Relentless Pride …….Honored Tradition
The JV Bears defeated the McMinn County Cherokees 21-6 to stay undefeated at 3-0. The J.V Bears will travel Knoxville to take on the Bulldogs of Bearden on Monday, Sept. 16th at 6:00.
The Bradley Bears defeated the Bearden Bullldogs 49-21. The Bears will travel to Ooltewah to take on the Owls Friday, Sept. 20th at 7:30.
Bears Come up Short against Admirals
By JOE CANNON
More than 500 yards of total yardage, including four touchdowns from 50-plus yards out, excited the Bear Nation Friday night, but once again Farragut spoiled the season opener.
"They've beaten us in the opener a few times now (three straight) and we've gone on to have successful seasons (17-7 the last two years with TSSAA playoff berths in both)," declared veteran Bradley Central head coach Damon Floyd after his team blew a pair of 13-point leads in a 37-30 heartbreaking outcome.
"We just weren't executing. The good thing is we hung with a very good team (Farragut is ranked 10th in the state preseason poll). We had a chance to win," Floyd said.
"We're not playing very well and that's on me. We did not look very well-coached tonight," he said, falling on the proverbial sword.
"It was a loss in the column, but this can't dictate our season. It wasn't a region loss. It is what it is at this point and it's a long season. We'll learn from it and work hard to improve.
"It's about getting better at this point. I've got to make sure we do a better job of executing the fundamentals," Floyd added. "That's a tough one (game) to let get away."
The explosive Bear offensive output, plus a program record 97-yard kick off return for a TD, was countered by 15 penalties for 165 yards, plus four turnovers.
Bradley will have to refocus in a hurry with a trip to Charleston on tap for the annual "County Conflict" against Walker Valley, which is riding high after snapping a 13-game losing streak with a 42-40 win at Karns in its season opener.
The Burke brothers, twins Javin and Javon, exploded in their Bear debuts Friday, combining for 434 of Bradley's 580 total yards (rushing, passing, kick returns).
Javin gained 165 yards on 15 carries, plus completed 10-of-23 passes for 117 yards. The 6-foot, 200-pound junior transfer from McCallie broke free on scoring runs of 56 (third quarter) and 53 yards (second quarter).
Meanwhile, his even speedier sibling, who came over directly from Cleveland High where both played as freshmen, accounted for the first Bear points of the season when he answered Farragut's first score by returning the ensuing kickoff 97 yards to pay dirt.
Ironically, Javon broke the record set by Dionte Lindsey — Coach Floyd had said Javon was the fastest Bear since Lindsey's playing days. Lindsey had set the mark at 96 yards in 2008 against in a loss to Oak Ridge.
Javon had a total of 140 yards on a trio of kick returns, plus 12 yards on three rushes and three receptions from his brother.
Returning 1,100-yard rusher Ricky McCleary opened his senior season with a bang breaking free for a 73-yard scoring jaunt on his fifth carry on the night as the clock ran out on the opening quarter. He finished with 128 yards on 17 rushes.
Junior Kanon Hall made a strong first Friday night impression with 71 yards on a trio of catches and a pair of kick returns. He transfered over from Polk County after his freshman season and, like the Burkes, was limited to junior varsity play last year before becoming varsity eligible.
Senior Saylor Clark helped out with three receptions for 46 yards, while classmate Ashton Boyd had a key 17-yard catch for a first down. The Admiral defense kept highly-recruited Tray Curry bottled up all night with double coverage.
Defensively, Bradley was led by senior safety Tucker Still and junior linebacker Kam Arrowood with 10 total hits apiece. Still made eight solo tackles and a had pair of assists, while Arrowood took down seven ball carriers by himself and helped out on a trio of other tackles.
Senior cornerback Davion Horton picked off a pair of interceptions, the first leading to a Bear touchdown five plays later. The other he returned 64 yards, but a penalty negated the good field position.
"Davion got two interceptions, and return the second one inside the (Farragut) 15, but we have a peel back block penalty 20 yards behind him. That puts us on our own 36 and we weren't able to score off it. Penalties killed us," bemoaned Coach Floyd.
After turning the ball over eight times against the Admirals in a 34-0 loss to open last season, Bradley was able to cut that number in half (two interceptions, two lost fumbles), but it wasn't enough.
"You can't give a team like Farragut extra chances," the Bear coach commented earlier this week.
The boys from Knoxville turned the first three miscues into points and the final one came on a desperation fourth-down play that allowed the visitors to take a knee twice to run out the clock.
"We throw one behind the line of scrimmage that's ruled a lateral and a fumble. They (Farragut) pick it up and run it back to the 2 (yard line) and get 7 (points) off it," Floyd said.
"You've got to give Farragut a lot of credit. The way their kids hung in there and battled and didn't bow their heads. I felt like we should have been up 35-7 at the half, but our mistakes hurt us.
"They (Farragut) came out in the second half and took it to us. We should learn something from that about their character. That's why their program is where it's at. Very well coached with tough kids that don't give up," he assessed.
"We lost our composure out there a lot, including myself. We gave it away. We need to get better.
"We didn't know who was going to be their running back, but he (Matt White) runs hard," remarked Floyd of the 6-foot, 180-pounder who normally plays wide receiver, finished with 175 yards and a pair of TDs on 26 carries.
"We had some shots in the backfield and we didn't make the tackles. You hope to make those tackles when you get in untouched."
J.V. Bears Lasso Stangs
By Staff Reports:
The JV Bears took the wagon train up to the Corral at Walker Valley High School on a sultry Labor Day and lassoed a victory over the Mustangs in a workmanlike fashion 27 - 6. The Bear’s defense would lead the way with three fourth down stops and two takeaways, keeping the Mustang offense at a slow trot throughout the game.
The Bears would take the opening kickoff and drive 60 yards on six plays to take the lead over the Mustangs. The drive would start with a 32 yard run by Riley Harmon and included a screen pass by freshman Jacob Hutcheson to sophomore Destin Thomas on 4th down and 6 to move the ball to the one yard line. Riley Harmon would take the one yard plunge into the endzone to put the Bears up 6-0 as the Era Rojas kick failed on a bad snap.
After a three and out from the defense the Bears would force a punt and take the ball on their own 39 yard line. After big runs by Carter Clayton and Gage Anderson, Riley Harmon would scamper another 16 yards to the Walker Valley 14 yard line. The Bears would get no closer and turn it over on downs unable to convert on 4th down.
The Bears’ defense would come up big on the second play of the next series as a Walker Valley fumble would be recovered by freshman Taylor Duggan at the Walker Valley 20 yard line. However the Mustang defense would hold and the Bears would turn the ball over on downs at the 12 yard line.
The Mustangs would take over and again the Bears’ defense came up with a turnover as Thomas would pick-off a Mustang pass on 3rd and 10, returning it 12 yards to the Walker Valley 48 yard line. Unfortunately the ensuing Bears' drive would end on a fumble at the Walker Valley 15 yard line.
The Mustangs would take over and drive down to the 10 yard line right before the half. However, the Bears’ defense would bow its back with a great defensive stand and force Walker Valley to turn it over on downs. A great tackle by Harmon on 3rd and 1, along with a huge stop on 4th down by the defense led by freshman J.D. Kirkpatrick and sophomore Isiah Arnorld would send the Bears on top at the half leading the Mustangs 6-0.
Walker Valley would start the second half on offense and drive down to the Bears 35 yard line where the Bears would force another turnover on downs. Once again Kirkpatrick and Arnold along with Anderson would stuff the middle of the line to stop the Mustang threat. The Bears however, would turn the ball back over to the Mustangs on another fumble in Walker Valley territory.
The Bears’ special teams would get into the action after the defense held and forced a punt from the Mustangs. Thomas would field the ball at his own three yard line and return it 97 yards to paydirt. The Bears would convert the two point conversion on a Harmon run to extend the lead to 14-0 early in the 3rd Quarter.
Walker Valley would answer the long punt return with an 80 yard drive to cut the lead to 14-7.
Bradley would start the ensuing possession on its own 35 yard line and methodically drive down the field on hard runs by sophomore Carter Clayton and quarterback keepers by Hutcheson. Once again Harmon would cap the drive with a one yard plunge into the endzone. Freshman Ero Rojas would tack on the point after to make it 21-7 early in the 4th Quarter.
Walker Valleys next possession would once again come up short on downs. The Bears' defense continued to dominate as Harmon would tip a Mustang pass attempt on 4th down and 2. The Bears’ offense would take over on their own 48 yard line. A Hutch (Hutcheson) pass would connect with Duggan for a 12 yard gain to move the ball into Mustang territory. The Bears would then go into their four minute offense with runs by Clayton, Hutch, and freshman Knox Watson to move the ball inside the red zone. Hutch would then call his own number on the QB sneak only to fumble it, where Watson picked it up and finished the final 5 yards into the endzone for the 20 Yard touchdown play to go uo 27-6 late in the fourth quarter. The kick would fail as Rojas’ PAT hit the left upright.
Offensively for the Bears, Hutcheson was 7-17 for 71 yards and rushed for 33 yards on 5 carries. Harmon rushed for 81 yards on 10 carries and 2TD’s while Clayton rushed for 78 yards on 10 carries. Thomas had 5 receptions for 78 yards and Duggan had 2 receptions for 25 yards.
“I was proud of our offensive line consisting of Tucker Beshears, Caden Moore, Tyler Moore, Brody Morgan, Gabe Campbell and Elijah Patty. They opened up some big holes for our running game. We just have to get better at finishing those drives once we get into the red zone. We just can’t come up empty in those situations,” Coach Dills explained.
Defensively, the Bears were led by Watson with 14 tackles and (1 for a loss). Also for the Bears’ defense, Anderson had 7 tackles, Kirkpatrick had 5 tackles (1 for a loss) while Freshman Matthew Dionisio had 3 tackles and a QB sack. Thomas had 3 tackles and an interception to go along with his punt return for a touchdown.
“I am pleased with our defensive effort. Our guys got after it and made plays. The defensive front 7 really played with tenacity and got to the football. L.P. (Landon Price), Gage (Anderson), Knox (Watson), and Riley (Harmon) are tough to handle at the LB position,” praised Coach Dills. “Along with our front three, (Arnold, Kirkpatrick, Dionsio) we are very fast on the defensive side of the ball.”
The J.V. Bears will travel to Athen to take on the Cherokees of McMinn County nest Monday, September 9th at 6:00.
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.
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.
Bears Maul Mustangs
By JOE CANNON
Sibling rivalry provided a harsh lesson Friday evening as Bradley Central brought sky-high riding Walker Valley back down to earth.
Fresh off a huge season-opening victory, the Mustangs got tormented in their own Corral as their "Big brother" Bears exploded for a 59-14 "noogie," to once again dominate the "County Conflict."
Tying their largest margin of victory (52-7 in 2017), Bradley wrapped up its fifth straight "county championship," since Walker Valley and Cleveland aren't playing each other this season.
All three local teams are now 1-1 on the campaign and will play at home this week as region play begins. The Bears will welcome Heritage (0-2), while the Mustangs will tangle with unbeaten Rhea County (2-0).
The Blue Raiders get the fun task of tangling with 16-time state champion Maryville on Friday. Cleveland is fresh off a 31-19 win over Hardin Valley for new coach Marty Wheeler's 100th victory and first directing the Raiders (see full story this page).
Looking to bounce back from a tough loss to No. 7 Farragut the previous week, 10th-ranked Bradley wasted no time in setting the pace Friday evening in front of jam-pack crowd at the Corral.
After forcing the hosts three-and-out on the opening series, the Bear offense needed just two snaps to find the end zone as the "Burke Brothers" hooked up on a 12-yard pass from Javin to twin Javon just 71 seconds into the contest.
Walker Valley's second possession lasted just two plays as Bear sophomore safety Aiden McClary picked off Tucker Pope's fourth pass attempt.
Six plays later, Javin Burke hooked up with fellow junior Kanon Hall for a 41-yard scoring strike with less than three minutes ticked off the clock.
The visitors added another score before the midpoint of the opening quarter when junior Tray Curry found paydirt for the first time this season on a 12-yard run to cap the next Bear offensive series.
After turning the ball over on downs near the Red Zone on its next possession, Bradley added four scores in the final 8:08 of the first half.
Curry capped a six-play, 61-yard march when Javin Burke found him wide open in the end zone from 19 yards out.
The Bears got another quick chances when junior Braydon Clark stripped the ball loose and classmate Cody McDaniel pounced on it four plays after the ensuing kickoff, giving the Black-and-Gold possession just 38 yards from pay dirt.
Javin Burke went to senior receiver Saylor Clark twice in a row to cover the needed ground, the score coming on an eight-yard toss.
Walker Valley was able to avoid the shutout when junior Brody Swafford returned the kickoff to near midfield. Three plays later Griffin Broome assumed the QB position and was able to break through for a 45-yard scoot for his fourth TD of the season.
The visitors made another trip to the Red Zone on the following drive, this time settling for a 33-yard field goal by senior Isaac Vaughn, who was also true on seven extra-point attempt.
"Isaac Vaughn is getting better and better. He's getting confident," remarked Bear head coach Damon Floyd. "When he first came out he was really nervous and we begged him to come out and help us.
"Now he's chomping at the bit to get out there. He's having fun doing it, not only with extra points, but he has hit two good field goals for us now."
On the second play after the ensuing kickoff, Braydon Clark picked off the second Bear interception of the night and returned it 60 yards to the Mustang 5. Senior Ricky McCleary did the honors on the following play, dancing into the end zone with 41 ticks left on the opening half clock.
"I got to give our offense a lot of credit," praised Coach Floyd. "Javin played really, really well. We didn't want to have to run him much tonight (after 15 carries for 165 yards last week). We've got to keep him healthy for down the road.
"With the defense they (WV) were giving us, we felt like there were some holes in it that we were able to get some guys in and make some plays.
"They were giving us some different looks, coverage wise and Javin did a good job of recognizing it and was able to get the ball to our receivers," he assessed.
"Our offensvie line did a good job of protecting Javin and opening holes for our runners."
With the Bears up 45-7 at the intermission, the second half was played with a "running clock," but the teams combined for three more scores.
Bradley opened the half with an eight-play scoring march with junior Riley Harmon doing the honors on a three-yard run.
"Riley Harmon ran really hard for us tonight," commented Floyd as the Baylor transfer broke off a 15-yard dash later in the game. "He'd be a starter for other teams, but we are so deep at that position with Ricky (McCleary), Javon (Burke) and Tray (Curry)."
The Bear B-teamers scored again on the other second half possession.
Backup QB McClary led the six-play, 72-yard march, taking the ball in on a three-yard plunge for the score with 8:14 left to go. Freshman kicker Ere Rojas split the uprights for the PAT.
"We got to play a lot of guys tonight. That's a good thing in a game like this," Floyd commented. "We went deep. Those guys work hard in practice and deserve some playing time, plus that will help us down the road.
"We'll play a JV game up here Monday, but it was good to get those guys some Friday night action."
Walker Valley finished off the contest with a 10-play drive with Groome finding the end zone again, this time from less than a yard out. Charlie Swafford booted the PAT to become the 10th-leading scorer in Mustang history.
After getting virtually shutout by Farragut last week, Curry had a big night for the Bears with 110 yards on eight touches with a pair of scores. The highly-recruited SEC and Power 5 2021 prospect pulled in a trio of passes for 62 yards, plus carried the ball five times for another 48.
"We wanted to be able to get the ball in Tray's hands more tonight," explained Floyd. "When he gets the ball in his hands he can do some big things with it. He made a couple of great catches tonight, going up high for balls."
Three-year starter Saylor Clark helped out with 85 yards and a score on seven catches, while Kanon Hall had a pair for 48 and a TD.
Javin Burke completed 15-of-20 passes for 240 yards and four TDs, plus gained nine yards on his only carry.
The "Black Hole Defense" held the Herd to 116 yards on 30 rushes, only three of which went for double-digit yardage.
Kole Hall was the WV workhorse with 56 yards on 16 tries, while Groome had 50 yards and his two scores on just four carries.
Pope, who had been the Bradley backup QB the past two seasons before transferring, was stifled by his former teammates, completing just 4-of-15 passes for 38 yards, plus he was picked off twice. Although he was able break free on a 27-yard run once, his rushing total was just seven yards on nine carries, as the Bears sacked him four times.
"We had a good game plan defensively and our guys executed it well tonight," proclaimed Floyd. "We read our keys and tackled a lot better this week. Our guys did a good job of disguising what we were doing and then getting to where the ball was at.
"Our secondary did a good job manning them up and shutting down the passing game."
New Walker Valley head coach Drew Akins knew facing Floyd's Bears would be a tough task for his young Colts.
"We knew this game was just a measuring stick for us of how far we have come and how far we have to go," he said Saturday.
"We still have a long way to go to compete at a high level. I was proud of our players for never losing composure and never quitting. Felt like our players showed a lot of class during and after the game.
"We will learn from last night and it will make us a better football team," he declared. "Now we know what the atmosphere feels like, what the emotion of the game feels like. Next time we will be more prepared and learn from it.
"We know as a team all of our goals are still ahead of us. Everything we want to accomplish is still in front of us. I believe we will learn from this and improve."
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.
Bears Bite Bulldogs
By JOE CANNON
KNOXVILLE — Overcoming some early difficulties, seventh-ranked Bradley Central put 42 straight points on the scoreboard for a blowout of Bearden Friday evening for its third straight win.
"We were very aggressive on defense to start with, but then we turned it around once we started lining up correctly. Then, we had probably the best overall quarter of football we've had since I've been here in the third," veteran Bear head coach Damon Floyd said of the 49-21 victory.
In that first frame of the second half, the "Black Hole Defense" held the Bulldogs to just three rushing yards and no first downs, plus junior Javon Burke returned a fumble recovery 48 yards for a score.
"We really got after it defensively in the quarter, plus our offense exploded," proclaimed Coach Floyd.
The very potent Bear offense, which has scored 178 points so far this season, put up almost 200 of its 505 total yards while finding the end zone three times, including the opening play of the final quarter.
Now 3-1 on the season, Bradley will return to Region 2-6A play on Friday with a short trip down I-75 to Ooltewah. The always-tough Owls (1-2, 1-1) are coming off a 24-14 home loss to McMinn County.
"We're on the road again for a very important region game with Ooltewah that has huge playoff implications," Floyd declared.
Bearden (0-4) took the opening kickoff Friday and promptly drove 67 yards on nine plays with little difficulty for the game's first score.
After the teams exchanged punts, Bradley was able to even the game with a three-play drive for 55 yards, with senior Ricky McCleary bobbing-and-weaving for 20 yards to pay dirt. Bear junior QB Javin Burke set up the score with a 30-yard scramble the play before.
Undaunted, the Bulldogs answered with 10-play, 58-yard scoring march that was aided by a pair of key Bear penalties, the second of which negated an interception inside the 10-yard line.
The Black-and-Gold didn't waste any time responding, when Javin Burke hooked up with senior Ashton Boyd for a 53-yard TD toss on the second play after the ensuing kickoff to even the score at the end of the opening period.
Bradley picked up the lone score of the second quarter, covering 52 yards on a half-dozen plays with highly-recruited junior Tray Curry scampered the final 18 to the end zone at the 7:53 mark.
The Bears appeared to find paydirt on their following possession when Curry scooped up a fumble by a teammate and dashed 74 yards with it, but one of 11 first-half flags against Bradley brought the ball back to the Bradley 21.
Burke and Boyd hooked up for a 34-yard over-the-shoulder catch into double coverage on the following play to cross midfield.
After two more flags against the visitors, Curry broke free for a 22-yard dash before a defender made a TD-saving tackle at the Bearden 26.
The Bears were able to move into the Red Zone as the first half clock ran down, appearing to get out of bounds to stop the clock inside the 10, but the final few ticks were allowed to run out. After the referees put a second back on the board, which would have allowed Bradley to at least kick a field goal or run one more play, the officials conferred and determined the half was over.
Coming back out of the locker room more determined, the Bears "took complete control of the contest," according to longtime local broadcaster Earl Rowan.
Bradley marched 80 yards on eight plays to open the second half, with McCleary capping the drive with his second TD of the contest, this one from four yards out.
Senior spearhead LB Kam Arrowood threw a Bulldog ball carrier for a three-yard loss on the first play after the ensuing kickoff, and then the "Black Hole Defense" forced back-to-back incomplete passes for a three-and-out.
On the first play after the punt, Javin Burke and junior Kanon Hall connected on a 46-yard scoring strike.
After a good kickoff return got the hosts near midfield, Bearden decided to go for it on a fourth-and-one when the ball came free for the second straight play, this time with Javon Burke coming away with it and heading to the end zone for the third Bear score in 88 seconds.
Another strong three-and-out defensive stand got the visitors the ball back, this time driving 71 yards on nine plays, including a 40-yard pass completion to Boyd.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, junior Riley Harmon did the honors from three yards out for his fourth TD of the season.
Senior Issac Vaughn drilled his 23rd straight extra-point for the final Bear point of the evening. The senior soccer player is now 24-of-25 on PATs, plus had a pair of field goals. He has been a perfect 7-for-7 in each of the last three Bear victories.
The Bradley record is eight PATs in a game, set by four different kickers, the last of which included Clay Shoemaker last season and Anthony White twice in 2012.
"I'm not sure of the record for number (of PAT kicks made) in a row, but I have to think 23 has to be right at the top," declared Bear historian Gary Ownbey. "It's the most I can remember right-off hand."
Bearden was able to add Friday's final points with their starters going against the Bear reserves in the "running clock" final frame, scoring on a 45-yard pass play with 2:28 remaining.
Bulldog senior kicker Conner Cross upped his remarkable extra-point mark to 55 in a row during the contest.
Bradley gained 319 yards on the ground, with McCleary leading the way with 96 on a dozen rushes, twice finding pay dirt. Curry (8-for-88), who scored once, and Javin Burke (6-for-63) both averaged double digits on their carries. Harmon finished with 28 yards on a half-dozen tries and a score.
Burke also completed 6-of-9 passes for 186 yards split evenly between Boyd (3-for-126) and Hall (3-for-60), with both finding the end zone once.
"Our offensive line dominated all night long," praised Coach Floyd. "They opened big holes for our runners, and Javin (Burke) was one target when we did throw.
"They (Bearden) had two players going for Tray (Curry) on every play, so we felt he would do better at running back for us, and he did a great job.
"With Saylor (Clark, a senior three-year starter) out (with a high-ankle sprain), Boyd and Hall did a great job for us receiving," the coach assessed. "They made some big plays for us.
"Other than the first drive, our defense did a great job," Floyd declared. "A lot of our penalties are intensity penalties, but we want to keep playing with intensity. We did a good job of not letting that affect us."
Like they were the last time they played at Bearden (2016), the Bears were flagged for 13 penalties, this time for 180 yards.
Bears Explode For 62 In Region Opener
By JOE CANNON
Any apprehensions "Papa Bear" Damon Floyd had about his sleuth not being pumped up to take on a team with a 17-game losing streak went away quickly Friday evening.
After the "Black Hole Defense" forced Heritage to go three-and-out in the opening possession, national 2021 college prospect Tray Curry went untouched for 61 yards as he raced to the first of his three opening-quarter touchdowns and the rout was on.
"Obviously there's a big talent difference there," stated Floyd after the 62-14 ravaging of winless Heritage in Bear Stadium. It was the Region 6-2A opener for both squads.
"I don't mean that with any disrespect, it's just obvious we just have a lot more talent than they do.
"The good thing is we came out and executed well early. The bad thing is we had a couple of drives fall out on us. I think we just relaxed," he assessed.
Bradley scored on 7-of-8 first-half possessions and 2-of-3 in the "running clock" final two quarters.
The 62-point production was the most by a Bear offense since Oct. 6, 2000, when Bill Price's squad put up 68 against then fourth-ranked Sevier County. Blake Morris set a school record with 380 of the team-record 695 rushing yards in the blowout.
Bradley opened that season with a 78-20 win at Science Hill and a 62-7 whipping of Clinton on its way to a 9-4 record, losing to Gerald Riggs' state champ Red Bank team for the second time that season in the state quarterfinals.
The current eighth-ranked Bears (2-1) will head to Knoxville this Friday to take on a winless, yet dangerous Bearden squad. The Bulldogs have lost to a trio of unbeaten, state-ranked teams — Knox West (12th in 5A), Maryville (second in 6A) and Dobyns-Bennett (tied for ninth in 6A).
"Bearden's really good quarterback has been out, but I understand he'll be back for us," Floyd related. "It's a tough place to get a win."
For the second straight week, Bradley put up 45-plus points in the first half to quickly put a stop to any upset hopes.
Along with going to the house from 61 yards out on the second Bear offensive play, Power 5 conference recruit Curry got behind the Mountaineer secondary for a wide open 55-yard toss from fellow junior Javin Burke on the second play of the third Bear series.
Still in the opening frame, the 6-foot-5 receiver lined up at running back once again and bobbed-and-weaved for a 31-yard trip to pay dirt to cap the fifth Bear possession.
All total, Curry scurried for 167 yards and three scores on just four touches — that's just under 42 yards each time he got the ball in his hands.
The high-flying act was much more than a one-man show as for the second time in three weeks Bradley had a pair of hundred-yard rushers as junior Riley Harmon joined Curry over the century mark.
The Baylor transfer gained 104 yards on eight carries, including scoring dashes of 16 yards to cap the 49-point Bear first half, plus a 34-yarder to open the fourth-quarter scoring.
In the season-opener against Farragut, Javin Burke ran for 165 yards, while senior Ricky McCleary added 128 as the Bears dropped a heartbreaker.
With 323 of their 452 offensive yards Friday coming on the ground, sophomore Carter Clayton also got in on some late action with five carries for 52 yards, including a 10-yard dash to cap the scoring.
"Riley Harmon plays so hard. It's good to see him have a big night," praised Floyd. "Carter Clayton also ran the ball very well. Our offensive line, first and second team, blocked very well and opened the holes."
McCleary only carried the ball five times on the evening for 14 yards, but broke the plane of the goal twice from four and six yards out.
Junior Javon Burke made his presence known with a trio of runs for 32 yards, including a two-yard TD. He set up his own score with a 25-yard interception return to the Mountaineer 27.
Like most of the starters, gunslinger Javin Burke played only a quarter and a half, completing 6-of-10 passes for 124 yards with the scoring toss to Curry.
Sophomore Destun Thomas led the Bear receiving corps with a trio of catches for 31 yards, while senior standout Saylor Clark only pulled in one for 23 yards before leaving the game with an ankle injury.
"A lot of good things happened tonight, but the bad things are Saylor (Clark) rolled an ankle and (senior center Jake) Tipton's shoulder came out again," Coach Floyd assessed. "For us to do anything this year, we need to make sure we stay healthy.
"Both of those guys will be back next week. They would have come back in tonight, if I'd let them, but with us already up by 28 when Saylor came out, there was no need.
"We got to play a lot of people tonight. Those guys (the reserves) deserve the reps. They practice hard and go hard when they get the chance on Friday nights. They will have to help us down the line, so it's good to get them out there," the veteran Bear mentor stated.
The Bradley defense held Heritage to just 76 rushing yards and 113 through the air as the visitors completed just 13-of-27 aerials.
Senior safety Tucker Still led the Bear attack with five solo tackles, while junior Cam Creighton also dropped five Mountaineers, with one being for a loss.
Harmon and JD Kirkpatrick helped out with a trio of solos tackles, while junior Braydon Clark had a sack, stripping the ball away before teammate Cody McDaniel pounced on it, to set up the second Bear score.
"It's a good first region win. We're not going to complain about anything tonight," commented Coach Floyd.
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."