Relentless Pride …….Honored Tradition
Unsung Bear stars pave the way
By PATRICK MacCOON Sports Writer
Oftentimes one of the most important positions on the football field is overlooked, or perhaps goes unrecognized.
While fans around town often know the names of the star playmakers on both sides of the ball, there is a bit of an unknown about a certain position.
Fans on Friday nights in the fall don’t typically hear anything from the PA announcer like, “Lameric Tucker zooms his way for a 60-yard touchdown on the bubble screen, thanks to a great lead block by Tucker Bentley.”
While their names may not be mainstream, Bradley Central’s well-balanced attack on offense begins up front, led by five experienced senior starters on the offensive line.
“It’s hard for an offensive lineman because they don’t get a lot of credit and the only publicity they get is usually bad,” BCHS assistant and OL coach Blake Gideon said. “This group wants to be the best and lead. They want to be the tip of the sword and I think they do a good job living up to that.”
When second-ranked Maryville (8-1, 3-0 Region 2-6A) squares off with seventh-ranked Bradley Central (8-1, 3-0) for the region crown tonight they will have to get past a unit comprised of 11 years of combined starting experience.
A strongly built Bear line features Bentley (6-foot-3, 225) at left tackle, Tyler Collier (6-foot-4, 285) at left guard, Josh Hatchett (6-foot-1, 225) at center, Bailey Timmons (6-foot-1, 225) at right guard and Air Force commit Chris Cash (6-foot-4, 280) at right tackle.
“This is the game we live for,” said Collier. “We are trying to go into someone else’s house and win against a team that hasn’t lost at home in its last 65 games. We want to be that team to come in there and break it up.”
Perhaps the greatest strength of the five up front for BC is the unit’s versatility.
After averaging less than four yards per carry through the first three regular season games, the big men have paved the way to success for a three-headed backfield ever since a doubtful Cleveland run defense challenged them.
In the last six games the Bears have rushed for 164 yards per game (983 yards) and a yard per carry average of 5.06 (194 attempts) as Adam Mullis, Nick Howell and Devin Moore have gotten rolling.
“The most rewarding thing for us is whenever we make a block and get to see our guy shoot right past us and know we kept him from getting hit,” said Hatchett, a two-year starter at center. “We may not get showcased to the crowd, but our coaches and teammates show us a lot of love when we go back to the sideline.”
With solid form in pass protection as well, junior Bear quarterback Dylan Standifer (2,426 yards, 30 total touchdowns) has enjoyed time in the pocket to find sure-handed receivers.
Standifer has the highest completion percentage in the state among quarterbacks at 74 percent (133-of-180) and has the second highest quarterback rating (143.8) with 23 touchdown passes compared to one interception since a season-opening loss to Farragut.
The 5-foot-9 signal caller has completed at least 75 percent of his passes in five different games, including a perfect 16-of-16 against Walker Valley.
“Dylan has always had us ready to go this season,” Collier said. “We always believed in him. You hear people around saying he’s too small, but we believe in that kid every game. We want him on our side.”
Over the past three seasons, in which Cash and Collier have both started on the offensive line, Bradley quarterbacks have completed 69.5 percent through the air and scored 110 total touchdowns (Cole Copeland 73, 36 Standifer, Pope 1).
“They are a huge part of the offense,” Standifer said of his offensive line that has helped him complete a 60-yard pass or longer in seven of nine games. “We wouldn’t be successful without them.”
“Week in and week out, I make sure they know that I have their back as long as they have mine. They want to win just as bad as anyone. They don’t let the recognition side of it get to them. We play for each other.”
Hard work in the weight room as well as extra hours and drills after practice and in the summer have shaped one of the toughest lines to break in not only the region, but all of 6A football.
“Every day after practice is over we are out here long after everyone else has gone inside,” said Bentley, after doing sprints and up-downs all 100 yards down the practice field. “Coach Gideon has been great to work, with and he has been a father figure to all of us. He has taught us strong technique and a strong work ethic.”
Timmons is the lone first-year starter among the group and has not missed a beat after having experience as a blocker at tight end.
Another key for a group Gideon believes is the ‘most complete’ offensive line he has seen in his eighth season with Bradley is the rare opportunity they are allowed in practice each week.
Going up against Appalachian State linebacker commit Jay Person (7.5 sacks) along with other quarterback nightmares Kevin Gentry (5.5 sacks) and Henley Headrick (4 sacks) is no easy practice.
“Our defensive front is one of the fastest and most tenacious groups I’ve seen,” Gideon said. “I don’t even like to go up against it. They have really made our guys into better pass protectors.”
From practicing in the summer heat to now having won eight games in a row since an overtime defeat in the season opener, the Bears are ready to stand tall against the tough challenges ahead.
“We are going to keep working together and achieving what we need to do,” said Cash. “While it’s about getting to the next game, we also believe this is the year we can make a run for a state championship. If we keep pounding up front, we can definitely make a strong case.”
With an offense averaging 425 yards per game, the big Bears up front for Bradley Central will continue taking on anyone who comes their way as they try to leave a significant imprint on program history.
“I think that a lot of their legacy will show itself by the time we get done,” Gideon said. “When we get done with this season, this team will have set marks to separate itself from other teams at this school. I believe by the time it’s over, these five lineman will have been as much a part of it as anyone.”
Bears Claim Scenic City Showdown
By GARY OWNBEY Banner Correspondent
CHATTANOOGA — As they had in their previous 7-on-7 competitions, Bradley Central roared into Finley Stadium Saturday and mauled the competition at the 2017 Scenic City Showdown.
Fourteen teams divided into two pools, playing at Finley Stadium and at the UTC’s Scrappy Moore practice facility, battled it out and after two lengthy lightning delays the Bears wrapped up the championship with a tie-breaker in the third overtime to pay Soddy-Daisy back for its lone loss of the day.
The emotion and intensity displayed should make for an interesting encounter when the same teams meet again in the regular season during Week 7 in a non-region contest.
The Bears fought their way to a 6-1-1 record on the day as a member of Pool A at Finley. They were granted the No. 2 overall seed for the tournament portion of the days’ action, with Meigs County being tabbed the overall top seed after going 5-0 on Scrappy Moore Field.
The Bears opened morning action with a 12-6 win over Baylor with defensive back Jeffrey Brewer returning an interception for a touchdown for the winning margin.
The first Bear score came on a pass from junior quarterback Dylan Standifer to all-state receiver Lameric Tucker. This scintillating duo would connect for eight touchdowns throughout the day.
The Bears clinched win No. 2 with a 14-0 shutout of East Ridge. In just his third day back from baseball, Standifer hooked up with Tucker and senior Nick Howell for touchdowns. Howell also caught the two-point conversion pass.
Defense stepped up big for the Bears with four interceptions in Saturday’s play as Damon “Deuce” Floyd nabbed two against Morristown-West and returned one to paydirt in a 19-12 win.
Standifer and Tucker connected again with senior Stephen Muhonen getting in on the action as well for his first score of the day.
The Bears seemed to lose their focus for a spell with a 7-7 tie against Weaver, Ala., with Tucker on the receiving end of another score.
The only loss of the day for the Bears came when Soddy-Daisy connected on a remarkable play for a touchdown as the clock struck zero to claim a 15-8 win.
The final pool play contest was against McCallie, resulting in a 8-6 Bear victory over the Blue Tornado as the lightning delays began.
After sitting for well over two hours, play resumed only to be halted a second time.
Delays amounted to about three hours while the teams enjoyed lunch and got a chance to catch their breath.
In the tournament playoffs, the Bears received a first-round bye which turned into another bye when McCallie and Goodpasture headed home due to the uncertainty of the second delay.
The Bears matched up for their second game against Weaver in the semifinals and pulled out a 14-12 verdict thanks to another score for Tucker who also grabbed the two-point conversion for the winning margin.
Muhonen made his second touchdown reception of the day for the Bears initial score against the ’Bama boys.
It all boiled down to the Bears and Trojans for the championship plaque and it turned into a dilly of a battle.
Standifer and Tucker connected for their final touchdown in this match-up and freshman Tray Curry leaped high to pull down the Bears second score.
Soddy-Daisy rallied late to tie the game at 13-13 after converting the PAT, resulting in the overtime procedures being used.
In the first extra possession, each team got a single play from the opponent’s five-yard line.
With both teams failing to score, the ball was moved back to the 10-yard line and once again neither team connected.
The final tie-breaker is a “one-on-one,” (receiver against a defender) situation with a coin toss determining what matchup the winner prefered.
The Bears won the toss and it would again be Standifer and Tucker facing a single Trojan defensive back.
If the defender stopped the completion then the Trojans are declared the victor. With a completion the Bears would be the champions.
It was a bobbled reception by Tucker that provided the game-winner and championship to the Black-and-Gold.
Afterwards Coach Damon Floyd was very pleased by the resiliency of his Bears after sitting through the long delays.
“It was a long day filled with adversity and we overcame it all. Very good completion can only make us better. We got a lot of work in and we have a lot to fix as well.
“While it might not have been regulation football, we didn’t come down here to lose and we didn’t,” he added. “We’re heading home with the championship trophy.”
The Bears swept through three different 7-on-7 competitions during the past week and now set their sights on an even busier week as they hit the road for three consecutive nights of action including Tuesday at Soddy-Daisy, Wednesday at Lenoir City and Thursday at Alcoa.
They’ll return to Bear Stadium for the annual six-way scrimmage July 29 with Knox Catholic, Hardin Valley, Soddy-Daisy, McMinn Central and East Ridge lined up for exciting head-to-head action.
Person Commits to Appalachian State
By PATRICK MacCOON
While Jay Person said he's enjoyed his fall break taking a bit of a load off by going fishing, Bradley Central’s ‘Bust Face’ linebacker has become a bigger catch for an FBS college football program.
The 6-foot-3, 208-pound linebacker plans to write his next chapter at Appalachian State University, in Boone, N.C.
The reigning Sun Belt Conference champions, who gave the Tennessee Volunteers an overtime scare in a 10-win 2016 campaign, were Person’s final choice over Mississippi State.
“They have been reaching out to me almost every day asking questions about me and trying to get me to come,” Person said. “I can see their program is on the come up, and I want to be a part of it. I made up my mind on where I want to go, and that’s a good thing.”
The appeal of the Black and Gold is impossible for the hard hitter not to love, after wearing it for the past four seasons as well as for the foreseeable future.
His future linebackers coach even comes from the same prep background in Bradley Central graduate and former Tennessee Volunteer Dale Jones.
“Coach Floyd has a relationship with Coach Jones and he is actually my teammate Jake Presley’s uncle,” Person said. “It’s going to be fun playing for someone who knows where I came from and can help me chase greatness in my craft.”
Ever since Person’s sophomore season he has been often tabbed as the best defensive football player on the field on any given night, as he exhibits awareness, quickness (4.6 40), power and leadership.
The highest-rated recruit in the Mountaineers' class of 2018, which now stands at 22 recruits, has 219 tackles (44 tackles for loss), 17 sacks and seven forced turnovers in his past 30 games.
Person is tabbed as a 3-star recruit with a composite score of .8255 by 247Sports.
With a love for gunning off the edge and chasing down the quarterback similar to the Atlanta Falcons’ Vic Beasley, weight-gain will be a major focus for Person who will join a program losing a pair of perennial all-conference linebackers after this season.
“The coaches told me I could come in and play early if I work hard enough on my body in the weight room,” said Person, who hopes to weigh 225 to 230 pounds by the time he hits the college gridiron on Saturday’s. “They want me to be an edge rusher at linebacker, and that’s where I am really comfortable.”
Person has been on a tear this season working on the outside as a pass rusher and also in the middle of the field when needed.
Through a 6-1 (3-0 Region 2-6A) start for the seventh-ranked Bears, he leads the team with 56 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, seven sacks and two forced fumbles. He is tied for first with two turnovers and five pass breakups.
Last Friday, Person helped Bradley overcome a 28-13 halftime deficit as he recorded 11 tackles and led a second-half shutout of Soddy-Daisy in a 38-28 road victory.
With strong hopes for a deep postseason run, the dynamic force will be well on his way to surpassing career-high season marks in tackles (92) and sacks (9).
“Our defense is capable of being lights out,” said Person of the Bears defense that has allowed 19.8 points per game. “We feel like we can be lockdown every game like we were in the second half against Soddy.”
In a tie atop the region with Maryville with three regular season games remaining, Bradley will cherish and continue to unleash its unique defensive game changer, a standout who received more than 20 scholarship offers.
Bears Claw Govs
By JOE CANNON
Bradley Central got exactly what it needed Friday night — an easy victory, no major injuries and an outstanding return to the lineup by one of its key players.
After missing several weeks with an injured ankle, senior Nick Howell suffered a broken finger while helping the Bears rally to beat Soddy-Daisy in his return to action two weeks ago and set out last week’s victory over Heritage.
Friday evening he returned to the Bear starting lineup hungry for action and not only had 143 yards on 10 touches, finding the end zone on half of them, but he also laid out the William Blount return man on the Senior Night game’s opening kick off.
“It’s good to have him back,” proclaimed head coach Damon Floyd, whose seventh-ranked Bears mauled the visitors 51-27 for their eighth straight victory.
“Nick was anxious to get back into action and it showed. Like Lameric (Tucker, Bradley’s all-state receiver) he has the potential to go the distance any time he touches the ball.”
The victory mark Bradley’s best start to a season since the 1987, when Coach Bill “Chief” Robertson’s squad also went 8-1 before finishing 9-2 with a victory in the Smoky Bowl.
After falling to defending state champion and currently sixth-ranked Farragut in overtime in the season opener, the Black-and-Gold have outscored their last eight opponents 307-145.
The victory also sets up the highly anticipated showdown with second-ranked Maryville for the Region 2-6A championship this Friday in Blount County.
With the 16-time state champion Rebels blasting Heritage 52-0 two days ago, both teams are now 8-1 overall and 5-0 in league play as they battle for the No.1 seed, which carries with it home field advantage in all but one playoff game scenario.
“It’s going to be a big game for the region championship,” declared Coach Floyd. “We are going to give Maryville all we’ve got. We’ve got something to prove.”
Taking care of their business after 25 senior players, plus cheerleaders, band and ROTC honor guard members were celebrated at Bear Stadium Friday evening, the “Black Hole Defense” set the tone quickly, forcing a turnover on the third play from scrimmage against the winless Blount (0-8, 0-6) squad.
Senior DE Henley Headrick stripped the Governor QB of the ball and classmate Ashton Dunn pounced on it to give the Bears possession just 33 yards from paydirt.
Five plays later Howell plunged in from the 1 for the first of his five touchdowns on the evening just 157 seconds into the contest.
After giving up a trio of first downs on the ensuing Blount possession, the Bear vortex forced another turnover with senior “Deuce” Floyd picking off a pass in the end zone and returning it 38 yards.
With a personal foul penalty on the visitors tacked on, Bradley took possession in Governor territory for the second time and needed just three plays to score again.
Bear QB Dylan Standifer dropped in a perfect pass to sophomore Saylor Clark just before the goal line for a 32-yard score.
The junior gunslinger took over the state lead in passing percentage for QBs with more than 45 attempts with a 17-for-20 night for 276 yards and four TDs.
At a 74 percent clip, Standifer has connected on 136-of-186 aerials for more than 2,400 yards and 24 scores so far this season.
“Dylan is making good decisions with the ball,” Coach Floyd praised. “We couldn’t be happier with what he’s done this year.”
Bradley scored on all six of its opening half possessions with Standifer finding Tucker for a 66-yard score, as well as Howell twice on nine and 36-yard touchdown tosses.
Howell also scampered in on a nine-yard run as the Bears built a 44-14 halftime advantage.
“Our offense was strong and our defense played really well in the first half, except for their (Blount’s) two long plays (a 75-yard TD run and a 56-yard pass that set up a three-yard scoring plunge),” proclaimed Coach Floyd.
With the Bear starters playing only the opening series of the second half, Bradley scored one last touchdown with Howell capping an eight-play, 60-yard march by scampering the final 13 yards.
Standifer hit Clark for the two-point conversion to put the “running clock rule” into effect with 9:16 left in the third quarter.
With Coach Floyd freely substituting, Blount was able to work its way 66 yards to paydirt to invalidate the “mercy rule” with just under two minutes left in the frame.
The hosts picked an unusual score in the fourth quarter when Blount was flagged for a holding call in the end zone, giving the Bears a safety for their final points with 8:23 remaining.
Two plays later, the Governors were able to set up their final score after a Bear turnover near midfield.
The boys from Maryville needed just three plays to find the end zone on a 42-yard pass.
“We were able to give a lot of guys experience tonight,” remarked Coach Floyd. “There’s a difference in playing in JV (junior varsity) games and playing on Friday nights.”
Sophomore Ricky McCleary came off the bench to gain 53 yards on 11 carries, while freshman QB Tucker Pope completed 4-of-5 passes for 20 yards. He actually has a better completion rate than Standifer, connecting on 7-of-8 passes for an 87.5 mark this year.
Freshman Tray Curry also got some valuable playing time with four touches for 15 yards.
Seniors Adam Mullis and Stephen Muhonen had their usual strong outings with the former gaining 46 yards on 10 carries, while the latter pulled in four passes for 32 yards.
With five of his dozen receptions this season “going to the house,” Clark pulled in a pair of passes for 35 yards.
Senior Devin Moore had a trio of carries for 21 yards before tweaking a knee.
Defensively, 20 different Bears had tackles with junior Cole Reyher leading the way with four solos and an assist.
Senior CB Jeffrey Brewer also had four lone take downs, plus broke up a trio of passes and intercepted another one.
Senior linebacker Mason Mitchell had three solos in five total hits.
Junior placekicker Clay Shoemaker made 5-of-6 extra point attempts for the victors.
“Tonight was a total team win,” proclaimed Coach Floyd. “We’ve set ourselves up for what we we’ve been working for all year — a chance to play for the region championship.”
Bears hold off Ooltewah
By JOE CANNON Assistant Sports Editor
OOLTEWAH —There are some teams you can get a big lead on and coast to an easy victory.
Ooltewah is not one of them.
Bradley Central was reminded of that Friday evening.
Despite holding a three-touchdown lead going into the fourth quarter, the sixth-ranked Bears had to hold on for dear life to claim the first Region 2-6A victory.
“Getting the win is the most important thing,” declared veteran Bradley head coach Damon Floyd after his squad gave up a trio of final frame scores to hold on for a 42-35 win.
“Our offense played well and did what we wanted, but we had some lapses on defense that cost us and allowed them (Ooltewah) to come back on us.
“We’ve got to get that fixed — missed tackles, missed assignments, That’s frustrating, but it is a win. This is a tough place to come get a ‘W,’ so that’s the positive.”
Now 2-1 overall on the young season, the Black-and-Gold will get an extra week to work on the situation before facing the “Crosstown Clash,” as arch-rival and 10th-ranked Cleveland High (3-0) comes to Bear Stadium Sept. 15.
“We have a bye week so we can get some guys healthy and fix some of these problems were having,” the Papa Bear stated. “We’ve got a lot of things to fix, but we’ll get on that and be ready to go.”
The loss is the first time since Mac Bryan took over as head coach five seasons ago Ooltewah has dropped back-to-back games.
The Owls fell to fourth-ranked Science Hill 62-35 the previous Friday after beating Tyner 55-9 in the season opener.
Ooltewah (1-2, 0-1 Region 2-6A) will host arch rival East Hamilton (1-2) this Friday in a non-conference matchup.
As many expected from the two high-powered offenses, the teams traded the first four scores Friday evening, but a third Bear touchdown just before the half helped to turn the tide in favor of the visitors.
After electing to receive the opening kickoff, Ooltewah put together a 14-play, 79-yard scoring march, aided by a trio of Bear penalties, two of which kept the drive alive and gave the Owls key first downs in Bradley territory.
Junior quarterback Tyrell Sanford, one of only two non-senior starters, capped the drive with a three-yard hook up with to 12th-grader Cam Chambers for the first of game’s 11 TDs.
Bradley answered on its initial possession, after senior Jake Presley returned the ensuing kickoff across midfield to the Owl 47.
Nine plays later, including a 28-yard scamper by senior Adam Mullis, the Bears found paydirt on a 1-yard plunge by classmate Nick Howell.
Junior place kicker Clay Shoemaker evened the score at the 2:34 mark with the first of his half dozen extra points on the evening.
After the teams traded punts, the hosts scored quickly in the second frame with a 69-yard connection between Sanford and a streaking Andrew Manning, who was wide open over the top and raced into the end zone untouched.
The Bears once again responded, putting together an 80-yard march with junior QB Dylan Standifer hitting sophomore receiver Saylor Clark with a six-yard strike on the 10th play for the score.
Bradley was able to add the final TD of the opening half with another 10-play drive, this one covering 84 yards in the final four minutes.
After a 28-yard hook up with Howell and a 19-yarder to all-stater Lameric Tucker, Standifer found freshman Tray Curry for the final 22 yards with just over 24 seconds on the clock, giving the Bears the lead at the intermission.
After the break, neither team could add to their tallies in the first four possessions, even though the Bears got to the Owl 7 thanks in big part to a 43-yard connection between Standifer and Howell, plus a 24-yard dash by Standifer.
Ooltewah blocked the resulting field goal attempt.
Bradley did catch a break after forcing the Owls to punt from their own 15 a few moments later.
The snap skipped and by the time the punter scooped it up and tried to boot it away, Bear Parker Johnson swatted the ball down and into the end zone, where teammate Mason Mitchell pounced on it for the touchdown.
After forcing another Ooltewah punt, Bradley pushed its advantage to 35-14 when Standifer hit Tucker with a 59-yard scoring strike with 1:24 left in the third frame.
After struggling on the ground, the Owls went to the air on 7-of-11 plays in the ensuing possession, with Sanford and Manning hooking up on a 13-yard Sports Center worthy scoring highlight.
The Owl signal caller just barely got the ball off under heavy pressure and the receiver leaped high in the air for the catch and held on to the ball while taking a crushing hit as he came down with 10:07 left in the contest.
Bradley was able to push its advantage back to three scores with 4:22 remaining when Standifer snuck in from the 2-yard line.
Ooltewah wasted no time (20 seconds) responding with speedy tailback Sincere Quinn exploding on a 61-yard scoring scamper on the first play after the ensuing kickoff.
After the Bears tried to kill the clock with three straight running plays, they had to give the ball back and the hosts were able to find paydirt again with :45 ticks remaining. This time with a six-yard pass to Bryce Matthews capping an eight-play, 77-yard march.
Bradley was able to cover the onside kick and run out the clock to preserve the victory.
“After we got those two scores in the third quarter, we seemed to just relax and you can’t do that against a team like them,” remarked Coach Floyd.
“We were able to keep Sincere Quinn bottled up pretty must in the first half (nine carries for only 24 yards), but he got loose there on that big touchdown run in the fourth (quarter).”
Quinn finished with 107 yards on 17 carries, but just the one score.
For the second straight week, Standifer had a big night, completing 19-of-30 passes for 291 yards and a trio of scores, plus rushing 10 times for another 48 yards and a touchdown.
Tucker pulled in nine passes for 141 yards, plus had a pair of kickoff returns for 98 yards to put the Bears into good field position.
Howell helped out with 112 all-purpose yards on five catches and 10 carries with a TD.
Mullis powered for 52 yards on just eight rushes for the victors.
Mitchell topped the Bear defensive effort with a half dozen solo tackles in 11 total hits, including a pair for loss and a half sack, plus the fumble recovery in the end zone.
Presley and fellow DB Jeffrey Brewer had eight hits apiece. “JP” had a half dozen solos with one behind the line of scrimmage.
“Deuce” Floyd, Hayden Owenby, Kevin Gentry, Johnson and SEC prospect Jay Person each helped out with seven total hits.
Johnson had a sack and a half, plus the blocked punt, while Gentry recovered a fumble and was in on a sack.
Coach Floyd is confident in his squad’s ability to respond to the challenge ahead of them.
“Our kids are competitors. They get after it, but we’ve got to do that every down. We can’t afford these lapses, especially against the caliber of teams we are facing.
“We’ll take a couple of days off and then come back and work on correcting the things we need to correct.”
Bradley is now 18-13 all time against the Owls, but Friday snapped a three-game losing streak to the Hamilton County club and was just their fourth win in the series since 2000.
Bear rally one for the ages
By JOE CANNON
KINGSPORT — What looked to be a sleuth of Bears getting ready to hibernate turned into an unforgettable fourth-quarter comeback for the ages.
“This game went from a lackluster effort to one of the most exciting games in Bear football history,” proclaimed Bradley Central sports historian Earl Rowan after the exciting 33-27 TSSAA second round playoff win over Region 1 champion Dobyns-Bennett in Kingsport Friday evening.
“The Bears came out in the second half and played with ‘heart.’”
After saying being dunked with ice water in 30-degree weather the “best shower he’s ever had,” Bradley veteran head coach Damon Floyd agreed.
“Our kids won the game. Everything went against in the first half, most of it self-inflected, but we came back out after halftime and wouldn’t be denied.
“Coach (Keith) Freeman called the plays that gave us a chance and the kids executed.
“Nick Howell goes up makes and makes a catch while battling three defenders for huge play in the end zone for one touchdown, then makes the game-winning touchdown catch a few minutes later, plus he had already thrown touchdown to Stephen (Muhonen), who keeps his feet inbounds (at the back of the end zone).
“Lameric (Tucker) comes up with the ball on an onside kick to set up the game-winning drive,” praised Floyd, who, with the victory, passed Coach Billy Frank Smith (1952-60) for the second most wins in Bradley history with 73.
“Dylan (Standifer) was throwing the ball with people on his back and finds Nick for two touchdowns. I’d like to say it was good coaching, but what it was, was our guys making the plays.
“That’s the kind of kids we have. They came out and gave their all. They wouldn’t let our season end like that,” Floyd concluded.
The outcome not only secured the first double-digit win season since Louie Alford’s 1980 unit, but advances the Bears to the TSSAA quarterfinals for the fourth time in school history.
Coach Bill Price’s 2000 squad was the last to do it, going to Red Bank to face the Gerald Riggs-led Lions, who were on their way to winning a state championship.
Alford’s state champion 1976 team, plus aforementioned 1980 Bears made the Elite Eight as well.
For the third time in four weeks, ninth-ranked Bradley (10-2) will battle the top-winning program in state history Friday with a return trip to 16-time state champ Maryville (11-1).
The second-ranked Rebels now stand alone as the winningest state program, thanks to Bears beating Dobyns-Bennett, who was tied with them with 782 all-time wins going into Friday’s second-round playoff battle.
“We’ll go back to Maryville and give them all we’ve got and lay it on the line,” proclaimed Floyd, whose team wants to avenge its worst performance of the season in a 31-7 loss three weeks ago in the Region 2 title game.
“We didn’t play our best when we were there a few weeks ago. We’d like to show them that’s not who we really are,” related “Papa Bear” Floyd.
The Rebels are coming off a 38-7 dismantling of 2016 Class 5A state champion Farragut Friday evening. The Admirals (9-3) slipped past Bradley 27-21 in a season-opening overtime contest.
Dobyns-Bennett (8-4) chewed up almost 8½ minutes in the game’s opening drive that went 17 plays, including four fourth-down conversions, to put Friday night’s first points on the “Megatron” scoreboard.Junior running back Ian Hicks did the honors from two yards out on his 13th carry of the march.
After the Bears picked up just one first down on their opening offensive series and were forced to punt, the hosts needed just five plays to find paydirt, with a quick slat pass from QB Lendon Redwine to Matt Diminick that went for 43 yards.
Down by a pair of touchdowns early in the second quarter, Bradley was able to cut the deficit in half with a six-play, 69-yard march that included pass completions of 21 and 32 yards from Standifer to Tucker.After the all-state wide receiver lined up in the backfield and took the ball to the 1 on a nine-yard run, the junior signal caller broke the plane of the goal on following snap for the score.
D-B was able to stretch its advantage back out with another slant-pass success, this one had Diminick racing 55 yards with just under two minutes remaining before the break.The extra point went wide, leaving the difference at 20-7 as the teams headed to the locker rooms.
After being embarrassed with just nine yards on 10 carries, and 79 on four receptions in the opening half, Bradley took the field for the third quarter with a vengeance. Taking the kickoff back to their own 25, the Bears went back to what they do best, with senior Adam Mullis, who had 171 yards on 25 carries the week before in a 41-34 win over Science Hill, matching the opening half ground production in the first play. Sandwiching a half dozen rushes around a 36-yard completion to Tucker and an seven-yarder to Howell, Mullis carried the mail in from two yards out to trim the difference to just seven points at the 8:30 mark of the frame.
After senior safety “Deuce” Floyd ended the Indians next possession by knocking away a fourth-down pass attempt, the Black-and-Gold offense marched to paydirt again. On the ninth play of the 72-yard drive, the Bears pulled a little razzle-dazzle with Howell taking a pitch and after faking a run, pulled up to find Muhonen alone in the end zone, where he grabbed the 26-yard pass while tippy toeing the back line for the score.
Down 20-19 with 11:51 to go in the contest, Bradley lined up for the extra-point kick, but instead pulled a fake, but the run came up just short of the goal line.
The Indians answered with return on the ensuing kickoff to the Bear 44 and eight plays later put their final points on the board with a three-yard run by 6-foot, 240-pound sophomore Keyo Taylor. The PAT put the hosts ahead by eight points with 8:13 left in the contest.
Undaunted, Bradley came right back with a nine-play, 67-yard march, that appeared stalled when just the second Bear penalty of the evening (D-B was only flagged three times) set up a fourth-and-8 play at the Indian 23. With an empty backfield, Standifer took the snap, but had to quickly vacate the pocket under pressure. Able to escape the initial threat, the Bear gunslinger neared the line of scrimmage and was under attack again when he did a little hop in the air and fired the ball high to the center of the end zone, where Howell climb the ladder to get it, but had to fight off a trio of D-B players to maintain control of the catch as they went to the ground for the score.
Another trick play for the following two-point conversion try to even the score once, again failed leaving the Bears desperate with 3:51 on the clock.
Instead of sending out regular kicker Clay Shoemaker for the ensuing kickoff, Standifer took the ball from the referee and teed it up. Catching the Indians off guard, he was able to execute a perfect onside kick as Tucker caught it on the second bounce at the D-B 45.
After getting pushed back over the midfield stripe on the first play, Standifer and Tucker hooked up for a 22-yard reception to the Indian 29. Mullis bulled for three yards on the next play before Standifer found Howell just inside the left pylon for what turned out to be the game-winning 26-yard score.
A two-point pass to senior defensive lineman Kevin Gentry put the visitors up by six points with 132 seconds to play.
The tough Indian squad wasn’t ready to surrender, retuning the ensuing kickoff to near midfield before working into the Red Zone five plays later. With a second-and-5 at the Bear 17, D-B gave the ball to Hicks once again, but Appalachian State commit Jay Person nailed him for no gain. On the following play, Redwine then found a receiver at the back of the end zone, but unlike Muhonen, he wasn’t able to stick the landing inbounds. Faced with a fourth down, which they had converted 4-of-5 of at that point, Redwine fired the quick slant they had had such success with in the opening half, but this time “Deuce” Floyd tipped the ball away to thwart the threat and seal the victory.
Getting the ball back with less than a minute remaining, Standifer took a knee three straight times to run out the clock before the 300-plus Bear Nation fans flooded the field to join the celebration.
“This is their win too,” proclaimed Coach Floyd. “Our fans have traveled well with us, supporting us in everything we’ve done this year. We expect to carry another big crowd to Maryville.”
Connecting on 12-of-18 passes Friday for 243 yards in the victory, Standifer set another school record by pushing his season mark to 27 passing touchdowns, eclipsing Cole Copeland’s 26, set in 2015.
Having snapped Copeland’s season-passing yard mark (2,493 in 2016) a couple of weeks ago, Standifer now has 2,954 on the current campaign.
Tucker also continued to increase his Bear career records with a half dozen catches for 138 yards Friday. The UT-Chattanooga commit surpassed his own single season mark (1,452 last year) as he is up to 1,526 yards, plus is now tied with Tyler Carpenter for most TD catches in a season at 14. Tucker pushed his career records to 3,529 receiving yards on 214 catches, 30 for scores.
Howell collected 89 yards on a half dozen touches, with his two TDs, plus throwing the one, while Muhonen pulled in a pair of receptions for 44 yards and his score.
Mullis gained 50 yards on 15 carries to up his season total to 826.
Leading the “Black Hole Defense,” junior linebacker Hayden Owenby was in on 11 tackles, plus paired with Person for a sack.
Person had eight total hits and moved his season sack total to 14, plus he forced a fumble. Senior Jake Presley got in on nine tackles, while classmates Henley Headrick, Jordan McIllwain and Gentry each had a half dozen.
“We had some guys make some huge plays. Our kids responded well and executed in the second half like we needed them to do,” praised Coach Floyd.
“That’s what Bradley means to me. We’re going to fight you tooth-and-nail and play until the whistle blows. That’s who we are and that’s what we do.”
Bears get over the 'Hill'
By JOE CANNON
Playoff time puts teams in survival mode and that’s what happened at Bear Stadium as a pair of state heavyweights went blow-for-blow Friday evening to try to keep their season alive.
Bradley Central and Science Hill, two of the winningest football programs in Tennessee history, slugged it out to the final whistle with the host Bears being able hold off the Hilltoppers 41-34 to advance to the second round of the TSSAA state playoffs for the second straight season.
“Our kids kept fighting, even when we faced adversity there in the second half, we stuck together as a team and were able to overcome it,” proclaimed “Papa Bear” Damon Floyd of his ninth-ranked Black-and-Gold squad.
“We are going to play hard and with an edge. We proved that tonight. I’m very proud of the way we came back, especially after last week (a 31-7 loss to second-ranked Maryville in the Region 2 championship game).”
Their ninth victory in 11 games earned the Bears a three-plus hour trip to Kingsport Friday night to face Dobyns-Bennett, the second-winningest program in state gridiron history.
“It’s a long trip up there, but we’ll gladly make it to get the chance to keep our season going,” commented Floyd who has led Bradley to eight straight postseason appearances in his dozen seasons at the helm.
The Region 1 champion Indians are 8-3 on the season and easily disposed of Ooltewah (5-6) by a 30-7 tally Friday evening on their home field.
The other end of the Class 6A quarterfinal bracket saw Maryville (11-0) blank Bearden (6-5) 28-0 and sixth-ranked Farragut (9-2) thwart an upset bid by Cleveland High (7-4) in a 42-28 outcome.
This week’s winners of this week’s games will meet Nov. 17 for a spot in the Final 4.
“When we saw the draw (for the Class 6A bracket) and Science Hill was the No. 3 team in Region 1, I said you’ve got to be kidding me,” related Coach Floyd.
“They are a very talented, explosive and big team. Their offensive line outweighed our defensive line by 100-pounds each.
“We’ve got Parker Johnson, Kevin Gentry and Henley Headrick, who all go about 180 or so against 300-plus pounders and they battled them all night long.”
The Hilltoppers’ largest lineman is 6-foot-4, 340 pounds, to go along with another 6-foot-2, 320 pounder and yet another goes 5-foot-11, 300.
“Not to mention their main running back is 6-foot, 235,” added the Bear coach. “He’s a load to bring down, but we did a good job against them especially in the second half.”
After giving up 199 yards to the Hilltopper offense in the first two quarters, the “Black Hole Defense” allowed just 67 in the final 24 minutes of play.
While the defense was holding the visitors to 128 yards and 5.5 points less than their season averages, the potent Bear offense bounced back to explode for 406 yards, including a career performance from senior Adam Mullis.
“Bottom line — Adam and our offensive line (Air Force commit Chris Cash, Bailey Timmons, Josh Hatchett, Tyler Collier and Tucker Bentley) won this game for us,” praised Coach Floyd.
“While it was a total team effort, these guys accepted the challenge, stepped up big time with a great game that opened everything up for us.”
After being held to just six yards on two carries the week before, Mullis followed the big blockers and skyrocketed for 171 yards on 26 rushes, including eight for double-digit gains and a pair of touchdowns, for his best game as a Bear.
“We went away from Adam too quick at Maryville, and that was my fault. We panicked a little bit. He never complains and works hard to fight for every yard, each time we give him the ball,” the coach said of his leading rusher, now with 776 yards on 128 carries for a 6.1 average this season.
The power-packed 5-foot-8, 180-pounder seems to like playing Science Hill as he gained 140 yards and scored twice in a 32-7 victory in Johnson City last year.
Bradley also got another big night from all-stater Lameric Tucker, who had over 200 all-purpose yards.
The UT-Chattanooga commit pulled in seven passes for 122 yards, rushed eight times for 33 yards, plus had a key 50-yard kickoff return to give the Bears a short field for one of its half dozen scores on the evening.
One of the speedy receiver’s receptions came on a fourth-and-6 fake punt when he out battled a defender for a 30-yard catch at the ’Topper 6 yard line.
“It’s not a ‘gutsy’ decision to throw the ball to No. 15,” remarked Floyd when asked about the play. “He had just had a touchdown called back (one of three Bear scores negated by penalties), and we wanted to give him an opportunity to make the play.
“You’ve got to have confidence in your kids and give them a chance to make big plays and he did.”
The result set up the final Bradley score, which Mullis carried over the goal line on the following snap, with 6:42 left in the contest.
Mullis had also scored the first Bear touchdown of the evening, capping a nine-play, 60-yard drive with an 11-yard scamper with 10.9 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Setting the punch, counter-punch theme of the evening, Science Hill answered with an 11-play, 76 march after the ensuing kickoff. Speedy dual-threat quarterback Jaylan Adams found paydirt on a 23-yard scoot at the 8:18 mark of the second frame.
Bradley backed the visitors on the ropes when it got the ball back with Mullis breaking free for 22 and 25 yards in the first three plays, sandwiched around a 13-yard pass to Tucker.
Five plays later senior Nick Howell plunged in from the 1 and junior Clay Shoemaker booted his second of five extra points on the evening.
Getting the ball back with just over five minutes til halftime, Science Hill chewed up the clock with a 15-play march, covering three-quarters of the field.
Adams found Denzel Medina on a four-yard pass play to even the score with 26.7 seconds on the clock before the intermission.
Getting the ball to start the second half, Bradley wasted little time jumping back ahead, needing just a half dozen plays to cover 69 yards with junior quarterback Dylan Standifer sneaking in from the 1 for the score.
The celebration in the home stands didn’t last long as Science Hill senior speedster TJ Patton returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards to even the score once again.
Three plays later, ’Topper senior middle linebacker Josh Kota picked off just the third interception in Bradley’s last 10 games and returned it to the Bear 8.
The boys from upper East Tennessee needed just two snaps to find paydirt again and take their first lead of the night.
Although stunned by the two quick, hard body blows, the Bears quickly took the momentum back as Tucker returned the ensuing kickoff half the length of the field, twisting and turning to the Hilltopper 42.
After an incomplete pass, Standifer found Tucker for 22 yards before Mullis bulled for nine and six respectively.
The Bear signal caller, who had 60 yards on 11 carries to go with completing 9-of-13 passes from 140 more, did the honors with a five-yard dash with 5:36 left in the third quarter.
With the score knotted at 28-all, the “Black Hole Defense” rose to the occasion on the following series, forcing a ’Topper punt that only went 17 yards, giving the hosts possession at just 41 yards from paydirt.
Keeping the ball mainly on the ground, Bradley used nine plays to score and overcame a holding penalty that negated a three-yard Mullis touchdown.
Two plays later Standifer scrambled around before finding Howell open in the back corner of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown toss.
Picking up a 15-yard penalty, which forced Bradley to kickoff from its own 25, Patton once again had a big return setting Science Hill up at the Bear 47.
Another 15-yard flag on the following play moved the visitors even closer and after back-to-back six-yard runs by Drew Morrison, their 235-pound running back, they were in the Red Zone.
The big bruiser got the ball for a third straight time, but Bear senior Ashton Dunn stripped the ball free and classmate Jake Presley pounced on the loose pigskin to thwart drive.
Aided by a pair of 15-yard flags on the visitors, the Bears were able to move the ball back across midfield and when faced with a fourth-and-1 at the ’Topper 31, stacked the line with their “big” lineup but Tucker drifted out near the right sideline and was left uncovered by the opposition.
Instead of Standifer trying the sneak forward for the needed yard, he pulled up and fired the ball to the all-stater, who in turn raced to the end zone for an apparent scored, only to turn and see laundry on the field.
Backed up five yards for illegal procedure, Standifer dropped back in punt formation, but when he took the snap, he instead lifted a deep shot to Tucker along the right sideline.
Despite being face-guarded on the play (which is legal now in Tennessee high school football), he able to reach back over the defender for the 30-yard catch to set up Mullis’ final score on the next play.
Down by 13 with just under seven minutes to go, Science Hill was able to march for a final touchdown, aided by a pair of roughing the passer flags on the 63-yard drive.
Adams took the ball in from the 4 for his second score of the night with 4:27 left on the clock.
That was as close as the visitors would come with the Bear offense able to run out the remaining time by keeping the ball on the ground, including first down gains of 14 yards by Tucker and 19 by Mullis.
Appalachian State commit Jay Person led the Bradley defensive attack in the victory, making five solo tackles, plus he was in on seven other hits, had a tackle for loss and paired with Dunn for a sack.
“Jay had a lot to do with stopping their running game in the second half,” Coach Floyd praised his senior linebacker.
Dunn was credited with 1.5 TFL in his seven total hits, plus forcing the turnover.
Despite missing all of the second quarter after getting “stung” on a hard hit, Presley finished with four solos tackles.
Senior safety “Deuce” Floyd also had four tackles by himself, plus helped out on a couple more and made some big plays in the secondary.
“I’m proud of my son. He made some great plays tonight and took on some bigger runners, plus he played great coverage on some deep throws they made,” commented Coach Floyd.
“This was a total team win. We had starters playing on special teams that did a great job. We were going to go with the guys who got us here.
“This is a special group (of seniors) and we want to keep this (season) going with them as long as we can.”
Bears Claw Mustangs
By JOE CANNON Assistant Sports Editor
Coaches often say the most improvement in a season comes between Game 1 and Game 2.
That was sure the case for Bradley Central’s football team, bouncing back from a five-turnover, heartbreaking overtime home loss in the season opener, to a no miscue effort, with a perfect passing night, in a 52-7 blowout in the “County Conflict at the Corral” Friday evening.
“Our kids came out and did what we asked tonight,” proclaimed Bear head coach Damon Floyd. “Our numbers were a lot better this week, especially the penalties and, of course, the fact we didn’t turn the ball over.”
One of the most notable differences came from new starting quarterback Dylan Standifer, who had thrown four interceptions the first week, but completed all 13 of his passes against Walker Valley Friday for 303 yards and a trio of touchdowns, plus he crossed the goal line himself twice.
“Dylan just keeps getting better and better,” the Bear coach praised. “He didn’t let last week affect him. He came out focused and did a great job tonight.
“Walker Valley lost a lot from last year’s team and our defense did a good job of keeping them in check tonight. We held (Zeke) Westfield to just three catches and the one he took for a touchdown was nearly a Pick 6 for us.”
With a tough loss to reigning state champion Farragut and now its largest victory over Walker Valley in 13 meetings under its belt, fourth-ranked Bradley jumps head first into Region 2-6A play this Friday with a short trip down I-75 to face 10th-ranked Ooltewah.
“Ooltewah is tough and has always given us fits,” remarked Coach Floyd.
Although the Bears hold a 17-13 overall edge in the series, the Owls have won 11 of the last 14 meetings.
Ooltewah will be coming off a 62-35 whipping by sixth-ranked Science Hill Friday.
Now 0-2 on the young season, Walker Valley must regroup in a hurry as Rhea County comes calling Friday for the Region 4-5A opener.
The sixth-ranked Golden Eagles are also 0-2 after Cleveland beat them in the final nine seconds of the season opener and Blackman, the No. 2-ranked Class 6A squad in the state, torched them 52-21 this week.
Friday’s “County Conflict” started out like it was going to be a barnburner with a stunning defensive stand by the Mustangs to open the contest and the lead changing hands three times in the first quarter.
All-stater Lameric Tucker returned the opening kickoff 47 yards, plus a penalty on the hosts set the Bears up just 39 yards from the end zone.
After needing only five plays to advance to the Mustang 9, the visitors started going backwards, thanks to tackles for loss by Herd senior Isaiah Alston and junior Chris Crenshaw.
The first of two WV sacks on the evening came on third down when Crenshaw and sophomore Kellar Carson trapped Standifer at the 20.
A missed field goal attempt on the next play kept the Bears off the scoreboard.
However, after a quick three-and-out on the Mustang’s first offensive possession, Bradley struck quickly.
On the first play after the punt, Standifer tossed a swing pass to Tucker, who in turn picked up a key block from senior Nick Howell and sprung free for a 63-yard touchdown down the left sideline.
The extra point kick was wide, so the Bears were up 6-0 with 6:38 left in the opening frame.
Walker Valley answered after the ensuing kickoff with a seven-play scoring drive, with Westfield taking a swing pass from senior Kolten Gibson and racing 43 yards to paydirt.
The PAT by Charlie Swafford gave the hosts their lone lead of the night.
Bradley retook the advantage on the ensuing series with a six-play, 60-yard drive with Howell diving for the pylon to cap a 21-yard scamper for the score.
Standifer kept the ball for the two-point conversion for a 14-7 edge with 1:45 on the first quarter clock.
The Bear defense set up a trio of scores in the second quarter to set the course for the runaway victory.
After stopping the hosts on a fourth-and-2 play, the “Black Hole Defense” gave the quick-strike Bear offense possession at midfield.
Two plays later Standifer hit Howell in the flats and the senior broke free for a 53-yard score after the catch.
After the ensuing kickoff, SEC prospect Jay Person picked up the first of three sacks on the night and then nailed a ’Stang receiver as soon as he caught a screen pass for another loss.
On the next play, Bear nose tackle Parker Johnson intercepted a pass and returned it to the WV 15-yard line.
Four plays later, Standifer scooped up a low snap and ran the ball in from four yards out.
Bradley’s final score of the first half came after the defense forced another three-and-out by the hosts on the following series.
After three straight completions and an 11-yard run by freshman Tray Curry, Standifer punched the ball in from the 1 yard line.
Junior Clay Shoemaker tacked on the third of his four extra points on the night with 2:52 on the clock.
After the intermission, Walker Valley picked up a couple of first downs in the opening possession but stalled at the Bear 21.
Two plays later, Standifer and Tucker hooked up again for another swing pass that the all-stater took to the house for 66 yards to invoke the running-clock rule for the remainder of the game.
Shoemaker added a 20-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.
With both teams playing reserves in the final frame, Bradley’s last score was set up by an Ashton Dunn interception, returning the ball 20 yards to the Mustang 2.
After a loss on their first try, freshman backup QB Tucker Pope hit Curry for a 4-yard TD toss. Pope completed both of his pass attempts, giving the Bears a final passing line of 15-for-15 for 307 yards.
Rand Schneck, a soccer player who recently joined the team, came on to boot the final point of the night with 8:49 remaining.
“We were able to spread the ball around tonight and get a lot of people playing time,” declared Coach Floyd. “Overall, I’m happy with what we were able to do tonight.”
Bears Fall to Farragut
By JOE CANNON Assistant Sports Editor
Going toe-to-toe in an overtime battle with a reigning state champion was little consolation to veteran Bradley Central head coach Damon Floyd Friday night.
“We let this one get away,’ he bemoaned after the 27-21 season-opening loss to 2016 Class 5A state titlist Farragut.
“We got ourselves in a 14-0 hole in the first four minutes. To the guys’ credit we came back to take the lead, but we didn’t finish it off.
“That’s on me. I didn’t have us ready to play from the beginning. It’s my fault. That’s on me,” declared the Papa Bear, falling on the proverbial sword.
“My kids fought hard tonight. It hurts. This is NOT going to define our season.
“We’ve got to be men. Suck it up and get back to work to get ready for Walker Valley next week.”
The Bears will invade “The Corral” Friday evening in the Mustangs’ home opener. Walker Valley is coming off a 48-36 loss to Chattanooga Central Thursday evening in Finley Stadium.
“It’s going to be a long season and we’ve got to learn from this (the loss) and get better.
“We’re a better team than what we showed tonight. We as coaches have to do a better job of getting us ready.”
The fact of the matter is Bradley outplayed their Knoxville visitors Friday evening in every category, except the final score.
The Bears out gained the Admirals 168-118 on the ground, 238-207 through the air, in first downs (19-14), time of possession (29:13-18:47), third-down conversion (6-5) and Red Zone opportunities (2-1).
“The only numbers that count is the scoreboard,” declared Floyd. “Anytime you lose, it’s disappointing. And in a game like this, it’s really frustrating.
“We scored three times in overtime and none of them counted (due to penalties).
“We gave up a TD that should have been a pick. We had a busted coverage on the second TD.
“After they jumped out on us, we played pretty good defense and held them down, until that third-and-25 busted play they took a long way (46 yards) to set up their score in the fourth quarter right there at the end,” he assessed.
“That’s the way the game goes sometime, unfortunately.”
After receiving the opening kickoff, Farragut needed just five plays to find paydirt, with Tennessee commit Jacob Warren making the first of his four TD catches, this one on a 45-yard strike from junior Jake Evans.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound tight end also hauled in a 22-yard scoring pass less than three minutes later as the Admirals cashed in on the first of five Bear turnovers on the night.
Bradley stayed behind the two score deficit until the final minute of the opening half.
Getting the ball back near midfield after an Admiral punt with 1:22 on the clock, junior QB Dylan Standifer hooked up with all-stater Lameric Tucker for 27 yards before finding senior Nick Howell for the final 25 for the first Bear score of the season.
Junior Clay Shoemaker came on to boot the first of his three extra points on the evening with 56 ticks remaining on the first half clock.
After the intermission, the Bears were able to knot the score at 14 on their second possession, marching 68 yards in nine plays with Tucker diving to break the plane of the goal line from two yards out with 5:50 on the third-quarter clock.
Tucker finished with 96 yards on five receptions and a half dozen runs.
The score was set up by a 29-yard completion to senior Devin Moore to move the ball to the 3 yard line.
The Black-and-Gold were able to take the lead in the fourth quarter after junior Cole Reyher picked off an Admiral aerial to give the hosts’ possession just 37 yards from paydirt.
Seven plays later Howell, who finished with 170 all-purpose yards on 18 carries and a trio of receptions, one of which was on a spectacular one-handed grab well above his head, carried the ball around left end for a 14-yard scoring scamper with 6:57 left in regulation.
Having stopped Farragut’s previous nine possessions, the Bear defense appeared to have the visitors hemmed up again after a 10-yard tackle for loss by senior defensive end Henley Headrick on a swing pass.
Faced with a third-and-25 from their own 14, the Admirals caught a break when Evans avoided a sack and was able to get the ball to speedster Isaiah Gibbs. He was cutting back against the grain and able to outrun the Bear defenders for 46 yards before senior DBs Damon “Deuce” Floyd and Jordan McIllwain were able to track him down from behind to prevent the score.
The reprieve was only temporary though as after two plays for a minus one yard, Evans and Warren hooked up again for a 28-yard strike and the PAT tied the score with 4:40 remaining in regulation.
With neither team being able to cash in again before the horn blared, the game went to overtime.
Getting the ball first, Bradley got a break before the initial snap with an offsides call on the Admirals moving the ball to the 5 yard line.
After a no gain, Howell powered to the 1 yard line.
Standifer then carried the ball into the end zone on the following play, but a flag came out for an illegal shift, negating the score and moving the ball back to the 6.
Standifer then drilled a bullet to senior Stephen Muhonen, who had five catches for 30 yards on the night, for an apparent score, but once again there was laundry on the field for a holding call.
Backed up to the 19, after an incomplete pass, Bradley sent the field goal unit on the field and Shoemaker split the uprights on a 37-yard try, but the play was whistled dead for delay of game.
With the ball moved back to the 24, Bradley decided to go for it, but the pass was picked off in the end zone.
Despite having to start their offensive try from the 15 after a penalty, Farragut gained a couple of yards on a run before the Evans-to-Warren connection struck again for a 13-yard scoring toss to end the game.
Without the 115 yards and four TDs the future Vol big target made on five catches, the Bear defense held the state champs to just 220 yards of offense and no scores.
SEC prospect Jay Person led the Bradley defensive attack with eight total hits, including two tackles for loss with a sack while stripping the ball loose, plus he picked off an Admiral pass.
Headrick had four solo tackles, including the one 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage, and a trio of assists.
The younger Floyd pulled down five solo tackles, while senior DE Kevin Gentry was also in on five hits, with a half sack included.
The Bear pass protection played well, holding Farragut to just 15-of-32 passing with a pair of picks and several aerials deflected away from receivers, plus three more near interceptions.
Lameric Tucker Commits To Mocs
By: Gene Henley (Chattanooga Times-Free Press)
Bradley Central football coach Damon Floyd, who was a four-year letterman at the University ofTennessee at Chattanooga, lets his players make their own decisions when being recruited.
But he feels a twinge of pride when one chooses his alma mater.
Bear senior Lameric Tucker chose the Mocs on Wednesday, becoming the fourth player to make a nonbinding commitment to the Chattanooga program for the 2018 signing class. He joins Dalton offensive lineman Dylan Cole, Hewitt-Trussville tight end Logan Pitts and Boyd-Buchanan outside linebacker Kohl Henke in that group of pledges.
Tucker, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound receiver rated as a two-star prospect by 247Sports.com and Scout.com, has 160 career catches for 2,400 yards and 22 touchdowns. He was a first-team Times Free Press Best of Preps selection in 2016, when he had 91 catches for 1,452 yards and 13 scores, and he has 397 yards on 19 catches with three touchdowns through three games this season. He also has three rushing touchdowns and a kickoff return for a score in his career tally.
He mentioned proximity and being reunited with former Bears quarterback Cole Copeland, a Mocs freshman this season, as reasons for his decision.
"UTC was up front and honest with me," Tucker said Wednesday. "They were all about me, and I could tell they were all about me, but they told me to look around a little bit. I'm able to take off a lot of stress with this decision being made. It's not something I have to think about every day now."
Tucker — who has been timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash and has a 40-inch vertical leap — was also considering Eastern Kentucky and Mercer before committing to the Mocs.
Floyd mentioned Tucker's work ethic as being one of his strongest and best traits. The latter plays basketball and runs track at Bradley, but Floyd spoke about how Tucker would come work out before school, only missing when he was sick.
Floyd said he "made Lameric not work out that day," adding that he had a basketball game that night.
"He's a great person with great character and an unbelievable work ethic," Floyd said. "When you add in how talented he is, he's one of the best I've ever coached.
"He doesn't have a weakness. That's just the type of player he is."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.More Articles
Bears Leave Raiders in the Dark
By JOE CANNON Assistant Sports Editor
The “Crosstown Clash” action was so hot Friday night, it knocked out the Bear Stadium lights — twice.
“This was one of the most exciting games ever in this rivalry,” declared longtime local radio broadcaster Earl Rowan, who has personally witnessed all but one of the 43 gridiron battles between Bradley Central and Cleveland High.
“This wasn’t necessarily well played, because of all the penalties (28 total for 270 yards), but both teams came in at a fevered pitch and played hard until the very end.”
It was near that end when the game was decided as Bear senior all-stater Lameric Tucker scored on a six-yard run with just 76 seconds to go to secure the 27-21 outcome for Bradley’s third straight win in the series.
“I guess they (the Bear players) like me with this gray hair, so they’re trying to give me some more,” joked Damon Floyd, the salt-and-peppered 40-year-old Bradley head coach after the game.
The victory, in front of more than 7,000 fans, not only improves the sixth-ranked Bears to 3-1 on the season, but more importantly 2-0 in the Region 2-6A race.
“All these fans that showed up saw a great game and added to the atmosphere. Great support, made a great night of hard-fought football. The rally towels (provided by a local sponsor) helped add to an exciting game.”
Bradley is currently tied with surprising Heritage (3-2, 2-0), a 35-28 winner over McMinn County Friday evening, for the top spot in the conference.
Third-ranked Maryville (3-1, 1-0) had a bye this week and is just a half game back, while Cleveland (3-2, 1-1) slips into a tie for fourth with Ooltewah (3-2, 1-1).
Although both local teams step out of region play this week, the pair have key rivalry games on tap.
Bradley will hold homecoming festivities as seventh-ranked (5A) Rhea County (3-2) comes calling, while the Blue Raiders will entertain county-rival Walker Valley, which had this week off and is looking for its first win of the season.
“The reality is everything is in front of us. We are 1-1 in the region and we have a game next week,” commented Cleveland head coach Scott Cummings.
“Our bye week (Oct. 13) can’t get here soon enough, but we have another rivalry game next week. We have to get over this loss and be ready to go on Monday.”
As expected Cleveland showed off its speed right out of the gate Friday evening as senior Keegan Jones broke free on a 30-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage.
After a seven-yard run by junior quarterback Kellye Cawood on the next down, the two banks of lights on the visitor’s side went out.
After a short delay and discussion with the coaches and officials, since there was still enough natural light, plus the lighting still on the home side, play was continued while the problem was addressed.
The Raiders needed just four more plays to reach the end zone for the game’s opening score as Cawood carried the ball in from the 1.
Overcoming a holding penalty on the ensuing kickoff that back them up to their own 11, the Bears came out roaring as well.
Back-to-back 18- and 11-yard runs by senior Adam Mullis set the tone.
Throwing in a 16-yard pass to senior Stephen Muhonen and a 15-yard reception before a 14-yard run by classmate Nick Howell, Bradley capped the 89-yard, nine play drive to even the score.
Howell, who had 186 yards on 29 touches in the victory, sealed the deal with a nine-yard power sweep, where he won a helmet-to-helmet collision with a Raider defender at the 5 before crossing the goal line with 5:49 on the clock.
With the sun setting, and the lighting problem not corrected, play was halted before the ensuing kick off.
When play resumed 12 minutes later, the Bear defense held on the ensuing Raider series, forcing a punt that only traveled 17 yards to midfield, where the Black-and-Gold offense went back to work.
Seven plays laters, including runs of 15 yards by junior signal caller Dylan Standifer and a 12-yarder by Mullis to get the ball in the Red Zone, sophomore Saylor Clark was wide open on an 18-yard scoring reception.
After another 20-minute delay, caused by an overheating breaker, interrupted the following series, both defenses took over for a while, forcing three punts and a pair of turnovers — an interception by Cleveland’s Logan Stutzman, which was returned 38 yards before Bear linebacker Mason Mitchell took the ball back on a fumble recovery two plays later.
Bradley turned the latter into the final scoring drive of the opening half as Howell broke free for 28 yards on the first play to find the Red Zone again.
After moving the ball to the Raider 3, the hosts were backed up by yet another 15-yard penalty and a fumble for a 12-yard loss on the following play.
Faced with a third-and-goal at the 32 and time running out, Standifer hit Muhonen at about the 10-yard line and the senior receiver fought a pair of Raider defenders to get within a foot of the goal line.
With just 1.5 ticks on the clock, Standifer finished off the drive with a one-yard plunge for a 21-7 halftime advantage.
The hosts got the ball to start the second half and were able to drive down to the Cleveland 7, but a 25-yard field goal attempt was off target and the visitors took advantage.
Starting on their own 20, the Raider offense, which had been held to just 64 rushing and 36 passing yards in the first half, go going with Jones gaining 36 yards on three straight carries, plus Cawood went for nine himself and then hit Arlington Ferguson for 29 yards to get the ball to the Bear 5.
Jones moved it to the 1 on the following play, but a penalty temporarily pushed it back, setting up a six-yard strike from Cawood to junior Micaleous Elder for the score.
Bradley once again marched into the Red Zone on the ensuing series, but a first down fumble gave Cleveland the ball on its own 11.
A 16-yard run by Cawood and a 17-yard completion to sophomore Robert Flowers sandwiched between back-to-back personal foul penalties on the Bears, set up a five-yard dash for cash as Cawood evened the score at 21-all with 9:16 to go in the contest.
“It’s like we let up, I don’t know. It’s frustrating. We did the same thing against Ooltewah. We got up and then we relaxed,” commented Coach Floyd.
After the teams exchanged punts, Bradley got the ball back with 5:16 remaining and was able to put together the game-winning drive.
Starting on their own 15, the Bears got a big boost on the second play when Tucker, who was held to just two catches on the night, got behind the Raider coverage for a 43-yard gain.
Nine plays later, facing a third-and-goal from the 6, Tucker lined up in the backfield and the recent UT-Chattanooga commit took the hand off and scampered in for the night’s final score.
“We were challenged this week and we wanted to prove we can run the ball. We did a good job of that. Our offensive line did a great job of blocking and opening holes,” praised Floyd after his Bears gained 216 yards on 42 carries.
Howell accounted for 129 yards on 22 rushes, while Mullis pitched in with 75 yards on a dozen tries.
The Bear aerial attack was once again on target as Standifer increased his season completion rate to 74.4 percent, hitting on 17-of-20 attempts for 227 yards.
Muhonen and Howell hauled in seven passes apiece for 108 and 57 yards respectively.
The “Black Hole” defense defused the explosive Raiders, allowing just 213 total yards, including just 69 on 10-of-18 passes. Cleveland came in averaging 328 total yards a game.
Junior linebacker Hayden Owenby led the Bear attack with a half dozen solo tackles, an assist, a pair of tackles for loss, plus he sacked the Raider QB once.
SEC prospect Jay Person was in on eight hits, including four solos, with a tackle for loss, plus he broke up a pass.
Senior safety Jake Presley had four solo take downs, a trio of helps, plus a TFL and a pass break up.
Cleveland’s top receiver, senior Romeo Wykle, who was averaging almost 40 yards a catch and had scored on four of his half dozen receptions, was held to just a single three-yard catch.
Elder’s 4.38-speed was also held in check, with only 15 yards on a half dozen touches.
Jones topped the Raiders with 119 yards on 18 tries, with over half coming on the aforementioned four running plays.
Cawood finished with 69 passing yards and 40 more on a dozen carries, scoring twice in the second half.
“Kellye Cawood battled and he fought. He threw the ball, ran the ball. He was everything tonight that I know he can be,” assessed Coach Cummings.
“He got hit multiple times and he kept getting up. I am proud of how he demonstrated toughness and battled in just his second full varsity game at quarterback.
“It’s been a grind with our road (4) trips to start the season. One thing for sure is these kids are battle tested now.
“Two years ago there is no way we come back in the second half. This is the second time we’ve come back from a halftime deficit. The program is making strides,” he added.
The Raider defense was led by senior linebacker Logan Strickland with five solo tackles and eight assists, plus he recovered a fumble.
Stutzman had five solos and four helps, plus he force a fumble to go with his interception.
Defensive back David Dorsey was in on seven hits, including five solos, while Clark Lockerby had a trio of solo tackles and a half dozen assists.
Wykle pulled down five Bears by himself, while Chase Oliver added four solos.
The teams combined for 28 penalties with the Bears getting flagged 15 times for 162 yards, while the Raiders surrendered 108 on 13 calls.
“There is zero excuses for some of these penalties. At some point our kids have to grow up and not hit a kid in the back, late or some of our other dumb penalties,” Coach Cummings declared.
“Regardless of that, you have to give Bradley a lot of credit on something. We didn’t think they could run the ball between the tackles on us.
“Having two weeks to prepare really helped them and they did a good job bottom line. They made big plays when they had to,” said the coach who is yet to defeat the Bears in his three tries at the Raider helm.
“It was definitely frustrating. We gave up way too many penalties,” remarked Coach Floyd. “It was a lively game with a lot of emotions, but that’s something we needed to keep in check. We hurt ourselves with some mental mistakes, but we were able to overcome it and get the win, which is the most important thing.”
Bears Maul Cherokees
By GARY OWNBEY Banner Correspondent
ATHENS — It was homecoming night on “The Reservation” in Athens, but Bradley Central would be the ones celebrating after a 49-14 dismantling of the McMinn County Cherokees.
The seventh-ranked Bears are now 5-1 overall with their fifth consecutive victory, plus their perfect 3-0 Region 2-6A mark puts them atop the conference standings.
Bradley will step outside the region as they venture to Soddy-Daisy to take on the Trojans this week in a rare Thursday night game.
The task for the Cherokees (1-5, 0-3) doesn’t get any easier at they travel to the ‘Owls Nest’ to play Ooltewah in another Thursday night game.
It was Bear Coach Damon Floyd’s fourth consecutive win over the program’s oldest rival as the Bear defense held the Wing-T offense of the Cherokees to just 192 total yards for the game while the Bear offense would net 415 yards.
Junior quarterback Dylan Standifer spread his five touchdown passes to four different receivers during his 13-of-17 passing night for 279 yards.
He continuously threaded the needle as the Bear passing attack went ‘vertical’ on several plays that challenged the under-manned and young Cherokees.
The Tribe have started five freshmen in the past 40 years according to long-time McMinn radio play-by-play broadcaster, John Coffman, but Friday night three were in the starting lineup for veteran coach Bo Cagle.
“I’m not being disrespectful but we were the favorites to win this game with our experience and depth,” related head Coach Floyd in his post-game interview.
“We had another great night on defense and the offense continued to take advantage of what the defense gave us.”
The game opened on an ominous note for the Bears as the Cherokees won the coin-toss, elected to receive and proceeded to delight their fans with a 65-yard return by Andre Smith. This would turn out to be one of only a few highlights of the night for McMinn County.
It seemed to serve as a wake-up call for the Bear defense as they stuffed the Cherokees on a fourth-and-2 run to take over on downs.
This led to a short drive of three plays and a punt for the Bear offense, but the first of two Cherokee fumbles set the Bears up in great field position at midfield. Senior Kevin Gentry forced the loose ball and SEC prospect Jay Person recovered and the Bears were in business.
It took only five plays for Bradley to hit paydirt when Standifer connected with senior Devin Moore on a 17-yard strike at 6:23 in the first quarter.
Junior place kicker Clay Shoemaker would add the first of seven consecutive extra points for the evening.
The 51-yard drive consumed only 2:08 on the clock which would become a continuously running clock later in the blow-out win.
After another “three-and-out” for McMinn, the quick-strike Bears needed only two plays and 62 seconds to score again as Standifer found all-state receiver and UTC commitment Lameric Tucker on a 39-yard bomb to notch their second score at 3:47 in the quarter and the rout was on.
Penalties once again plagued the Bears as the fellows in striped shirts marked off 10 infractions for 112 yards during the contest.
“That’s on me,” Coach Floyd continued, “we’ve got to clean up our act and not react or say anything after a play. This will bite us down the road if we don’t.”
It wasn’t exactly a stellar night for the Cherokees either as they were whistled for penalties on nine occasions that totaled 95 yards in mark-offs.
McMinn’s first score of the night came after one of those penalties left them with a third-and-25 predicament at the Bear 28-yard line, but senior quarterback Bradley Hayes escaped the Bear rush and found senior Tabre Abernathy on a bubble screen that he took to the house to cut the Bear margin to 14-6 after a missed PAT at 10:41 in the half.
The score came after it looked like the Bear defense had once again stopped a Cherokee drive when a pass play on third-and-11 failed but a whistle and 15-yard penalty kept the drive alive and the Cherokees would use this to their advantage.
The next Bear drive began at their 32-yard line and senior running back Adam Mullis carried the load as classmate Nick Howell sat out his second straight game with a leg injury.
Mullis’ 12-yard burst resulted in a first down but a Bear holding penalty negated the play. The Bears then took to the air with Standifer finding Tucker on consecutive 17- and 10-yard plays and Mullis adding an 8-yard run.
Standifer continued his fine play when he ripped a 29-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Saylor Clark, who had beaten his defender and snatched the ball in full stride for the third Bear score at 8:40 in the half.
Standifer’s accuracy was perhaps the best of the season and his bevy of receivers continued to tack on additional yards after each catch.
On the ensuing kickoff, Bear junior Cole Reyer forced the second McMinn County fumble of the night that was pounced on by senior Jake Pedigo and the Bears were in business at the Cherokee 25-yard line.
But a penalty negated a 10-yard Mullis run and a pair of incomplete passes and a failed fourth down run gave the host defense one of its few bright spots of the evening.
Overcoming a roughing the punter penalty on the ensuing series, the “Black Hole Defense” rose to the occasion to give Bradley one more chance to score before the half.
The punt only went eight yards, giving the Bears good field position at the McMinn 47.
Overcoming back-to-back flags pushing the ball back over midfield, Bradley needed just six plays to find pay dirt on a 15-yard pass from Standifer to senior Stephen Muhonen with just 24 ticks on the clock.
After the homecoming festivities, the Bears needed just two plays to return to the end zone as Standifer once again found Tucker, who shook off a couple of defenders on a 64-yard touchdown jaunt for a 35-6 lead.
Tucker ending the evening with seven receptions for 170 yards and two scores. The yardage and receptions would add to his career records for both categories in Bear history.
“Lameric was just being Lameric,” a happy Coach Floyd related after the game. “We’ll miss him next year, but he’s ours for now and we just need to continue to get the ball in his hands. He can make good things happen anytime he touches the ball.”
The Bear defense continued their stifling play on the next McMinn possession, forcing another punt and the Bears took over in excellent field position at their 43-yard line.
After penalties on both teams once again effected play, Bradley was able to complete an eight-play drive when Tucker carried the mail to paydirt from the tailback position with a three-yard jaunt to set off the running clock rule with 5:40 remaining in the third quarter.
With the Bear backups taking the field, the Cherokees forced a Bear fumble, which led to the hosts second score of the evening when Hayes carrying the pigskin 27 yards on the first play after the turnover.
With the running clock halted, the Bears went back to work with Mullis and Moore carrying the ball for the next eight plays, with both ripping off 25-yard runs during the drive.
Mullis had the honor of grabbing the final score of the game with a three-yard run at 7:30 left.
Shoemaker finished off his perfect night with his seventh PAT, invoking the “mercy rule” once again.
Ironically, Shoemaker’s kicking has shown major improvement since the Bears added former Cherokee and University of Georgia kicker Andy Bailey to the staff last season.
Once again the Bear defense limited an opponent to less than 200 yards as the Cherokees could manage only 192 on the night with QB Hayes accounting for a team-leading 46 yards on eight touches. The Cherokees, running a ground-oriented offense, only attempted six passes on the evening and completed two for 37 yards.
The Bears with 415 yards of offense had 25 carries for 139 yards, paced by Mullis with 107 of those on 16 carries. An injury-plagued Moore is beginning to round into shape and toted the pigskin three times for 29 yards to go with his touchdown reception.
The Bear senior-dominated offensive line continued to open holes for the backfield as Air Force Academy commitment Chris Cash anchors the right side for the running attack. Trevor Wallace also received praise from Coach Floyd as he filled in for an ailing Bailey Timmons.
Defensively, the Bears were paced by senior Henley Headrick with five tackles, including four solo takedowns.
With the win, the Bears continue to lead the region with the 3-0 mark followed by Maryville at 2-0.
After their visit to Soddy-Daisy the Bears will take on the three Blount County teams.
Heritage will be first up on Friday the 13th, followed by William Blount on Senior Night (Oct. 20) and they’ll close out the regular season at second-ranked Maryville (Oct. 27).
Bears Rally Past Trojans
By PATRICK MACCOON
SODDY DAISY — Bradley Central put forth four unanswered scores in the second half and shut out Soddy-Daisy over the final 24 minutes to extend its winning streak to six in major comeback fashion.
With missed tackles left and right and a pair of costly turnovers on offense, the seventh-ranked Bears trailed 28-13 at halftime in a tough road venue Thursday night.
Trojan senior running back Brandon Davis already had eclipsed the century mark, as he frustrated defenders in cutting his way back and forth to the tune of 106 yards.
“A lot of times we were there, but we were missing too many tackles,” BCHS standout senior linebacker Jay Person said. “We realized at halftime we could potentially lose this game, so we had to come together.”
With senior leader and starting safety Jake Presley out with a shoulder injury suffered in the opening half, the fellow captain knew his play needed to be elevated.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Person locked in as he tallied seven of his game-high 11 tackles (2 TFL) in the second half in which Bradley scored all 25 points to make for a 38-28 victory.
“We moved Jay around more in the second half,” said BCHS head coach Damon Floyd of his typical outside pass rusher. “We put him in the middle of the field much more and also changed our fronts so the cutback wouldn’t be there as much. We brought blitzes from the weak side in certain formations where they were showing stretch.”
After forcing its will in the first half for 272 yards of offense, Soddy-Daisy (4-3) was only able to muster 110 yards in the second half that included 10 rushes for just 11 yards.
While Person delivered a trio of booming hits, which included an ear-ringing open field tackle on Davis that limited his role offensively the rest of the night, he also helped seal the deal late.
Senior safety Damon “Deuce” Floyd cleared an open lane for starting corner back Jeffery Brewer and Person to each get a hand on a clean field goal block with 3:48 left in regulation to maintain a 10-point lead.
“It’s good to know we can overcome adversity,” Deuce Floyd said. “We came out with a better attitude in the second half. We need to take that into all games the rest of the season.”
Bradley Central (6-1) found a rhythm offensively also by scoring on its first four drives after the break.
Junior gunslinger Dylan Standifer was in full command completing 9-of-11 passes for 176 yards and three scores over the final two quarters.
Standifer finished with a career-high 355 passing yards on 16-of-26 through the air with four touchdown passes against a school his older brother, Brett, was the starting QB for three years at before transferring to Bradley for his senior season.
While he found his go-to deep threat Lameric Tucker down field for gains of 36 and 34 yards in the first half, the longest connection between the two this season came on a well-timed bubble screen.
The UTC football commit slipped his way free and outraced several defenders to ultimately dive over the right pylon for a 76-yard score, cutting the deficit to 28-26 with 6:18 left in the third quarter.
“They were playing so far off of Lameric and over the top, so we had to give him something quick,” Coach Floyd said. “The other receivers blocked well and once he gets a little bit of real estate its hard to tackle him.”
Tucker also hauled in the go-ahead score as he snuck to the outside for an unguarded four-yard touchdown with just over three minutes before the fourth quarter.
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound flashy receiver, who showcased his spin move on several occasions for extra yards, finished with eight catches for a season-high 191 yards and his fourth two-touchdown performance this season.
He has 12 total scores on the year to go with 40 catches for 958 yards (23.95 yards per catch). Standifer has completed 70.5 percent of his passes for 1,867 yards and has 24 total touchdowns (19 passing).
Also hauling in receiving scores for the Bears for the second consecutive week were sophomore Saylor Clark and senior Stephen Muhonen.
Clark made an over-the-shoulder tightly guarded catch for a 29-yard score early in the second quarter, while Muhonen took a pass over the middle and shifted to the left sideline 40 yards and the night's final score of the game with 9:52 remaining.
A proven and dangerous Bradley receiving corps was also sparked by the return of Nick Howell, who had five catches for 86 yards and outraced defenders on a 50-yard catch in the first half despite playing on a hurt ankle.
The Bears totaled 287 of their 506 total yards in the second half, while senior running back Adam Mullis landed his second consecutive 100-yard rushing performance.
The backfield bruiser totaled 103 of his 112 rushing yards in the second half on 13 of his game-high 17 carries. Mullis scored on the first drive of the second half on a 10-yard option pitch he to the right pylon.
Bradley Central defensive backs also tightened up in the second half, as they held Ty Boeck to just 27 receiving yards over the final two quarters after he had 91 yards in the first half.
The Trojans completed 15 passes in the second half, but averaged just 5.8 yards per pass attempt.
“I believed we could post a second half shutout because when we stick together we are hard to beat,” Bradley Central senior cornerback Jordan McIllwain said. “The only thing they could get were completions to the sticks on the out routes and that didn’t affect us too much in the second half.”
Junior nose tackle Parker Johnson had an interception as he jumped a screen pass in the second quarter, Kevin Gentry added his fifth sack of the season and Clay Shoemaker booted a pair of 29-yard field goals to help the cause for Bradley.
Mason Mitchell and Hayden Owenby combined for 12 tackles at linebacker.
With a great deal of momentum to build on from a dominating finish against a tough Trojan team that lost by just one point to state powerhouse Knox Catholic and beat Red Bank, the Bears will look to stretch its win streak further.
Bradley will host Heritage on Friday the 13th and host Senior Night the following week against William Blount before traveling to second-ranked Maryville in its regular season finale Oct. 27.
“Our offense, defense and special teams staff was much better in the second half,” Coach Floyd said. “The first half was on us. The kids executed in the second half and we put them in position to succeed. We hope to put it all together for the weeks to come.”
Bears Secure 8th Straight Playoff Berth
By JOE CANNON
Showing no signs of paraskevidekatriaphobia (the fear of Friday the 13th), Bradley Central claimed its seventh straight victory to remain knotted atop the Region 2-6A playoff race.
“Playing during fall break is always tough, but it was a good overall win,” proclaimed Bear head coach Damon Floyd after sending Heritage back to Blount County with a 27-6 defeat Friday evening.
“We were able to take control of the game from the beginning, other than the one scoring drive they had.”
Bradley exploded for nearly 400 yards of offense, while the “Black Hole Defense” limited the Mountaineers to just 34 yards in the second half to secure the Bears’ eighth straight TSSAA playoff berth.
Floyd said his seventh-ranked squad “needs to take care of business this week against (winless) William Blount” before they can start thinking about a squaring off with No. 2-ranked Maryville for the region championship Oct. 27.
“We can’t afford to look ahead. We’ll prepare for William Blount and honor our great group of seniors next Friday before we start thinking about Maryville,” the proud Papa Bear proclaimed.
After the stingy Bradley defense opened Friday’s contest by forcing a three-and-out, the Bear offense marched straight down the field for the night’s opening score.
Taking over on its own 31, Bradley junior quarterback Dylan Standifer connected with all-stater Lameric Tucker for a 16-yard gain before back-to-back aerials to senior Stephen Muhonen for 19 and 12 yards to get the ball into the Red Zone.
Standifer capped the 11-play march with a one-yard sneak with 5:33 still on the opening quarter clock.
Junior Clay Shoemaker followed with the first of his three extra points on the evening.
After the teams traded three-and-outs on the next two possessions, the boys from Blount County were able to mount their lone scoring drive of the night.
Being able to break free for a trio of double-digit gains, including converting a fourth-and-7 play with a 12-yard pass, senior QB DJ Cooper scampered in from the 8 on the 11th play of the 61-yard march.
Bear senior Henley Headrick broke through the line and blocked the extra-point attempt to keep the score from being tied with 11:12 to go in the first half.
Bradley wasted no time answering, needing just five plays to go 65 yards after the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds.
Standifer found Muhonen for 30 and 11 yards to open the drive and after senior Adam Mullis gained 18 yards on the following two runs, Tucker carried the mail for six yards on a jet sweep for the score with 9:11 on the clock.
After pinning the visitors on their own 11 yard line on the ensuing kickoff, the defense held again and forced the third of eight Mountaineer punts, giving the hosts the ball back near midfield.
The Bear offense needed just a half dozen plays to score again with a 33-yard hook up between Standifer and Muhonen putting the ball at the 5. Two plays later senior Devin Moore bulled in from the 1 and Shoemaker split the uprights with 4:35 to go before the intermission.
Bradley scored the final points of the evening after senior Jeffrey Brewer returned the second half kickoff 37 yards to the near midfield.
Three runs by Mullis for 18 yards and Standifer passes for 15 and 20 yards to Tucker did the trick as he as scooted into the end zone on the latter just 144 seconds into the third quarter.
Tucker finished the night with 122 yards on 10 touches to continue to add to his school records.
Muhonen had a career night, pulling in eight aerials for 145 yards.
“They were doubling Lameric early in the game and Muhonen really stepped up,” praised Coach Floyd. “By him taking the pressure off, it opened up some things for Lameric.”
Mullis also had another big night, gaining 93 yards on 19 carries, while Moore finished with 32 yards on a half dozen rushes.
Standifer increased his completion percentage to 71.6 on the season with a 16-for-20 passing night for 257 yards, putting him over the 2,100-yard mark for the year.
“Dylan had another great game,” Coach Floyd said of his signal caller who has 26 total touchdowns — 20 passing and a half dozen rushing — this season.
Headrick and Appalachian State commit Jay Person led the “Black Hole Defense” with five solos tackles in six total hits each.
Headrick also had 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble to go with his blocked extra point attempt. Person also got the Mountaineer QB for a sack, plus had another 1.5 TFL.
Senior Mason Mitchell also helped out with five solo take downs, including a trio behind the line of scrimmage.
Along with his key kickoff return, Brewer celebrated his birthday with couple of pass break ups and a trio of solo tackles.
“Brewer doesn’t get the credit he deserves,” proclaimed Floyd. “He covers our opponent’s best receivers and does a great job of shutting them down.
“Our defense played well again tonight. We missed a few tackles at times, but overall we did what we needed to do to keep them in check.”
Bradley is now 7-1 on the season and a victory Friday night against William Blount will secure them a home game in the opening round of the playoffs.
Heritage slips to 3-5 overall and 2-2 in region play, but could be out of the playoff picture unless they find a way to knock off Maryville Friday night or Ooltewah in the season finale.
Cleveland (5-3) and Ooltewah (4-4) are also 2-2 in the conference and could be playing for third place in the region Friday night at Benny Monroe Stadium.
Standifer Shines as Bears Sweep 5-Way
By PATRICK MacCOON Sports Writer
Lack of practice or not, Bradley Central’s rising junior quarterback Dylan Standifer made major improvements in his first 7-on-7 action.
After a pair of turnovers in a tightly contested opening 20-minute scrimmage against Heritage, the first-year expected starter took full command against tough competition Tuesday evening at BCHS.
Against two of Knoxville’s top-tier teams in Knoxville Catholic, who is 41-12 with a Class 4-A state championship over the past four seasons, and Austin-East (21 wins since 2015), Standifer threw for a combined six touchdowns and no turnovers.
In three games the Bears accurate signal caller, who completed north of 70 percent of his passes, threw for nine scores in the 5-way 7-on-7 on his home gridiron.
“To be honest, we felt like Dylan was probably a little rusty coming in to today,” BC head coach Damon Floyd said. “Early on he missed some throws and slipped on an interception. But overall we were impressed on his first day back from baseball. He got better and better as the evening went on.”
Accuracy has been a strength of Standifer’s through limited varsity time under center as he is 44-of-60 (.733) through the air for 513 yards and five touchdowns.
A slew of receivers made big plays for Bradley, who won all four contests.
Proving to be one of the top receivers in the state last season, senior standout Lameric Tucker totaled nine catches for over 100 yards and scored three touchdowns.
His most impressive score, which he had 17 total last season, came on a 12-yard jump ball near the front left pylon against Austin-East. He also scored on a 28-yard wheel route down the right sideline against Knox Catholic.
An immediate impact player over his first two high school scrimmages, freshman 6-foot-3 wideout Tray Curry scored four touchdowns. He scored two against Heritage and now has six scores in 7-on-7’s.
Also adding to the firepower of the air attack were sophomore Saylor Clark and senior Stephen Muhonen.
Clark scored on a 41-yard bomb down the middle of the field against Austin-East. Muhonen scored twice against Knox Catholic, which included an impressive catch over his right shoulder for a 25-yard score late.
“Tray scored quite a bit today and scored our first one of the day to get us started,” Coach Floyd said. “Nick (Howell), Stephen and Lameric are going to be three-year starters and Saylor Clark is going to be a stud too. We feel really good about our receiving corps.”
Standifer threw for four touchdowns in a thrashing of Knox Catholic, who only scored once against the Bears.
“Dylan showed a lot of composure against what may be the No. 1 team in the state this season in 5-A,” BCHS offensive coordinator Keith Freeman said. “We threw and caught the ball well today. These young kids got some important reps. We are trying to get them ready for the season and build depth.”
Bradley’s defense was impressive throughout the day as well.
In a thrashing of Knox Catholic the Bears defense forced three sacks as the secondary forced tight coverage to where the opposing quarterback did not even throw the ball.
The Irish will return to Cleveland to face Walker Valley on Oct. 13.
“I felt like the intensity was raised when Knox Catholic lined up against us,” Coach Floyd said. “It was probably the best we played offensively and defensively all night. They have a chance to win the state every year, so it was nice to see.”
Seniors Jeffery Brewer, Jay Person, Jake Presley and freshman Ricky Smith all had strong days for BC as its defense only allowed three scores.
The Bears junior varsity and freshman played in the last scrimmage of the day against Meigs County.
Freshman BC quarterback Tucker Pope threw for a pair of scores.
Bradley will get back on the practice field today and will compete in a full day of 7-on-7’s Saturday at UTC.
“We have a lot more work to do and three more of these scrimmages next week,” Floyd said. “The real football will start when we put some pads on.”
Bradley Duo Make Memories
By PATRICK MacCOON Sports Writer
For Bradley seniors Nick Howell and Stephen Muhonen, Friday night’s rivalry victory provided memories they will cherish for a lifetime.
Cleveland came into play only allowing 117 yards per game on the ground and believed they had the personnel to halt any significant ground game from its opponent.
However, talk through the week lit a fire behind Nick Howell who ran extremely hard.
Howell, (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) even had his nine-yard touchdown run in the first quarter where he lowered his shoulder to blast an opponent featured on MaxPreps official Twitter page.
“We came out with a chip on our shoulder because their coach was taking shots at our offensive line,” said Howell, who averages 142.5 total yards per game. “They said we couldn’t get a win by controlling the game up front. I think we proved that our offensive line was better than they thought.”
Running with steam behind blockers and falling for extra yards along with Adam Mullis (75 rushing yards), both runners and the big men up front gained their respect in the trenches.
“Nick ran hard, bottom line,” CHS head coach Scott Cummings said. “We didn’t tackle well at times and he was a hard-nosed runner tonight. He gets a lot of credit for always fighting forwards.”
Howell not only broke tackles left and right on his 21 carries for 128 of his team’s season-high 240 rushing yards, but his game went much further than that.
The Bradley bruiser, despite having to check out of the game twice in the second half, finished with seven catches for 58 yards and boomed a punt down inside the 20.
“We have not coached too many kids that have his ability when you talk about his size, speed, he can carry the ball, be a threat at receiver and block really well,” BCHS head coach Damon Floyd said of Howell. “He is a very smart kid and gives us a tremendous amount of versatility that suits our offense very well.”
While playing at wide receiver in previous years, the Bears do-it-all weapon now has 57 carries for 298 yards (4 rushing TDs) and 17 catches for 272 yards (2 receiving TDs).
Howell took several big licks and was a little hobbled after the game, but still had a smile as he and Muhonen took in the victory together postgame.
After all, his good friend set up an improbable and critical score.
Right before halftime Muhonen, a sure-handed receiver, reeled in a 31-yard catch high above a defender and tumbled to the Cleveland one-yard line on third-and-goal from the 32.
With 1.5 seconds left in the half, he gave standout signal caller Dylan Standifer time to ride his lineman over the top for a touchdown on a quarterback sneak to take a 21-7 halftime lead.
Muhonen produced 69 of his game-high and career-high 108 yards (7 catches) in the first half and gave Bradley a major jolt.
“Stephen has a bunch of big catches over his career and is a three-year starter for us,” Coach Floyd said. “Sometimes he doesn’t get enough credit because he plays with Lameric (Tucker), Nick and when Tyler Carpenter was here. He is so consistent and unselfish.
He does a lot of the dirty work and is a great blocker. He never complains and always puts forth great effort. I was happy to see him get all those catches and yards because he is the ultimate team player.”
On a night where the Blue Raiders took away recent UTC football commit in Tucker until the Bears’ game-winning drive where he had 50 of his 53 total yards, Muhonen proved how deep the wide receiver unit truly is.
After all the group has flashed all season its incredible route running and hands, as Standifer is completing passes at a mark of 74 percent and averaging 265 passing yards per game through a 3-1 start and 2-0 mark in Region 2-6A play.
“It could be anybody and this week it happened to be Stephen,” Floyd said. “Dylan did a good job making the right reads and Coach Freeman put us in position to make those plays. We thought Stephen might be freed up a little with them focusing on Lameric and Nick.”
Muhonen had more yards against the Blue Raiders than he had previously over three games, as he now has 19 catches for 210 yards this season.
The win for Bradley is its third straight victory in the crosstown rivalry, which is now 27-16 all-time in favor of Cleveland.
Muhonen and his teammates thoroughly enjoyed the moment, as the Bears clawed out a victory against a tough Blue Raider squad that fought till the closing moments.
“It’s definitely special since it’s our senior year,” Muhonen said. “This was a win everyone who plays in this game wants. I am happy for Nick too. We played tennis together last year and do a lot of things together. I guess you can say it is a bond that can’t be broken.”
Howell added, “Stephen is an animal to say the least. It’s such an amazing feeling to go out with a win like this in front of our home crowd. You get to remember something like this for the rest of your life.”
2017 Football Schedule
Aug. 18 Farragut Home
Aug. 25 Walker Valley Away
Sept. 1 Ooltewah* Away
Sept. 8 Bye
Sept 15 Cleveland* Home
Sept. 22 Rhea County Home
Sept. 29 McMinn County* Away
Oct. 5 Soddy Daisy Away
Oct 13 Heritage* Home
Oct. 20 William Blount* Home
Oct. 27 Maryville* Away
Bears Fall to Maryville
By JOE CANNON
MARYVILLE — Goliath defeated countless enemies before David came along.
Likewise, Maryville’s football team has subdued numerous opponents and Friday night, Bradley Central couldn’t land a stone to the forehead as its eight-game winning streak was snapped by the perennial powerhouse to claim the Rebels 18th straight region championship.
“We needed to play our best game and we didn’t,” lamented veteran Bear head coach Damon Floyd of the 31-7 defeat in the Region 2-6A title game.
“We knew what they (Maryville) were going to do and we didn’t make the plays to stop it. This was a total team loss all the way around — offense, defense, special teams.
“It’s a big letdown to play like that in such an emotional game, but we’ve got to accept the blame, get over it and move on to next week.”
With the 2017 regular season now in the books, seventh-ranked Bradley turns its attention to the TSSAA playoffs as it will host Science Hill at 7 p.m. Friday at Bear Stadium in an opening round game.
As a No. 2 seed, Bradley enters its eighth-straight postseason after an 8-2 campaign, with a 5-1 Region 2-6A mark.
The Hilltoppers come to town as the third seed from Region 1, sporting a 7-3 overall record, including 4-2 in league play.
Having now won 66 straight home games, second-ranked Maryville (9-1, 6-0) will entertain Bearden (6-4, 3-3) in this week’s opening round action.
The Rebels set the tone quickly Friday, winning the coin toss and electing to receive the opening kickoff.
After returning the kick to its own 44, Maryville picked up four first downs in seven plays with senior quarterback Dylan Hopkins sneaking in from the 1 for the score just 96 seconds into the contest.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Alabama-Birmingham commit completed 17-of-20 passes for 202 yards, plus carried the ball a dozen times for another 85 and scored all four Rebel touchdowns on the evening.
After allowing Bradley just one first down on its opening series, the host got the ball back on their own 13 and promptly marched down field in eight plays before Hopkins covered the final 41 yards on a QB draw.
After the ensuing kickoff, the Bears were able to mount an impressive 15-play drive that included a 37-yard pass from junior Dylan Standifer to senior Stephen Muhonen on a fake punt.
However, after the march stalled inside the Rebel 10, a 25-yard field goal attempt struck the right upright and bounced away.
After a rare three-and-out by the Rebels, the punter had to track down an errant snap over his head. Scooping the ball up at the 2-yard line, he was able to get off an impressive kick that rolled dead at the Maryville 44.
It took the Bears a dozen plays, and overcoming back-to-back penalties, but Standifer was able to punch the ball in from the 1 on a fourth-and-goal play with 3:05 left in the half.
The Rebels once again got a big return on the ensuing kickoff, bringing the ball to their own 43 and were able to drive down for another score before the intermission.
After moving the pigskin to the Bear 6 in just five plays, the Bradley defense was able to keep the powerful hosts out of the end zone on three straight plays, setting up an 18-yard Jack Cone field goal with 3.6 seconds on the clock for a 17-7 halftime advantage.
After the break, Bradley took the second half kickoff and marched the ball to the Rebel 27 in just eight plays, but on a fourth-and-3 the host defense came up with a sack to force the turn over on downs.
Six plays later, Hopkins broke the plane of the end zone once again, this time from six yards out.
The hosts were able to tack on score in the final frame as well when Hopkins capped a 10-play, 77-yard march with a 10-yard sprint to paydirt.
The Rebels posted 21 first downs in 446 yards of offense, while holding the normally potent Bears (36.4 points and 425 yards average per game before Friday) to only 269 total yards and just the single score.
Standifer completed 18-of-32 passes for 199 yards, plus carried the ball 10 times for 33 more.
Sophomore Saylor Clark pulled in seven passes for 71 yards, including five for double-digit gains.
UTC commit Lameric Tucker hauled in a half dozen receptions for 60 yards, while Muhonen had three for 48.
Senior Nick Howell finished with 51 yards on 12 carries for 31 yards and a pair of 10-yard aerials.
Defensively for the Bears, senior Mason Mitchell and junior Hayden Owenby were both in on a dozen hits. Mitchell had six solos tackles and Owenby three.
Senior cornerback Jeffrey Brewer was kept busy with a half dozen solos and a trio of assisted tackles, plus he had one tackle for loss and striped the ball loose for a fumble.
Appalachian State commit Jay Person scooped up the pigskin and returned it 20 yards, plus was in on eight tackles, including a sack.
Bradley hurts its own cause with a dozen penalties for 110 yards in the contest, while Maryville was flagged seven times for 74 yards.
“Give Maryville a lot of credit. They are a great team and did what they do. It’s frustrating to know we didn’t play our best game against them,” commented Coach Floyd of the 16-time state champs, who have played in 17 of the last 20 state title games.
“We made too many mistakes and they took advantage of them. You can’t do those kind of things against a team like Maryville.”
“We can’t sit and whine about it (losing the game). We have to move on and concentrate on the playoffs,” the Papa Bear proclaimed. “From here on out it’s survive and advance.”
Bears Continue to Build Depth
By Gary Owenby Banner Correspondent
The Bradley Central Bears hosted their annual 5-way scrimmage Saturday night at Bear Stadium and Mother Nature did her job when she came through for players and fans alike with a break from the suffocating heat and humidity of recent days.
The Bear varsity continued to display a volatile passing game that was spread over several outstanding receivers and also the reawakening of a running attack. Veterans and young players alike contributed to the successful evening, as the Bears opened play against the McMinn Central Chargers.
Junior Cole Reyer got the defense off to an auspicious start when he darted into the Charger backfield early in their offensive set and stripped the ball away. Not missing a step, 30 yards later he had the first Bear score of the night.
The Bear defense played stout all night but showed that there was room for improvement. “We missed a lot of tackles tonight, but got better as the night went on,” commented Bear head coach Damon Floyd.
The Bear offense then took over and looked impressive as it tacked on two more scores in the 10-plays-per-team offensive format. Junior quarterback Dylan Standifer continued his mastery of spreading the receptions to multiple receivers while senior Nick Howell continued to impress in the preseason action, pulling in a 10-yard score for the first Bear offensive touchdown.
Not to be outdone, freshman Tray Curry hooked up with Standifer on a screen pass and exploded down the sideline for a 70-yard touchdown reception. Junior placekicker Clay Shoemaker added PATs after both scores and was perfect throughout the night’s action as the Bears closed out the Chargers, 20-0.
The Bears next met former region foe Hardin Valley and gained a small measure of revenge for a 14-13 loss during the 2016 regular season as they tallied a single score while the defense pitched another shutout. The 7-0 win came as sophomore Saylor Clark found paydirt on a 10-yard pass from Standifer with Shoemaker once again successful on the PAT. The Bear defense picked up its second turnover of the night with a fumble recovery against the Hawks as well.
The East Ridge Pioneers matched up next with the Bears and could do nothing against the rugged Bear defense. After stopping the Pioneer offense, the Bears took another 7-0 decision as Standifer once again found young sophomore Clark for the catch and his second touchdown reception of the evening.
The Fighting Irish of Knox Catholic were the final foe for the Bear varsity in a matchup that ended in a 7-7 tie. The Irish remain one of a very few football-playing private schools that opted to stay in the public school domain after deciding not to move to Division II with the latest TSSAA reclassification. They have been a powerhouse team for the past several years, with a state title in 2015 in 4-A play. They feature three players listed on the preseason All-State team, including two-way star lineman Cade Mays, who is rated the No 1 high school player in the state and is headed to Knoxville to play for the Tennessee Vols. Mays is listed as 6-6, 325 pounds with a 5-star ranking and has dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. He was also named a Mr. Football award winner in 2016.
The Bears managed the first score of this encounter as Standifer lofted a pass to Howell near the back of the end zone for a sensational catch and a touchdown. This score was set up earlier in the drive as Clark ripped off a 50-yard catch-and-run with a nifty move that freed him from the defense before he was chased down.
Following the scrimmage portion of the night, the teams matched up for goal-line situations where the Bear defense shut down Central, Catholic and East Ridge, with Hardin Valley grabbing a single score. Jeffery Brewer nabbed the only Bear interception of the night to stop Catholic. The Bear offense was unstoppable in goal-line situations and scored against all four teams.
“We had a lot of good reps tonight against some very strong competition,” related Coach Floyd as the night’s action was winding down. “The best thing was we knocked heads in full pads against other teams using officials, and have a lot of tape to review.”
The Bear running game saw its first action following the conclusion of seven-on-seven passing camps, and was led throughout the evening by Stephen Muhonen, along with Howell and junior Kahlil Lamberth. Adam Mullis also flexed his strength and consistently moved the ball before getting dinged and should be fine going forward. Howell has shown excellent speed and power after missing most of the 2016 season with a broken collarbone suffered on two different occasions, while senior Devon Moore has been cleared for contact after being sidelined nearly the entire 2016 season as well with a serious leg injury. He is in a two-week re-acclimation period at this time.
The Bears will return to evening practices before traveling to Sewanee next Thursday night where they’ll face always strong D-II opponent Ensworth. The Tigers are reported to be down in overall numbers but have multiple players being actively recruited by D1 schools. It should be a formidable challenge for the Bears as they continue their countdown to opening night on Aug. 18, when they’ll host another powerhouse, Farragut, defending 5-A state champions.
The Tri-State Officials Association presented Bradley Central the Larry Sells Sportsmanship Award on Saturday night. Sells was a well-known and respected official for many years before he passed away.
According to Craig Phillips, the association’s assigning officer, it represents “the school chosen by the officials that provides the best atmosphere for the officials. We are always taken care of at Bradley, and it is appreciated. This includes the teams, fans and administration at Bradley Central,” he noted.
'Black Hole D' Envolopes Rhea
By JOE CANNON Assistant Sports Editor
The “Black Hole Defense” truly lived up to its nickname Friday night, being “a region of space having a gravitational field so intense that no matter or radiation can escape.”
The Bradley Central defenders sacked the Rhea County quarterback eight times and held the 10th-ranked (5A) Golden Eagle offense to just 164 total yards for a 21-7 Bear victory.
“We won the battle of down and distance,” proclaimed Bradley head coach Damon Floyd.
“They (Rhea) are a tough team to prepare for because you can’t simulate their (wing-T) offense effectively in practice, but our defense did a great job of shutting them down.”
With their fourth straight win under their belts, the seventh-ranked (6A) Bears will now turn their attention to it longest rival — McMinn County.
The Cherokees are 1-4 on the season and 0-2 in Region 2-6A play and will be coming off a bye week.
Bradley (4-1, 2-0) will travel to Athens Friday for the 95th meeting between the two teams, including 91 straight seasons.
Although the Bear offense started Friday’s homecoming game with a three-and-out, the “Black Hole Defense” had their backs with tackles behind the line of scrimmage on the first two Rhea snaps, including senior DE Kevin Gentry getting the night’s first sack.
After the ensuing punt, the hosts needed just two plays to find the end zone as junior QB Dylan Standifer threw a swing pass in the left flat to senior Lameric Tucker and the all-state speedster picked up some big blocks and exploded for a 69-yard scoring sprint.
The extra point by junior Clay Shoemaker marked the lone points in the game’s first 37 minutes of the contest.
“Getting that stop and then the quick score really set the tone for us,” declared Coach Floyd.
Rhea County (3-3) picked up 55 of their 58 yards in the opening half on their ensuing series, but stalled out after their only trip into the Red Zone at the Bear 19.
After senior Maggie Towl was crowned homecoming queen at the half, the teams returned to the field for a scoreless third quarter.
The Bear “D” held the boys from Evensville to just nine net yards on nine plays with back-to-back sacks by SEC prospect Jay Person thwarting the lone Eagle first down in the period.
After a bad snap over the punter’s head on their first second half series, Bradley’s offense started an 11-play, 80-yard scoring march midway through the third frame and finished it early in the fourth.
Tucker had three big plays on the series with runs of 17 and nine yards, plus a drive-saving 22-yard catch on a fourth-and-4 play.
Standifer capped the drive with a two-yard plunge with 10:08 left in the contest.
After the Bear “D” forced another three-and-out, highlighted by an 11-yard sack by senior DB Jordan McIllwain, the hosts scored quickly again as Tucker broke off a 12-yard run and then Standifer found him deep across the middle for a 60-yard strike.
Shoemaker tacked on the final Bear point with 7:23 on the clock.
Despite being down three scores with time running down, the Eagles stuck to their time-consuming running game before breaking the shutout with 93 seconds remaining on a 28-yard pass from junior Zack Pemberton to senior AJ Velasco to complete a 13-play march.
“We gave up some yards (83) on that last drive, plus on the one (series) in the first half, so that was the majority of their yards,” Floyd related.
“Overall it was a great night for our defense against a very tough opponent. We’re happy to get the win.”
Person led the Bear attack with five solos tackles, a pair of assists, three sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and a couple of QB hurries.
“This kind of offense (Rhea’s) is just right up Jay’s alley. They are very run oriented, so he has very little pass coverage responsibilities, plus he can crowd the line and use his speed to disrupt their backfield,” assessed Coach Floyd of the outside linebacker’s performance.
Fellow senior Jake Presley made eight solo tackles from his safety position, plus he was in on an assist.
Senior DE Henley Headrick trapped the Eagle QB for a pair of sacks, while junior LB Hayden Owenby also got in on the sack attack.
The Bear offense, which was minus all-purpose standout Nick Howell, put up more than 300 yards for the fourth time this season, with 174 on just seven pass completions, plus 132 on 29 rushes.
Tucker, a recent UT-Chattanooga commit, led the way with 200 all purpose yards on four catches and just five carries.
Senior Adam Mullis gained 56 yards on a dozen carries, while classmate Devin Moore added 37 yards on eight touches.
Bears’ Adam Mullis Provides Spark
By PATRICK MacCOON Banner Sports Writer
Behind every machine there are parts working together to fulfill its duties.
For the Bradley Central Bears football program, two consecutive nine-win seasons have seen Adam Mullis grind out yards and do whatever he is asked.
Even after leading a stellar program in rushing yards the past two seasons, the backfield bruiser continues to be worried less about his personal performance than the final result on the scoreboard.
“The biggest thing about Adam is he is unselfish,” BCHS head coach Damon Floyd said. “We asked him the other day if he had to go out and block an entire game for us would he do it. He didn’t hesitate to say yes. He always goes out there and does whatever it takes to win.”
With the circumstances prime for Mullis to be heavily involved in the game plan against Science Hill last Friday, his number was called often in a 41-34 win to begin the TSSAA Class 6A playoffs.
Following his lead blockers, who parted major running lanes, the 5-foot-8, 185-pounder hit an extra level for his sixth career 100-yard rushing performance to set a new high mark with 171 yards on 25 carries.
“I just try to do my job, put in the work and hope everything comes out in our favor,” Mullis said. “I never want to take a play off. My ‘hogs’ (offensive linemen) up front did a great job and didn’t miss nearly any blocks.”
The humble and soft-spoken leader of the Bears backfield has totaled 776 yards and four touchdowns on 128 carries this season. His 6.1 yards per rush average is nearly two yards higher than any of his other three years toting the ball in varsity action.
Mullis has rushed for a 1,837 career yards on 378 carries and has scored 15 total touchdowns, nine of which came in his 950-yard junior season.
While the passing attack for Bradley has taken the spotlight quite often the past several seasons, the running game has been highlighted as well, mostly through the steady play of Mullis.
“We really have leaned on Adam,” Bradley offensive coordinator Keith Freeman said. “He has carried the ball for us the last 2 ½ years and really done all we’ve asked of him. We have had some injuries in the backfield and he has stepped up for us.”
After giving the Hilltoppers fits yet again (with 311 rushing yards and four scores in two career games against Science Hill) Mullis’ focus now is helping his team do whatever it takes to reach a new level.
Bradley has three nine-win seasons since 2010, but has yet to have a double-digit win campaign in the 21st century, or advance to the third round of the playoffs.
Despite narrow second-round losses to Blackman (38-35, 2016) and Oak Ridge (28-26, 2010), the Bears are not worried about past results but the opportunity at hand.
“We really have worked hard and put in everything we have for this team,” Mullis said. “If we can do the little things right, the big things will take care of themselves. We have to win every play and keep pushing to be better.”
To be able to run the football with success in the playoffs is one of the biggest keys for any program, as it can control the clock and open up big plays through the air.
Bradley will look to continue to make a big push with its senior-laden offensive line, and a backfield that has been home to a trio of seniors in Mullis, Nick Howell and Devin Moore.
A second-round TSSAA playoff matchup with Dobyns-Bennett on Friday stands in the way of a program hungry to take things to the next level.
“What’s great about Adam is, he is not only a strong runner, but he is big in our passing game as well,” Freeman said. “He has been a huge part of our protection package on passing plays and really knows how to block. He does a little bit of everything for us. He and all our kids are ready to lay it on the line for us.”
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Region 2 6A