Relentless Pride …….Honored Tradition
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.
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.
Copeland a Scrappy Moore Finalist
By Staff Reports:
The Times Free Press has announced that Bradley Central’s Cole Copeland is a finalist for this year's Scrappy Moore Male Athlete of the Year and will represent the Bears at the annual Best of Preps banquet. Copeland was a Mr. Football semifinalist as a junior and was named to the 6A All-State Football Team after throwing for 2,489 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushing for 864 yards and 14 TDs in 2015. He also was named to the AAA All-State Basketball Team and helped the basketball Bears win the District 5-AAA regular-season championship, averaging 21 points and making better than 51 percent of his field-goal tries. He added 11.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.3 steals a game to lead his team to the Class AAA state sectional.
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.
Copeland All-State Selection
RICHARD ROBERTS Banner Sports Editor
Bradley Central Bears quarterback Cole Copeland received yet another accolade this week when he was named to the 6A All-State football team.
Copeland was a Tennessee Mr. Football semifinalist and was Offensive Player of the Year Region 1-6A. Cole was also a first team offensive selection to the Chattanooga Times Best of Preps.
While running the Bears' offense, Copeland completed 187 passes out of 281 attempts for 2,489 yards with a completion rate of 67 percent. The strong-armed QB found the end zone 26 times through the air and was picked off only six times.
The 6-foot-3 junior was also a serious threat on the ground when he tucked the ball and ran. Copeland carried 203 times for 862 yards averaging just over four yards per touch with 14 TDs. Bears head coach Damon Floyd has confidence enough in his field general to give him sole control of the offensive unit even to the point where he has the go to make checks at the line of scrimmage when he recognizes defensive formations.
“He, along with the rest of his family, are the ultimate competitors. I said before last season I wouldn't trade him for any quarterback in the nation,”said Floyd. “The sky is the limit for Cole. He has all the tools necessary to get him as far as he wants to go.”
The Bradley offensive star is being seriously recruited by Mississippi State, East Carolina, Temple and numerous Football Championship Subdivision schools.
Copeland comes by his skills honestly following brother Bryce — now at Lee University with the basketball Flames — and sister Brooke who stars for the Florida Lady Gators women's basketball team. The rest of the family including his father, mother and uncles have also made their names as Bradley Central sports stars.
“Cole comes by his skills naturally, said Floyd. “He is the only junior I have had in my 10 years of coaching voted team captain by his teammates. He leads by example most of all but became a more vocal leader this year. His leadership style has become different from his brother (who was also quarterback for the Bears). Bryce didn't say much at all he was a leader by his actions. Cole does a little more talking than Bryce did.”
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