his over 100 Bear hopefuls again this season.
“The success in the fall comes only from what we do in the offseason. You don’t just show up on game night and expect to win. You have to put in the time year round to prepare.
“The standard has been set. They (the Bear players) know if you don’t show up, you’re not going to play. That’s not just summers, that starts in January,” the veteran mentor emphasized.
The Bears are coming off a 7-4 season and a disappointing early exit in the opening round of their ninth straight TSSAA playoffs.
This year’s sleuth returns much of its explosive offensive power, although two-time all-state QB Dylan Standifer has graduated, but must rebuild the “Black Hole Defense,” that suffered a devastating blow during the spring game.
“We’ve always said ‘next man up’ when is comes to injuries, so someone will have to step up,” Floyd said of All-Region linebacker Kins Hooper tearing his ACL in the spring game at Austin-East.
“The crazy thing was he did it on offense. We use him in short yardage situations as an added blocker. We were working on goal line situations near the end of the game. He was in and got hurt,” the Bradley mentor related.
“There’s no hiding the fact he was one of our top defensive players last year. We were expecting big things from him again this year, but he’ll miss the whole season. The good news is he’s just a junior, so we’ll have him for his senior year.”
Other than the key injury, Floyd said, “The spring (drills) went well. We are trying to find some depth.
“Offensively, we’ve got a lot of guys back, so we are just trying to pick up where we left off. Defensively, we’re trying to find some guys to replace what we lost and get the best 11 guys on the field.
“We came a long way defensively during the spring, but we still have a long way to go. Obviously losing Kins (Hooper) is a big blow.
“With him out, we only have three starters back on defense — Kam Arrowood (OLB), Tucker Still (S) and Davion Dunn (CB). We’re replacing our three up front, three linebackers and a couple of defensive backs,” related the “Papa Bear,” who is also the team’s defensive coordinator.
“We feel like we have some guys that can really step up, so there shouldn’t be any drop off. We’re going to move some guys around. In the past we’ve been able to have guys play just offense or defense and we will have the majority of that again.
“However, we will have some guys like Tray (Curry), Saylor (Clark) and Javon Burke that may play both ways. The good thing is they all play the same positions on offense and defense, so they’ll spell each other.
“Javon will start at corner, plus he’ll play some receiver and running back both. We’ll find different ways to get it (the ball) to him. He played only JV last year (after transferring in from Cleveland). He’s the fastest guy we’ve had since Deonte Lindsey and that includes Lameric Tucker.
Another couple of newcomers will help on the defensive side as well.
“Gage Anderson is a freshman coming in from Lake Forest,” Floyd explained. “He’s a 6-foot-1, 185-pound running back that can fly. He’ll play some running linebacker as well.
“We also have C.J. Hardy, a defensive end that has transferred in from Kentucky, who has a cousin that’s been offered by Alabama, Ohio State and the likes. We expect him to start up front.” The 6-foot-1, 230-pound junior’s skills have been mentioned in the same breath as former Bear standout Jay Person, who recently transferred from Appalachian State to play for UT-Chattanooga.
On the other side of the ball, the bad news is Standifer is gone to pursue his baseball career at Lee University. Also leaving the team was his backup, Tucker Pope, who transferred to Walker Valley.
The good news there's a vast variety of dangerous weapons left behind for the “new gunslinger” in town, who appears to know what to do with them.
After getting forced into some playing time his freshman season due to Cleveland’s numerous QB injuries, Javin Burke spent last fall playing for McCallie’s JV team before transferring to Bradley in January, where his twin brother Davon had been the whole school year.
“Javin’s got all the tools. He’s very, very smart. A straight-A student, so he picks up things very well,” Floyd assessed.
“He’s very athletic, strong and fast. Like any other quarterback, as long as he doesn’t try to win the game by himself and uses the weapons around him, he’s going to be successful. It’s up to us (coaches) to put him in that kind of situation and make sure he’s in the right frame. If this kid can’t play, it’s our fault.”
The Bear coaches feel confident he will continue the recent run of strong quarterback play the Black-and-Gold has enjoyed.
“He’s got the tools to continue the type of quarterback play we’ve had the last 10 years (four straight years of all-state performances),” Floyd and offensive coordinator Matt Moody agreed. “There’s no reason he shouldn’t be right in line with the quality of the (Bryce and Cole) Copelands and (Brent and Dylan) Standifers we’ve had for the last decade.
“With our offense, it does highlight the quarterback. He’ll be able to make a lot of checks at the line of scrimmage. We’re going to count numbers in the box and throw it if we need to or if we need to run, we have a 1,000-yard back in Ricky (McCleary, 1,124, 11 TDs) in the backfield. Javin is also very capable of carrying the ball and getting yardage.”
Burke has a plethora of options when it comes to airing the ball out with Curry, a Power 5 prospect, and Clark who combined for nearly 1,500 yards and 17 TDs last season, plus others that will make defenses play honest against all of them.
The Bear offense will be led by a veteran front line.
“We’ve got four of our five offensive linemen back. We expect them to be as good as any offensive line we’ve ever had,” proclaimed Moody, who is entering his second season at the team’s OC.
“(Senior left tackle) Jared Fox separated his shoulder the first day (of spring drills), so we sat him out the rest of spring. We know what he can do, so that’s no big deal. We needed to get some other guys reps there anyway.”
“We had a lot of guys step up throughout the lineup,” declared Floyd. “When you’re around them every day, you’re not really surprised at what they can do.
“We had a lot of very positive things, but we also saw some negatives we need to work on. Everybody on our team needs to keep getting better.”
With plenty of explosive playmakers, the veteran mentor assessed, “Our biggest thing offensively is our kids are going to have to be selfless. They need to be happy about their teammates making plays. We’ve got a lot of talented kids that can do big things, but there’s only one ball.”
The potent offense was evident in the annual scrimmage game at the end of spring practice.
“Our offense did well at Austin-East, but the type of defense they played against us, we won’t see much of this fall,” Floyd related. “They played man-to-man (on the Bear receivers) and we were able to beat them one-on-one. We’ve got multiple guys that can make big plays. We have really good team speed. There are a lot of guys that we know if we can get the ball in their hands, they have the ability to go to the house.”
Bradley was able to race ahead with four quick touchdowns before finishing off a 35-7 win over the Knoxville squad that advanced to the Class 3A quarterfinals last fall before falling to state champion Alcoa.
“It was 28-0 pretty quick and then we started subbing. They (A-E) only had 26 players, but the 26 they had are very good players.”
Before the TSSAA dead period (June 23-July 6) started yesterday, Bradley was able to get in a big 7-on-7 tournament.
“We went to UT (Knoxville) for a 7-on-7 and was supposed to go to Blackman (Tuesday), but it got rained out. We’ll do some more in July,” related Floyd.
“For us, as much as we throw it, the 7-on-7s are good, especially with a new quarterback taking over. It gives him a chance to work with our receivers and learn them, plus it lets us work on our pass protections.”
At Tennessee, which is one of several top teams recruiting Curry, the Bears went 3-2, falling to defending 6A state champion Oakland in the semifinals. The other loss came to Class 5A state champ Knox Catholic, which has several D-I prospects, in pool play.
Bradley defeated South Carolina teams from East Laurnes and Dorman, as well as Mt. Juliet, which was 12-0 before falling to Oakland in the state quarterfinals last fall.
Region 6-A Still Chasing Maryville
By: Patrick MacCoon
Without a region loss since 2000, the Maryville High School football program remains a national power capable of winning a state championship year in and year out.
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For the past four seasons, the Rebels have won every league game they've played by at least three scores, and they're a clear-cut favorite this season to win the Region 2-6A title again after doing so the past two years. Maryville brings back its top playmakers on offense, including running back Tee Hodge, who has committed to Tennessee, and the Rebels have an experienced linebacker corps to lead on the other side of the ball.
Facing an opponent that boasts a roster loaded with countless college prospects might not seem like fun for most, but it's something Bradley Central coach Damon Floyd looks forward to every year.
"You play the game to go against the best teams and do everything you can to try and beat them," Floyd said. "Lots of high school players in this area dream to play in the SEC, so I don't know why anyone would not want to go up against Maryville. Everybody is shooting at Maryville, but we don't fear them by any means."
Bradley Central has had an all-state selection at quarterback the past four years: Cole Copeland in 2015 and '16 before he went on to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and Dylan Standifer — who last fall signed to play baseball for Lee University — in '17 and '18.
Eight starters return in the Bears' spread offense, but they'll count on a new leader as Javin Burke, a junior who transferred from McCallie, takes over behind center. Over the past four years, Bradley Central's starting quarterback has averaged 2,561 passing yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions per season and rushed an average of 104 times for 420 yards and 10 touchdowns.
"Our offense really sets up well for the quarterback to be a dual threat," Floyd said. "As long as Javin makes the right decisions and trusts his teammates, he will be set up for success. He has the ability to make really athletic plays when he needs to. Our high expectations of our quarterback are not changing."
Burke will have an experienced line to work behind along with Ricky McCleary, a 1,000-yard rusher last season, and dynamic targets in Saylor Clark and Tray Curry.
Curry is ranked among the top 150 recruits for the signing class of 2021 and is the No. 2 athlete in Tennessee, according to 247Sports.com. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound receiver already has offers from seven Southeastern Conference schools: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M.
"Tray can open up more windows for other receivers," Floyd said. "Everyone knows where he is on the field, and he's getting better and better at just 15 years old. We are not going to try and force feed it to anyone, but we will be smart about trying to get the ball to Saylor and Tray as much as we can."
With nine defensive starters to replace, the Bears have questions regarding a unit that will need to play well to make a deep playoff run.
Ooltewah has lost the star duo of Sincere Quinn and Kyrell Sanford, but the Owls can look to a deep and talented offensive line to lead the way along with quarterback Lane Moore, a senior but a first-year starter. The Owls won nine games last season and will have a tough schedule as they face seven teams that made the playoffs last year, including four that won region championships.
McMinn County brings back a 1,000-yard running back in junior Jalen Hunt and an all-region selection at linebacker in Jalen Sharp, who will try to be a bulldozer sometimes at running back as well.
Cleveland returns college prospect Robert Flowers at receiver, but the Blue Raiders have a significant lack of experience at quarterback. Flowers, a 6-foot-4 playmaker, was unstoppable for secondaries last season, when he averaged more than 90 yards and more than a touchdown per game.
Maryville did not have a lead against McMinn County or Cleveland at the end of the first quarter last season, but the Rebels could not be held down for the long haul.
William Blount and Maryville Heritage round out the region.
REGION 2-6A OUTLOOK
Team to beat: With 13 state championships since 1998, the Maryville Rebels are a perennial power. Running back Tee Hodge, who has committed to Tennessee, is a leading force for the program that has not lost a region game since falling to Halls in 2000.
Watch out for: Bradley Central has a new mobile threat at quarterback to pair with talented running back Ricky McCleary, who had 12 touchdowns and 1,191 yards as a junior. The Bears also return standout receivers Saylor Clark and Tray Curry, who combined for 16 touchdowns and nearly 1,600 yards in 2018. If the offensive line can lead the way, the Bears could have a big season.
Best game: Drama hasn’t lacked in the past two meetings between Bradley Central and Ooltewah. The Bears won 42-35 at Ooltewah in 2017, and the Owls landed payback with a 28-27 home victory last year. A Sept. 20 matchup between a pair of teams expected to battle for the second spot in the region should provide lots of entertainment.
Dream schedule: Ooltewah will host Red Bank, McMinn County, Bradley Central, Rhea County and Maryville, and the Owls should be fired up to try to defend their turf and win some big games. But they have tough road games against 2018 region champions David Crockett in the Aug. 23 opener and Soddy-Daisy on Sept. 27.
Nightmare schedule: Cleveland opens the season at Knoxville Central — the reigning Class 5A champion — and then the Blue Raiders face challenging home games against Hardin Valley and Maryville before traveling to Soddy-Daisy. A showdown with rival Bradley Central on Oct. 4 is the Cleveland’s first of four straight road games.
Players to watch: Bradley Central no longer has two-time all-state quarterback Dylan Standifer, who was a senior last season, but Javin Burke has the speed and playmakers to have a big year. Curry is being heavily recruited by Southeastern Conference teams, and a breakout campaign could push him and the team to another level. Ooltewah’s offensive line abounds with college talent, led by major prospect Christian Benoit, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound senior. The Owls will look to senior quarterback Lane Moore to help right the ship, while Chase Sanders, Josh Shelvin and Tanner Rhodes are expected to lead the secondary, linebackers and defensive line, respectively. McMinn County returns 1,000-yard back Jalen Hunt, while offensive lineman Garrett Priest and linebacker Jalen Sharp are other key players. Cleveland will look to talented receiver Robert Flowers to follow up a 900-yard, double-digit-touchdown season, and Blue Raiders linebacker Money Palelei showed extreme flash as a freshman last year and is quick to strike. Maryville returns a stellar quarterback in Cade Chambers along with top-tier playmakers in receivers A.J. Davis and Ashton Maples, while Hodge’s strength and speed out of the backfield are exceptional. Rebels senior linebacker Mason Shelton is a strong leader for a defense that abounds with sophomore talent.