Relentless Pride …….Honored Tradition
Clark, Keeping the Tradition Alive
By PATRICK MacCOON
Saylor Clark is having a break out year for the Bears this season. Being the only returning starter at receiver from last year, Clark is ready to take on the responsibility of being the one of the go to guys this year.
Being born with "Black and Gold" in his veins, Clark has extra motivation as well for a region battle that once had to be discontinued for several years due to emotions running a little too high.
"I have wanted to be a Bear ever since I knew what it meant when I was really little," Clark said. "I was a water boy for my uncle's (Chuck Clark) basketball team. It's a huge tradition. The rivalry game with Cleveland is one you always want to win at all costs."
Dylan Standifer has carried over a strong chemistry with the 6-foot-2 surehanded Clark, who reeled in five TDs last season with a crucial one coming in a 27-21 win at home over Cleveland.
Clark has 19 catches for 255 yards (13.4 ypc) with a pair of scores against Walker Valley and Ooltewah.
"The guys ahead of him in the past set the bar high so he would know what to expect," said BCHS head coach Damon Floyd. "Saylor takes every week personally. He is trying to win and is the ultimate competitor. This week against Cleveland he may have a little extra motivation, though."
Once a part of a deep pecking order in the BC wide receiver room, Clark is the current leader by example at the position, even for highly sought-after D1 target Tray Curry to learn from.
No matter what his personal stats may read after one of the biggest games of his life this Friday, victory is all that matters to the true-blood Bradley standout.
"If I have zero catches and we win, that's great," Clark said. "I would take that over having 10 catches and losing any day. I am in this for the team. This is a huge region game."
Bears Nipped by Owls
By JOE CANNON
Veteran local broadcaster Earl Rowan noted on the air before the Bradley Central-Ooltewah game, the last 18 winners of the rivalry has scored at least 28 points.
Unfortunately, for the Bears they only came up with 27 Friday night.
In a dose of déjà vu with a different ending, the Owls rallied for a trio of touchdowns in an 8 1/2-minute span for the 28-27 victory in the Region 2-6A opener for both teams.
Ooltewah made a similar run in last year's game on its home turf, but Bradley was able to hold on for the 42-35 win in 2017.
"Once again little things hurt us," declared Bear head coach Damon Floyd after Friday's heartbreaker.
"You can't have a holding penalty on a kickoff return that's going for a touchdown. You can't snap a ball over our quarterback's head. You've got to have a good snap on an extra point.
"It's frustrating because our kids are working so hard. We're not blaming anyone, but we made several mistakes throughout the game. We win as a team and we lose as a team.
"When you lose a close game, it's on the coaching, so this one's on me," the veteran mentor proclaimed, falling on the proverbial sword.
"We were up by 20 points early in the third quarter, but then gave up 21 points before the quarter was over.
"You've got to give Ooltewah credit. They made the plays they needed. They are a team you can't ever feel comfortable against, no matter how big of a lead you have.
"It's a tough loss. We're going to take off Monday because we have the bye week, but we would have done the same if we won. We've got to learn from our mistakes. When we get knocked down, we're going to get back up."
After getting a breather this week, Bradley (1-2 overall, 0-1 Region 2-6A) will prepare for the annual "Crosstown Clash" with Cleveland High (1-1, 1-0), which picked up its first win of the season with a 44-21 rolling over William Blount Friday. The Bears will invade Benny Monroe Stadium on Sept. 14.
Bradley struck quickly Friday evening, needing just a half dozen plays to find paydirt.
Opening the 80-yard scoring march with a trick play, freshman Aiden McCleary threw a halfback pass to senior Ethan Vaughn for a 28-yard gain.
On the other end of the field, the Bears' first score was the more familiar connection between senior QB Dylan Standifer and junior receiver Saylor Clark for a 30-yard scoring strike with just 2:38 gone off the clock.
After the Bradley defense forced the visitors to give the ball back with a three-and-out, the Black-and-Gold moved the ball across midfield again, but Owl defensive back Chase Sanders picked off a pass and returned it 50 yards to the Bear 22 to end the threat.
Three plays later, the visitors evened the score with a 12-yard pass from senior Kyrell Sanders to classmate Tahj Cargle.
After the teams traded punts, Bradley put together a 13-play drive covering 77 yards with Standifer and Clark connecting for 28 and 10 yards, the latter of which put the ball at the one yard line, from where the Bear signal caller punched it in.
The hosts tacked on another score on their next possession, going 68 yards on seven plays.
Senior Parker Johnson broke free on a 35-yard jaunt for his first varsity touchdown before classmate Clay Shoemaker put the Bears up 21-7 just 68 seconds before the halftime horn.
After the intermission, senior Kahlil Lamberth recovered Shoemaker's pooch kick at the Owl 32.
After a surprise 35-yard pass to senior Cole Reyher, Standifer and Clark hooked up again for a five-yard score just 54 seconds into the second half.
However, on the extra point attempt, Standifer (who is the Bear holder) had to scoop up the ball and scramble to get a pass attempt off, which was knocked away from the receiver.
The 20-point deficit didn't deter the Owls, who had lost 35-34 the previous week on a failed two-point conversion at Science Hill.
The boys in Red-and-Grey scored on their next three possessions, with senior speedster Sincere Quinn carrying the ball in on runs of 19 and three yards before Sanford found Fisher Perry with a 16-yard scoring pass with :00.7 on the third quarter clock.
Ooltewah's standout kicker Braeden Haynes provided what turned out to be the game-winning point by splitting the uprights for the fourth straight time.
After Quinn's first score, Bradley fans were brought to their feet when senior Ricky McCleary returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards to paydirt, but a holding block was flagged 15 yards behind him.
With the points taken off the scoreboard and the ball pushed back to their own 47 after the penalty, the next snap sailed over Standifer's head and he recovered it just before an Owl defender for a 22-yard loss. The Ooltewah defense forced a punt three plays later.
Neither team could find the end zone in the final quarter, while the Bears penetrated to the Owl 32 once and the visitors drove to the host's 29.
Getting the ball back with just over 35 seconds remaining, the Bears went deep across the middle, but Owl linebacker Malachi Quinn picked it off and returned it 34 yards to the Bear 6. Ooltewah took a knee to let the clock run out on its 19th victory in 32 meetings with the Bears.
While the Bradley defense held the explosive Sincere Quinn to just 81 yards on 17 touches, Sanford did the main damage, connecting on 20-of-28 passes for 163 yards, plus rushing 13 times for 107 yards.
Standifer countered with 67 yards on 10 carries, plus going 19-for-30 through the air for 190 yards. Clark pulled in seven aerials for 86 yards and a pair of scores.
Defensively, senior Hayden Owenby led the Bears with 10 tackles, including four solos, a tackle for loss and a sack.
Reyher made seven solo tackles, assisted on a couple more with a pair of TFL and a sack of his own.
Sophomore Cam Creighton had eight total hits, including five solos, while classmate Kins Hooper had a trio of solos in five tackles, with one coming behind the line of scrimmage.
Junior Kam Arrowood was also in on five tackles, four of which were solo take downs, one for a loss.
Bradley was without sophomore standout receiver/defensive back Tray Curry, who received his third NCAA D-I offer this week from Virginia.
"Tray has a high ankle sprain and can't run right now, hopefully with two weeks before we play again he'll be ready to go," explained Coach Floyd.
"When somebody's out, it's the next man up. We expect them to play just as hard as the guy they're replacing.
"We are going to keep improving," he assessed. "Overall we clicked a lot, but we had a few key mistakes."
Malady of miscues plague Bears in opener
By JOE CANNON
FARRAGUT — The Bradley Central Bears got a lesson in Murphy's Law Friday night that they hope to soon forget.
"There's no way to sugar coat it, the self-inflected wounds killed us," declared veteran head coach Damon Floyd after his Bears turned the ball over eight times, including a half dozen in the first half, in a 34-0 embarrassment at Farragut.
"We're not going to point fingers at anybody. It's all our faults, from the coaches down. I didn't have us ready to play and that's on me.
"Believe it or not, there were some positives we can take from it," he added. "We'll come in Sunday as usual, watch the film together and try to learn from our mistakes. Then Monday, the focus shifts to Walker Valley."
The Mustangs will stampede into Bear Stadium Friday for the annual County Conflict, with both teams looking for their first victory of the new season.
"This game (at Farragut) will not define our season. We lost to them to open last year and went on to have a great year. Our goal now is we want to face them again in the playoffs."
Mr. Murphy's "what can go wrong, will go wrong" scenario plagued Bradley from the start Friday, with turnovers ending their first four offensive possessions. After receiving the opening kickoff, the initial miscue came on the fifth play of the night when Farragut's Tanner Corum made the first of his three interceptions on the evening. It briefly looked like the Admirals might also be in for a a long night when they fumbled the ball back three plays later when Bear sophomore Kins Hooper stripped the ball from a receiver and junior teammate Kam Arrowood pounced on it. However, Bradley gave it right back on the following snap, putting the ball on the turf on their own 22. The young Bear defense came up with a fourth-down stop at the 15 to prevent the hosts from scoring. However, three plays later, the pigskin was once again up for grabs and Farragut got it back just 16 yards from paydirt. This time they cashed in with a 13-yard dash by Kyle Carter, who finished with 182 yards on a dozen carries, including a pair of scores.
After the ensuing kickoff, the Bear offense got in sync and marched 54 yards in 10 plays, before the ball bounced off a receiver's hands into Corum's arms at the Admiral 17. Three big plays later found the end zone again on a 30-yard pass from junior Gavin Wilkinson to sophomore Matt White.
The Bradley offense once again responded with another impressive drive, this going 57 yards before Corum's third pick. The Bear defense, which gave up just four Admiral first downs in the opening half, was able to force the first Admiral punt, thanks in big part to an eight-yard Hooper sack of Wilkinson, but once again the pigskin popped free on the first play, giving it back to the hosts.
Bradley's "D" answered the call again, giving up just two yards while forcing a three-and-out. With the resulting kick stopping inside the Bear 1 yard line, Bradley got a break on a punt attempt from it's own end zone when the Admirals were flagged for a pair of infractions, negating the change of possession.
Starting at their own 16, the Bears were able to move the ball to the Admiral 15 before an incomplete pass on a fourth-down play just before the halftime buzzer ended the march shy of paydirt.
"For us to have turned the ball over six times and only be down 13-0 at the half, we felt like we were still in it," related Floyd.
The Bear Nation, which had filled the visitor's bleachers despite a constant light rain throughout the contest, got excited to start the second half. A "pooch kick" recovered by the Bears at the Admiral 30, and a 25-yard pass from senior Dylan Standifer to junior Saylor Clark that "went to the house" on the second play had the Black-and-Gold faithful on their feet. However, one of 22 yellow flags thrown on the night pulled the points off the scoreboard. Bradley was unable to duplicate the touchdown, turning the ball over on downs at the 25.
A half dozen runs by Carter in a nine-play drive gave Farragut a 20-0 advantage before tacking on a pair of fourth-quarter scores, including a 80-yard "Pick 6" by White.
"Our offensive line actually played really well. We ran the ball efficiently," declared Coach Floyd as the Bears gained 320 yards on 44 carries and 16 completed passes.
"Ricky McCleary ran really well, especially for his first varsity start," he assessed the 5-foot-10, 180-pound junior's 95 yards on 19 carries.
Standifer finished with 27 yards on 10 rushed, plus completed 15-of-31 passes for 159 yards. Clark collected seven receptions for 93 yards on the evening, while Curry pulled in four for 46 yards. Although Bradley gave up five touchdowns, only three were sparked by the eight Bear turnovers.
"Our defensive guys bowed their backs several times," declared Floyd.
Senior Brandon Adams and junior Tucker Still led the Bear defenders with five solo tackles apiece, while senior Hayden Owenby had four and assisted on another, plus had a tackle for loss. The Bear malady of miscues was not a school record, as Coach Terry Sweeney's team in 1970 once coughed the ball up 10 times in a game. Friday's result was the first time the Bears have been shutout since Ooltewah did so in the sixth game of the 2014 season.
"We won't stop. We'll keep battling. We've said all fall that we will be a much better team by midseason than we are at the start," Coach Floyd proclaimed. "We have a lot of guys who are playing on Friday nights for the first time, so it will take a little while for them to get adjusted to it."
New Bears Have Work To Do
By PATRICK MacCOON
For the 2018 Bradley Central football team, there is at least one known and expected strength to lean on as the kickoff to the season is 18 days away.
Scrambling out of the crowded pocket to extend plays downfield, senior Dylan Standifer connected with Saylor Clark and Tray Curry on deep passes to provide some of the top highlights from the Bears' 10th annual 6-way scrimmage Saturday evening.
With a brand-new offensive line, the state's second top passer in terms of QBR (138.2) last season and his dangerous wide receivers will have to improvise on any given Friday night.
"What Tray, Saylor and Dylan did tonight is what they will have to do all season," BC head coach Damon Floyd said. "Our quarterback is an all-state player and we expect him to lead the way. He handled the pressure well last season."
With a 6-foot, 4 1/2-inch frame, the 14-year-old Curry provided quite a thrill.
Moving with Standifer on the run down the right sideline, the explosive weapon got underneath the defense for a perfect strike and broke a tackle down the sideline for a score from 60 yards out.
The touchdown came against the reigning Class 5A state champion in Knox Catholic – a team chock-full of Division-I prospects on both sides of the ball.
Not playing 7-on-7 anymore, Curry impressed in full pads throughout the scrimmage as he scored five times in a two-hour span.
While a fellow all-state receiver in UTC's Lameric Tucker is gone after putting his footprint down as possibly the greatest receiver in Bradley Central history with the vast majority of all the records, sophomore Curry is set to shine in his own way.
"Tray does not have to be Lameric, because they are two totally different players," Coach Floyd said. "The good thing about him not having to be Lameric is he is Tray Curry, and he's a really good Tray Curry. He is a dynamic player and will have a lot of opportunities every Friday night. He is a player."
In the 6-way scrimmage each team got 10 plays on offense and defense, which was followed by a four-down red zone situation.
Curry also went over the top of two East Ridge defenders who provided a powerful hit, but he kept his feet in at the back right corner of the end zone.
Talk about an opponent's nightmare on end zone fades, the Bears could possibly have one of the best in the greater Chattanooga area.
Along with the Fighting Irish from Knoxville and the Pioneers, Soddy-Daisy, McMinn Central and Hardin Valley also competed at Jimmy Lovell Field.
Bradley Central's defense came away with three turnovers during the scrimmage, which included a pair of interceptions and a fumble recovery.
BC junior Ricky McCleary ran hard out of the backfield and broke a run of 25 yards down the left sideline as he flashed his cutting ability and speed.
While the team impressed at times, a lack of solid pass protection and missed tackles were noted.
"This is why we scrimmage," Floyd said. "There are a lot of things to fix. The good thing is we are playing with effort. We have to swarm to the ball carrier better and give our quarterback a cleaner pocket. Those areas have to be cleaned up."
As the Bears finished their first full week in pads, coaches are taking note of who is stepping up for a program coming back with a great deal of inexperience after a memorable 10-win 2017 campaign.
"Our guys need to understand the intensity and effort that comes with every rep," Floyd added. "You line up and go after it, then do it all over again.
"Last year is last year. A lot of those guys are gone and that's fine. It's time for these guys to step up and for us to coach them up."
BC plans to watch film today to go with a short practice and some lifting, as preparation for a road scrimmage with Alcoa this Friday begins.
For the second time in as many weeks, the Bears will be going up against a reigning state champion.
The Tornadoes went 13-2 last season and beat Covington, 31-20, in the Class 3A state championship game.
"It will be a physical scrimmage and one we need," Floyd said. "Alcoa is a tough team always. We need to prepare ourselves with those type of teams to be ready for the regular season."
2018 Football Schedule
Aug. 17 Farragut Away
Aug. 24 Walker Valley Home Aug. 31 Ooltewah* Home
Sept. 7 Bye
Sept 14 Cleveland* Away
Sept. 21 Rhea County Away
Sept. 28 McMinn County* Home
Oct. 4 Soddy Daisy Home
Oct 12 Heritage* Away
Oct. 19 William Blount* Away
Oct. 26 Maryville* Home
Bradley Maul Mustangs
By JOE CANNON
Veteran head coach Damon Floyd told his Bradley Central squad to forget last week's aberrational performance in Knoxville and start the season fresh. That's just what his 10th-ranked "sleuth" did when cross-county rival Walker Valley came to Bear Stadium Friday evening.
After getting shutout for just the second time in a decade by eighth-ranked Farragut the week before, Bradley bounced back big, putting 43 points on the scoreboard, two of which were for the Mustangs.
While the Black-and-Gold defense completely corralled the young Herd from the north end of the county, the only points for the visitors in the 41-2 outcome came on a Bear miscue that resulted in a safety.
"We're obviously happy with the win, but we still had several mistakes we need to correct," proclaimed Floyd, who is now 13-1 in "County Conflicts" against the Mustangs.
"We did a lot of good things, but honestly I'm frustrated some because there's a lot of little things we didn't — too many penalties, missed blocks, missed tackles, missed assignments. It's a good win, but there's a lot of stuff we still have to fix.
"We've got to be more consistent, especially next week," he assessed.
While the Bears (1-1) will entertain Ooltewah (1-1) in the Region 2-6A opener, Walker Valley (0-2) will make its third straight road trip, heading across the Tennessee River to Rhea County (1-0) Friday.
The Owls are coming off a hard-fought 35-34 loss at 13th-ranked Science Hill, while the 14th-ranked Golden Eagles breezed past Brainerd 35-14.
Wanting to get the bad taste our of their mouths from the previous week, Bradley wasted no time, scoring on its first two possessions Friday.
After sophomore Tray Curry returned the opening kickoff to the Bear 39, all-state quarterback Dylan Standifer hit junior Saylor Clark for a quick seven yards to the left sideline before swinging the ball to Curry in the right flat for what appeared to be a 54-yard touchdown.
However, the side judge said Curry stepped out of bounds at the 10 and a five-yard penalty before the next snap moved the ball back to the 15.
Junior Ricky McCleary scampered for five yards before Curry, who received an offer to play for Virginia Tech earlier in the day, ran it in from 10 yards out on a jet sweep.
After the Bear defense forced the first of seven three-and-outs on the night, Bradley needed just five plays to find paydirt again, this one on a perfectly thrown 36-yard bomb from Standifer to senior Ethan Vaughn, who caught it in stride at the goalline with just 3:43 gone off the game clock.
The hosts also put points on the board in their next offensive possession, but it was for the wrong team.
Forced to punt from its own 17, the Bear snap sailed over Standifer's head and bounced through and out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Bradley tacked on a second-quarter score after senior Parker Johnson stripped the ball lose on a sack and classmate Kahlil Lamberth recovered the Mustang fumble.
Putting together an eight-play drive that covered 55 yards, Standifer carried the ball in from the 1 with 2:45 on the clock for a 20-2 halftime advantage.
After the band performances during the intermission, the Bears found the end zone three more times, while holding the Mustangs to just one net rushing yard in the second half.
Standifer and Clark hooked up on a pair of 29-yard touchdown tosses, the first coming right after senior Cole Reyher recovered a Herd fumble on a muffed punt return attempt.
"Dylan (Standifer) had a big game connecting with Saylor (Clark) and Tray (Curry). Last week they were out of sync, but tonight they looked much better. This isn't 7-on-7 or scrimmages, so it's a little different and they'll get better together as we get them more reps on Friday nights."
Standifer completed 13-of-17 passes for 202 yards and a trio of scores. Clark and Curry both hauled in seven receptions for 76 and 79 yards respectively.
The other Bear score came on a 26-yard dash by McCleary, who finished with career-high 141 yards on 17 carries.
"Ricky ran the ball well and our offensive line did a good job for the most part," praised Coach Floyd.
"Defensively, we were able to get them into a lot of long yardage situations. We had to adjust some of our gap assignments in the second half and that really helped."
Reyher finished with eight solo tackles, including a pair behind the line of scrimmage and a sack.
Senior linebacker Hayden Owenby was in on a half dozen hits, including four solos, a sack and a TFL. Junior Kam Arrowood collected five tackles, with a sack.
The Bear defense sacked the Mustang QB a half dozen times while surrendering just 190 yards of total offense.
Walker Valley signal caller Griffin Broome completed 16-of-29 passes for 133 yards, but was held to just 21 yards on 23 carries.
Junior Eli Hancock topped the 'Stang receiving corp with seven catches for 82 yards, while Reid Gibson and Brody Swafford pulled in four and three receptions for 29 and 28 yards respectively.
Senior Clint Davis led the WV defense with 11 total tackles, including seven solos, while sophomore Skyy Craig was right behind him, also with seven solos in 10 tackles.
Junior Kellar Carson made eight total hits, with a pair of sacks, while senior Chris Crenshaw, plus sophomores Kallum Lowe and Christian Vandusen were in on seven hits apiece. Crenshaw also had 1.5 sacks, plus he and Vandusen made two TFL apiece.
After getting 90 yards on a dozen carries the week before in a 40-28 loss to Chattanooga Central, sophomore Heath Tanksley was held to only 39 yards on 12 rushes.
"We bounced back well after the way we played the first week," remarked Floyd. "This was a good way to turn it around and get ready for the rest of the season, especially with the region starting next week."
McCleary Overcomes Injury To Shine
By PATRICK MacCOON
Limping over to see his family after Bradley Central's second ever four-year sweep of Cleveland, Ricky McCleary clearly gave everything he had for the 'Black and Gold'.
After being held out of practice for the majority of the past two weeks, only logging a limited practice two days before the Region 2-6A showdown, McCleary put forth a powerful performance.
Even with a turf toe injury, the junior versatile running back fought his way to find pay dirt four times to lead a 32-14 road victory for the prideful Bears Friday night.
"I definitely went through a little bit of adversity," McCleary said, who got stepped on and hurt in the Ooltewah game. "But I knew I had to stick with it for my team. I toughed it out and played hard. I am tired, but I pushed through it."
In a 54-year-old rivalry where legends are remembered, the fight head coach Damon Floyd received from his first-year starting back was a great example of how his Friday night star has earned his moment.
As the full-time gunner last year on special teams, attention-seeking has never encompassed McCleary.
Playing for his team and supporting everyone, as they do for him, has revealed his character.
"I loved being a special teams guy last year," McCleary said. "I knew I was going to get my opportunity if I kept working and stayed hungry. With my number being called, I went as hard as I could."
McCleary was the first to brag about his teammates play after he out-rushed Cleveland by 77 yards all together on two less carries.
"I always work. I really don't talk much. I want to thank everybody who blocked for me tonight. Even Dylan (Standifer) threw some blocks and cleared a way for me. They deserve a lot of credit too. I could not have done it without them."
In the first half McCleary showed his capability as an all-purpose back by totaling 42 of his 67 first half yards through the air.
Bradley's offensive line blocked well on screen passes to help spring loose a shifty and speedy runner.
McCleary capped a 10-play scoring drive for the first score of the night.
With outstanding vision, he made an abrupt cut back to the middle as he zigged and zagged to make three tacklers miss on a 14-yard touchdown dash.
His second score was helped set up by junior Saylor Clark's 57 yard reception on a play-action pass from Standifer to start the drive. Clark went on to land his first 100-yard receiving game of his career.
Standifer was effective on the ground too as his six yard push behind his line set things up on the one yard line for McCleary to clean up for a 14-0 lead with 4:09 left in the second quarter.
On every one of his four trips for six points, strong emotions were released in a meaningful rivalry game.
"I went to Cleveland Middle School and I transferred to Bradley," McCleary said. "It meant a lot for me to show them I am somebody and capable of something. This game means a lot to me."
The highlight of the night for the FNF star was a sideline reversing 46 yard touchdown run to send a gut-punching blow to the Blue Raiders.
Instead of getting the ball back inside the Bradley 40 down 20-14 after what looked to be an impressive three-and-out, a roughing the kicker penalty cost CHS dearly.
Mental mistakes were far and few between for the Bears, who had an 11-4 penalty advantage.
With 2:12 left in the third quarter and a 26-14 lead, which would grow a little over a minute later on a Tray Curry "Randy Moss like" touchdown grab, McCleary had done his damage with 120 total yards and four TDs.
Shining in a game where over 6,000 people were easily in attendance, the win for Bradley once again kept the bragging rights on the south end of town.
McCleary stamped his mark on a night the Bears made a familiar statement. He finished with 20 carries for 95 yards to go with two catches for 42 yards.
"Everybody thought we were trash and said this would be our off year," McCleary said. "This is not our off year. It's another year for us to get better. We are going to be good."
After Nick Howell pummeled Cleveland for 186 total yards and a score last year in a 27-21 BC win, it was McCleary's turn.
He followed a motivated O-line to help bring back a fourth straight victory for 26 seniors, many of whom have waited patiently for their time.
"I learned a lot from guys like Adam Mullis and Nick Howell," he said. "I watched them for two years and really wanted to step in and not miss a beat. I want to be a threat in every way possible out of the backfield. Blocking included."
The shoes of those before him have not been too big to fill, even though McCleary had to wear a size 13 shoe on his injured left foot compared to his typical size 10 on his right.
He has now toted the rock 66 times for 362 yards (5.5 ypc) and five scores, while hauling in five passes for 50 yards in four games. He has rushed for over 90 yards in three of four games to start the season.
Another tough road trip is up next with a trip to Rhea County next Friday for the Bears, who continue to run Bradley County on the gridiron. Print
Bears Tough, Beat Raiders Yet Again
By JOE CANNON;and PATRICK MacCOON
Experts advise when encountering a bear, one should calmly and slowly back away to avoid provoking the wild beast.
Cleveland's Blue Raiders instead smacked one right on the nose Friday night and then paid dearly.
After the initial shock of quarterback Dylan Standifer getting leveled and bloodied on the first play from scrimmage, the all-stater came back out to lead Bradley Central to a roaring attack of the hosts for a dominate 32-14 victory in the 44th "Crosstown Clash."
Playing their first game on the Benny Monroe Stadium's new turf field, the Bears spoiled the Raider Hall of Fame and wrestling state championship ring celebrations before an overflow capacity crowd of approximately 6,500 fans.
Bradley claimed it's fourth straight victory in the 54-year rivalry, just one shy of their best mark of five in a row from 1974-78, during Coach Louie Alford's first go around as "Papa Bear."
The outcome also had big Region 2-6A ramifications as both local teams are fighting for one of four TSSAA playoff berths available.
"This was a big region win. Starting off 0-1 (with a heartbreaking 28-27 loss to Ooltewah two weeks ago) is tough, so you have to get back to .500 before you can go forward," declared current Bruin mentor Damon Floyd, who is now 7-6 against the Raiders.
"Beating Cleveland is a tremendous lift emotionally, but also in our goal of making the playoffs (for the ninth straight year)."
Now 2-2 on the season, Bradley will head across the Tennessee River to face longtime rival Rhea County in Evensville Friday night. The Golden Eagles are 3-1 on the campaign and currently ranked 14th in the Class 5A state poll, but could move up after a 21-7 victory over Lenoir City Friday night.
Meanwhile, Cleveland (1-3, 1-1) will regroup and head to the north end of the county to face Walker Valley (0-4) this week.
"We have to stay together," fourth year CHS head coach Scott Cummings said. "We are 1-1 in region play and everything is still in front of us. We have too many guys doing the right things to let those who are hurting our culture continue. Things are about to get much more harsh."
While Blue Raider defensive back David Dorsey had the loudest hit of the night, which took Standifer out of the game for three plays, the Bradley defense was lockdown in only allowing 18 yards on the ground on 22 carries.
Creative with their defensive blitzes, the Bears totaled five sacks and also had senior Brandon Adams intercept a pass late.
"We allowed two long scores tonight to a really talented receiver, but I can't find anything to be mad about our effort on defense," Floyd said. "We played really, really well defensively. They fought and kept pushing all the way."
After a scoreless first quarter, Bradley Central marched down field on a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive lasting over five minutes until the 11:11 mark of the second quarter.
Junior Ricky McCleary cut and zig-zagged his way 14 yards for the first of his four touchdowns on a night he fought for 137 total yards.
Over the past two weeks McCleary had logged just one practice in preparation for an intense rivalry.
"We had been keeping quiet about Ricky because we thought he could play. He came out banged up and gave us a tremendous effort. Great vision. Great feel. Unbelievable effort tonight."
Bradley Central soon extended the lead.
Sophomore Kins Hooper blasted through the middle for a seven yard sack on second-and-five. A timeout by CHS was put to little use, as the ensuing play saw junior Cam Arrowood and Hayden Owenby bring down the quarterback for a loss.
With momentum provided by the Bradley D, Standifer took a shot.
Selling the run fake well, he fired deep down his own sideline for a 57 yard connection with junior Saylor Clark, who took the ball down to the CHS 18.
Four plays later McCleary found a clear lane for a one-yard score and a 14-0 lead with 4:09 before the half.
Allowing just 191 yards of offense, the majority came from standout CHS receiver Robert Flowers.
Flowers hauled in five catches for 117 yards and two scores, which included a 35-yard strike from Jackson Moore down the left sideline to make for a 14-7 deficit at the half.
The CHS playmaker now has eight total touchdowns on the season with 485 receiving yards on 21 catches.
"You have to give Flowers credit," Coach Floyd said. "We had him bracketed all night and he got past double coverage twice for long scores. We knew where he was at on every play."
Flowers gave the 'Big Blue' a big shot of adrenaline with a 44 yard TD hookup with Moore as he drug a defender the final eight yards in for six.
With the score 20-14 in advantage of Bradley with five minutes left in the third, the next four minutes would prove decisive to the final outcome.
In what appeared to be a huge three-and-out stop for the Blue Raider defense, a roughing the kicker penalty on the punt was the most costly of their 11 total yellow flag mistakes.
The Bears made them pay as McCleary dazzled with a 46 yard touchdown run, as he danced down the right sideline before cutting it all the way across to the other sideline and racing to the end zone.
"The key moment was the roughing the punter penalty," Floyd said. "We've had our fair share on the other side of those type situations. Sometimes it bounces against you and tonight it went our way and we made the most of it."The Bears landed another big break as Camden Creighton forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff.
All of a sudden Bradley led 32-14 after sophomore Tray Curry's 4-yard sky-high leaping grab over a helpless defender with 49 seconds left in the third quarter.
Disappointment filled the Blue Raider sideline, which had high hopes to end a three-year losing skid to their arch rival.
Bradley did not allow positive net yards rushing in the second half.
"I can't say enough about our kids playing together," Floyd said. "This was a ball game until midway through the third quarter. Tonight's win is a culmination of what we've been doing since January."
Dorsey shadowed Curry for most of the night in a matchup of two emerging prospects. Curry finished with 12 touches for 62 yards and a score against a backup corner.
Clark led BC with five catches for 101 yards, which was his first time over the century mark in his career.
"We were able to go to Saylor more because they put Dorsey on Tray," Floyd said. "Coach (Matt) Moody did a great job moving guys around to mix it up and make us more difficult to defend."
Both rivals have a chance to see one another again this postseason if the cards fall into place.
For now, the Bears have four straight seasons of bragging rights as they "run this town" under the Friday night lights.
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