Bears Fall to Warriors
RICHARD ROBERTS Banner Sports Editor
CHATTANOOGA — Thirty-two teams set out in search of the Tennessee high school 6A football championship, and 16 teams will advance to the second round.
Bradley Central will not be one of those teams.
The Bears fought to the bitter end with Murfreesboro Riverdale Thursday night at Finley Stadium, overcoming two early second-half turnovers with a brilliantly executed fake punt to begin the fourth quarter to take a three-point lead. But in the end, the Warriors were able to make plays in crucial late game situations and held off the battling Bears on four straight incompletions to advance with a 38-34 win.
“It was a battle back and forth. They just made a couple more plays than we did. Our kids fought to the end. You just have to give Riverdale credit, they came out and beat us,” said a disappointed Bears head coach Damon Floyd. “We battled. It was just one of those game of whoever made the most plays was going to win. I’m proud of our kids and happy for this senior class. They represented Bradley with class. You want to win the game but I’m happy to be able to coach these kids.”
The Bears’ defense stepped up big time on the Warriors’ first possession, stopping Riverdale on a fourth-and three at the Bradley 22-yard line. But the Bears were forced to punt the ball away and Riverdale took advantage of their second possession with the first score of the night. The extra point attempt failed and the Warriors led 6-0 midway through the first quarter.
Bradley Central’s Lameric Tucker set the Bears up with solid field position with a 41-yard kick return and Bradley moved to the Riverdale 21 before the drive stalled. A 38-yard field goal attempt fell just short with 2:52 left on the clock.
After holding the Warriors and forcing a punt, the Bears moved from their own 44-yard line to the Riverdale 10 where Bears’ quarterback Cole Copeland — after hooking up with Tucker for 27 yards on the third play of the drive — fired a strike to a wide open Nick Howell in the end zone, tying score with 61 seconds left on the clock. Anthony White put the Bears on top 7-6 with the extra point.
After trading punts in the second quarter, the Bears started a drive at their own 26-yard line that ended five plays later with Copeland — a Tennessee 6A Mr. Football semifinalist — tucking the football and racing through the Riverdale defense for 47 yards to the end zone, giving the Bears their first lead of the night, 14-6.
The Warriors closed the gap to 14-13 minutes later with a 50-yard scoring drive with just under four minutes left in the half.
“The option game was hurting us on our assignment football. They got us on the edge a couple of times when we took the quarterback and they pitched it. The bottom line is they made a couple more plays than we did throughout the game,” said Floyd.
Bradley’s Copeland and the Bears were up to the challenge.
Copeland, working out the of shotgun, completed three straight passes on the Bears’ next possession and mixed in a pair of running plays to take his team to the Riverdale 39-yard line. From there, the Bears overcame a five-yard penalty and Copeland found Tyler Carpenter for strikes of 31 and 20 yards, the second one good for Bradley’s third TD of the night and a 21-13 lead with 1:18 left in the half.
Once again, the Warriors answered with 60-yard drive that culminated with a 36-yard field goal to make a 21-16 game at halftime.
Copeland threw for for 218 yards and rushed for 51 of the Bears 54 yards on the ground with two TDs in teh first half. The strong armed junior ended his night with 331 yards through the air. Trevon Ware was on the receiving end of nine Copeland tosses for 126 yards and a touchdown.
The Bears, who won the coin toss but deferred to the second half, saw a different look from the Warriors’ defense and were forced to punt from their own 29-yard line. Riverdale stayed on the ground for five of seven plays after the Bears’ punt and took a 24-21 lead with a 21-yard score.
“They ran a totally different defense. They came out in a nickel package. A lot of people don’t understand that but it is what it is,” Floyd said, contradicting any thought of flat play by his Bears to open the second half. “We adjusted and scored 34 points. We had enough to win. Every possession is important.”
It took the Bears just over three minutes to adjust to the different Riverdale look and retake the lead.
Cason Still set the Bears up at their own 49 with a 34-yard kick return. Copeland and Carpenter converted a third-and 7 with Carpenter going high in the air to wrestle the ball frorm the Riverdale defender for a 22-yard gain Four plays later, a Copeland to Carpenter to Trevon Hill combination was good for 24 yards to the Warriors 3-yard line. Copeland completed the drive with his second TD on a keeper up the middle and the Bears held a 27-24 lead with 6:16 left in the third quarter.
The Bradley Central defense stepped up big again on the Warriors’ next possession after Riverdale moved from its own 22 to the Bears’ 18. The Bears’ Hunter Duggan pounced on a Riverdale fumble to stop the drive. But the Bears gave the ball back on an interception and Riverdale retook the lead, 31-27 with a 14-yard run.
Riverdale again stopped the Bears with a second interception but were forced to punt the ball back to Bradley to open the fourth quarter.
“That (passing) is what we do. We have a Mr. Football semifinalist at quarterback. We’re not going to change,” said Floyd. “We play good athletes every Friday. They made two plays that were pretty big, the two picks. But that (passing) is our strength.”
Copeland and the Bears stepped away from the passing game for six plays on their next touch and lined up in punt formation after looking at a fourth-and-3 situation at the Warriors’ 43. The Bears caught the entire stadium by surprise when Carpenter took the snap and heaved the ball to a speeding Ryan Still for a first down and more. Still, wrapped up by a Riverdale defender, never touched the ground as he rolled over the top of the Warrior, regained his feet and raced untouched the rest of the way for the TD giving the Bears a 34-31 lead with 8:08 left to play.
“We just felt like we needed a little momentum. It’s was kind of do-or-die at that point, I felt like. it’s something we practice and when we have a certain look we are going to run it. It’s a good thing we executed it,” said the Bears’ coach.
The Bradley Central defense flexed its muscles once agan after the Warriors moved to the Bears’ 1-yard line stuffing Riverdale on a try up the middle. The Bears, however, were unable to move the ball and punted it away with just over three minutes left on the clock. This time, the Warriors did not let the opportunity slip away and pushed into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown again from 1-yard out with 1:14 left in the game.
“Everybody in the stadium knew what was coming, they just did a good job of getting into the end zone,” stated Floyd.
Still once again provided a solid return to the Bradley 40, but four straight passes fell to the Davenport Field turf and the Warriors were able to run out the clock to secure the win.
“I told them I loved them and appreciate everything they did for Bradley. They represented us with class. We just came up short tonight but I appreciate their fight,” said a proud Floyd. “It’s tough right now, but I think the thing we have to remember is the type of kids, this senior class especially, these kids are. They have class and character, the way they represented Bradley Central for their four years here. As the head coach I’m really proud to coach those guys. It’s friendships that will last a lifetime and bonds we have made throughout four years that will never be broken.”
Trevon Ware Participates in Border Bowl
TYLER WICKMAN Banner Sports Writer
Only one player from the area schools was selected to make an appearance in the 2016 Kentucky-Tennessee National Guard Border Bowl that took place on Saturday at the University of the Cumberlands.
That special invitee was Trevon Ware of Bradley Central, who is known around the state for being a top-notch cornerback.
Ware was an integral part of the Black-and-Gold’s success this season as they reached seven wins for the first time since 2011. Their run was cut short when they faced Riverdale on Nov. 5 in what ended up being a heartbreaking 38-34 loss in the first round of the playoffs.
“Trevon is one of the hardest workers we have ever had. He has been very coachable and obviously very successful, so we are proud of him being able to represent Tennessee. Bradley has a rich tradition of athletics, and he goes right along in there with it,” pointed out Bradley Central head coach Damon Floyd.
At 6’1, 185 pounds, Ware made a lot of opposing coaches change their minds about throwing in his direction.
“It’s funny; people really didn’t even try and test him on whatever side (of the field) he was on at corner. Really, he just shut down one side of the field for majority of our games,” Floyd explained.
Not only does Ware excel on the field, but he also has shown that he conducts himself as a leader off the field.
“Trevon did what he was supposed to do day in and day out. He worked hard, he was coachable, and we didn’t have to worry about him in the classroom,” Floyd added.
Boyd-Buchanan head coach Grant Reynolds led the Tennessee team of all-star seniors as they got the 29-14 win over the Kentucky squad on Saturday.
This now puts the all-time series in Tennessee’s favor, 5-4. Along with getting a chance to shine on the gridiron, players also receive jerseys and rings as memorabilia.
Ware was shocked and honored to even be invited to the Border Bowl, but he said it was bittersweet, considering it was his last high school football game.
“I felt special. It was just a great experience overall in meeting new players and having great coaches around me,” Ware said. “I’m glad I went out the way I did in my high school career.”
College plans are still undecided for Ware, but he has special interest in continuing his football career at Appalachian State, which he will decide upon in the near future.
Now it’s back to basketball season for the multi-talented athlete, who is a guard for the 12-5 Bears, who are currently 5-0 in district play.
“I’m ready to get back with my brothers and hopefully win regionals,” Ware stated.
Tyler Carpenter Receives Accolades
By Staff Reports:
Tyler Carpenter has been selected to the Chattanooga TImes -Free Press Offensive Best of Preps first team. This is Tyler's second accolade as he was selected All-Region 1 6A earlier this year.
Carpenter shredded opposing teams secondaries with 69 receptions for 1,184 yards and 14 touchdowns. He finishes his outstanding career with 132 receptions for 2,153 yards and 25 touchdowns.
"Tyler has had an outstanding career here at Bradley. His leadership on and off the field has been a great example to our young players. We have had quite a few great receivers play here at Bradley, Tyler has proved he belongs in the category as one of the best." a proud Coach Floyd stated.
"Carp"s hard work in the weight room paid huge dividends his last two years here at Bradley. He became such a strong receiver who could get off press coverage and create separation from a defender! This created some tough match-ups for defenses." said Coach Freeman, "He and Cole spent lots of Sundays on their own throwing and catching. Most of the credit goes to them for developing that quarterback to receiver combination."
"Tyler's size and strength gave us the ability to move him around and line him up at different places whether at tight end or at wide out. This put a lot of pressure on defenses to defend him," Coach Floyd added.
Tyler has signed with Lee University to play baseball and continue his education.
"What impresses me the most about Tyler is how he represents himself, his family, his school, and his team. He has been a pleasure to coach," responded Coach Floyd.
Bears Rally Past Patriots
JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor
DANDRIDGE — After three rivalry battles and a tough loss to a state-ranked opponent, Bradley Central coach Damon Floyd was worried about his team’s mental attitude going into Friday night’s game in a place they’d never played before.
It turned out he had good reason to be concerned, but his Bears were able to shake off the “blue funk” enough to spoil Jefferson County’s homecoming.
“After playing four very emotional games, it’s natural to have a let down when you play somebody you have no connection with and that’s on us as coaches to get them (the Bear players) up for the game,” related Floyd after the 28-23 victory. “We were flat most of the night, but we had times when we turned it on enough to get the job done.”
After leading for the first three quarters, Bradley found itself down by three points with just under seven minutes remaining, but rallied for a pair of late touchdowns to hand the Patriots their third loss of the season and second in as many Region 1-6A games.
Beating Jefferson County (2-3, 0-2) in just the second meeting between the programs, the 10th-ranked Bears are now 4-1 on the season and 1-1 in region play. Bradley beat the Patriots 17-14 in the 1979 Bear Bowl as well.
With the season at the midpoint, the Bears will get a bye this week before preparing to host Bearden Oct. 2.
“The break is coming at a good time for us,” declared Coach Floyd. “We’ve got some injuries that are healing up and we expect to have four seniors (Courtland Bradley, Eddie Gillette, Chase Gibby, Justin Dillard) back.”
Bradley, which has already lost Dalton Taylor for the season due to an MCL tear, was dealt a tough blow in the final seconds when sophomore running back Devin Moore, who played very well filling in for Courtland Bradley who has been out with a hamstring injury, went down with a severe injury that will put him on the shelf for the remainder of the campaign.
“He has a broken fibula and is in surgery now,” related Coach Floyd Saturday afternoon. “You hate to see someone get injured at any time, but in the final minute of a game where we are just trying to run out the clock is a real shame.”
After a scoreless opening quarter Friday evening in the Smoky Mountain foothills, Bradley got on the scoreboard in their final two possessions of the first half.
The first was set up when Bear linebacker Colby Alford picked off a Patriot fumble in midair and returned it five yards to the Jefferson County 34.
Three plays later, sophomore Adam Mullis broke a couple of tackles after being hit at the line of scrimmage and raced 30 yards into the end zone with 6:34 remaining in the half.
Mikhail Beregovsky booted the first of his four extra points on the night for a 7-0 advantage.
The Patriots were able to answer with an eight-play, 67-yard march capped by a 14-yard run by junior Michael Ealy, who was hit while trying to hurdle into end zone, causing him to flip over the goalline.
Senior Carlos Gaylan evened the score with the PAT with 3:47 on the clock.
After the ensuing kickoff sailed into the end zone, Bradley chewed up most of the remaining time in the first with an 11-play drive that culminated with junior quarterback Cole Copeland hitting Mullis with a nine-yard pass to paydirt.
Beregovsky tacked on the extra point with 26.6 seconds showing, but the first half scoring wasn’t over as UT-Martin signee Gorel Soumare return the following kickoff 63 yards to the Bear 20.
After the Bradley defense pushed the hosts back three yards in two plays, Gaylan was able to split the uprights with a 40-yard field goal as time expired for a 14-10 halftime tally.
The second half was much like the first with a scoreless third frame before both teams scored twice in the final seven minutes.
Jefferson County struck first with a nine-play drive that covered 74 yards, with senior quarterback Austin Jenkins hooking up with Cole Snowden for the final 28 yards and the Patriots only led of the contest with 6:49 remaining.
Gaylan nailed the PAT for a 17-14 advantage.
Despite being backed up to their own 8 yard line after a penalty on the kick return and a three-yard loss on the first play, Bradley was able to rally to regain the lead five plays later when the weekly “Cole-to-Carp” scoring connection covered 64 yards.
Copeland hit senior Tyler Carpenter, who had split a pair of Jefferson defenders for the dynamic duo’s second longest scoring connection of the season. They have teamed up eight times this season for scores, including a 68-yarder against fourth-ranked Science Hill.
After retaking the lead, the Bears didn’t waste any time in finding the end zone again as sophomore Jake Pressley picked off a tipped Patriot pass on the first play after the ensuing kickoff and returned it from midfield to the Jefferson 8 yard line.
Two plays later Copeland scampered in for the second Bear touchdown in 54 seconds.
Not willing to give up, the Patriots came right back with the game’s final score, going 59 yards in nine plays with Jenkins finding Noah Carter for an 11-yard scoring strike with 1:46 on the clock.
After a failed onside kick, Bradley needed a first down to be able to run the clock out and on the third play of the possession, Copeland scooted for nine yards to move the sticks, but on the play Moore went to the turf.
After being attended to by a pair of ambulance crews and trainers, Moore was taken to a local health facility in Jefferson City before being transfered to the University of Tennessee hospital for the surgery.
When play resumed, Copeland was able to take a knee and allow the game clock to run out.
Moore had seven touches in the game with 37 yards on five receptions, plus nine more on a couple of carries.
Copeland once again led the Bear offense with 304 total yards, split evenly between passing and rushing. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound gunslinger completed 16-of-31 passes for 223 yards and a pair of scores, plus gained another 81 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. At the midway point of the season, he had 1,331 total offensive yards and has had a hand in 16 touchdowns.
Carpenter caught a half dozen of Friday’s aerials for 109 yards, pushing him close (473) to the 500-yard mark for the season.
Sophomore Lameric Tucker also had a big night with 44 yards on a trio of catches, plus he carried the ball three times for 22 more.
Mullis had his best performance fo the season with six rushes for 38 yards and a touchdown, plus his nine-yard scoring catch.
No.1 Rebels Tame # 9 Bears
RICHARD ROBERTS Banner Sports Editor
MARYVILLE — There is more than one reason Maryville is at the top of the heap in 6A football and the Bradley Central Bears found that out for real Friday in a Region 1-6A road matchup against the No. 1 Rebels.
The George Quarles-coached team scored on four of six first-half possessions and on the first possession of the second half while holding the Bears to a lone second-half touchdown in the 38-7 win.
“We're not the only ones they've done this to. But our kids kept fighting. Obviously, they've been the best team in the state for many years, but we expect to compete better than that,” said Bears head coach Damon Floyd.
Maryville — now 232-14 during Quarles' tenure — flexed its muscles early with scoring drives of 69 and 65 yards to take an early 14-0 lead. The Rebels remain undefeated on the season at 8-0 and 6-0 in Region 6-1A.
The Bears (6-3, 3-3) found success early with quick hitters from quarterback Cole Copeland across the middle to Tyler Carpenter, Lameric Tucker and Nick Howell. After an opening three-and-out, Copeland engineered an impressive drive from his own 23-yard line to the Rebels' 45 with six consecutive darts to the trio. Copeland's first downfield toss was a bullseye to Carpenter good for 30 yards to the Rebels' 19. Two short passes later, Copeland settled under center for the first time in 14 snaps with the Bears looking at fourth-and-inches. Seconds later, Bradley was stuffed at the Maryville 10 bringing the march to a halt.
Copeland finished his night completing 23 of 34 pass attempts for 186 yards. The Rebels matched that total with 18 completions on 26 passes.
Offensively, we've got to move the ball a little better, throw and catch and get first downs,” said Floyd. “They started dropping eight people (into the secondary). They went from a four-man front when we were moving the ball really well to a three-man front. We had a couple of drops that obviously hurt us and with our offense we can't drop those passes.”
The Bears forced a punt after the turnover but went three-and-out on their final three possessions of the first half. The Rebels responded with scoring drives of 69 and 41 yards to take a 28-0 halftime lead.
Maryville recovered a Bears fumble at their own 26-yard line on the opening kick of the second half and salted the win away with their final TD of the night. The Rebels tacked on a 29-yard field goal midway through the fourth to go up 38-0.
“You can't turn the ball over against a team like this and once again we came up short on fourth-and-inches (in the first half). That's frustrating. We will keep going to the drawing board for that one,” said Floyd.
The Bears took advantage of a short kick by Maryville on the ensuing kick setting up at their own 31. Copeland hit Tucker for 20 yards and completed three more passes to Carpenter and Stephen Muhonen to reach the Rebels' 28-yard line. From there, Copeland found Carpenter in the corner of the end zone to break up the shutout with just over two minutes left in the game.
The Bears' defense held the Rebels to only 60 yards on the ground.
“I really thought the defense played well, Maryville went away from some stuff they normally execute. It was nice to see them have to go to that,” said Floyd whose Bears stopped the Rebels on a fourth-and 10 in the second quarter.
Defensively, the Rebels held the Bears to only two rushing yards on nine carries.
“We're going to see a lot of people drop (more defenders into the secondary) and our run game has got to improve to help us out in that situation. Obviously, they knew we like to get vertical so they are going to drop a lot of people,” Floyd said as the stands emptied after the game.
The Bears will close out the regular season Friday with a critical battle against William Blount inside Bear Stadium. A win over the Governors will set Bradley the Bears up with home field advantage for the playoffs.
“I thought we did some good things but getting beat by any high school team, we are not happy about it. We're not going to quit, but when you lose by 31 points you're not happy about it, I don't care who we play. It always hurts when you get a loss,” concluded Floyd.
Bears place Nine Players on All-Region
By Staff Reports:
Eight Bears were selected to the Region 1-6A All-Region team. Cole Copeland was selected as the Offensive Player of the Ye along with Seniors Tyler Carpenter (WR), Ryan Still (OLB) and Trevon Ware (Corner), junior Cason Still (S), and sophomores Jay Person (OLB), Lameric Tucker (WR), and Nick Howell WR/P) were honored with placement on the team. Jake Tolleson was selected to the All-Academic Team.
Cole Copeland, a Mr. Football Finalist, finished his junior season with 40 Touchdowns, 26 passing and 14 rushing bringing his career touchdowns to 82, with 26 rushing and 56 passing. Cole threw for 2,489 yards and rushed for 864 yards, bringing his career totals to 1,854 yards rushing and 5,105 yards passing.
Tyler Carpenter, a first team best of preps, finished the season with 69 receptions for 1,184 yards and 14 touchdowns finishing his career with 132 receptions for 2,153 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Ryan Still, finished the season tied for first in tackles with 91; 46 solos, 46 assists, 8 sacks, 10 TFL, 1 INT, and 1 FUM REC. Ryan finishes his career with 169 tackles.
Trevon Ware, finished the season with 32 tackles; 24 solos, 8 assist, and 3 TFL. Trevon finishes his career with 76 tackles and 1 INT.
Cason Still, finished the season with 61 tackles; 27 solos, 34 assists, 2 TFL and 1 INT.
Jay Pearson, finished the season tied for first in tackles with 91; 45 solos, 46 assits, 4 sacks 12 TFL, and 2 INT.
Lamerick Tucker, finished the season with 50 rec. for 551 yards and 6 TD's, 16 rushes for 98 yards and 1 TD.
Nick Howell, finished the season with 35 rec. for 455 yds and 2 TD's.
Jake Tolleson, finished the season with 22 tackles; 8 solos, 14 assists, 1 sack and 2 TFL.
"We are very proud of these players who were selected by the other coaches in the region. Its an honor to be recognized by others for the hard work and dedication that these young men have put into the program," stated Coach Floyd.
Copeland All-State Selection
RICHARD ROBERTS Banner Sports Editor
Bradley Central Bears quarterback Cole Copeland received yet another accolade this week when he was named to the 6A All-State football team.
Copeland was a Tennessee Mr. Football semifinalist and was Offensive Player of the Year Region 1-6A. Cole was also a first team offensive selection to the Chattanooga Times Best of Preps.
While running the Bears' offense, Copeland completed 187 passes out of 281 attempts for 2,489 yards with a completion rate of 67 percent. The strong-armed QB found the end zone 26 times through the air and was picked off only six times.
The 6-foot-3 junior was also a serious threat on the ground when he tucked the ball and ran. Copeland carried 203 times for 862 yards averaging just over four yards per touch with 14 TDs. Bears head coach Damon Floyd has confidence enough in his field general to give him sole control of the offensive unit even to the point where he has the go to make checks at the line of scrimmage when he recognizes defensive formations.
“He, along with the rest of his family, are the ultimate competitors. I said before last season I wouldn't trade him for any quarterback in the nation,”said Floyd. “The sky is the limit for Cole. He has all the tools necessary to get him as far as he wants to go.”
The Bradley offensive star is being seriously recruited by Mississippi State, East Carolina, Temple and numerous Football Championship Subdivision schools.
Copeland comes by his skills honestly following brother Bryce — now at Lee University with the basketball Flames — and sister Brooke who stars for the Florida Lady Gators women's basketball team. The rest of the family including his father, mother and uncles have also made their names as Bradley Central sports stars.
“Cole comes by his skills naturally, said Floyd. “He is the only junior I have had in my 10 years of coaching voted team captain by his teammates. He leads by example most of all but became a more vocal leader this year. His leadership style has become different from his brother (who was also quarterback for the Bears). Bryce didn't say much at all he was a leader by his actions. Cole does a little more talking than Bryce did.”
Alumni Honored .... Queen Crowned Money Raised
Homecoming for the 100th year of Bradley Central was filled with glamour and glitz, a victory over a Super 32 team, and a showing of support for Bear Pride. The night started with a presentation of helmets to three of the original member of the Loyal Bears Boosters club. Brian Copeland, the current Bear Boosters President presented an authentic Bear helmet to Lawrence Matthews, Ronald Rogers and Ralph Chase in appreciation for their dedication to Bear Athletics. The Bears appreciate their unwavering support throughout the years including a large investment they made in the early years of the Booster Club.
Throughout the game donations came in toward the new wellness center including a matching donation of $15,000. The Bears managed to raise over $32,000 over the course of the night.. There is still time to show your support for the Bears.
You can donate through the PEF and don’t forget you can participate in the Bear Down and Drive campaign by Don Ledford. Visit their site http://www.donledford.com to pre-register for your test drive on Thursday October 22.
Trevon Ware Signs with Bethel
JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor
When he visited the Bethel University campus, Bradley Central defensive back Trevon Ware knew he had found the place for him.
“It felt like the place to be for me. It felt like home,” the 6-foot-1, 170-pounder stated Wednesday after signing a national letter of intent to play for the Wildcats.
“It seemed like the same culture as I have here at Bradley,” he added. “When I sat down with the coaches, they had a great plan for me.”
Ware will be shifting from cornerback to free safety to utilize his 4.6-second speed in the 40-yard dash.
“He will make the adjustment well. We considered doing that with him here, but we needed him more at the corner,” declared Bear defensive coordinator Courtney Braswell. “Trevon is a tremendous competitor. He’s long and athletic with speed. He can cover a lot of ground.
“His improvement from his junior to his senior year was unbelievable,” Coach Bradwell remarked. “They (Bethel) got a good one.”
Bradley head coach Damon Floyd echoed the sentiment. “He has a great passion for the game. He worked really hard in the offseason. I’m really proud that he has reached his goal of playing on the next level.”
During his senior season with the state-ranked Bears, Ware had 32 tackles, 17 assists, five pass deflections, a pair of fumble recoveries, plus he blocked a punt and scooped it up for a 40-yard return for a touchdown against Science Hill.
“Playing at Bradley has been a great experience fo me. I’ve loved every minute of it,” Ware proclaimed. “I’m truly thankful to all my coaches who helped me get to this point.”
Bradley went 7-4 this past season, falling in the opening round of the TSSAA playoffs.
Located in McKenzie, Bethel is an NAIA school and a member of the Mid-South Conference.
The Wildcats went 4-7 last year and open the fall campaign on Aug. 27 against Missouri Baptist.
Ware intends to study business while at the West Tennessee school.
Bears Defeat D-B With Total Team Effort
JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor
KINGSPORT — After Mother Nature lit up the dark sky with a few lightning flashes, forcing the kickoff to be delayed an hour during which a trio of fire trucks responded to smoke billowing out of a building across the street from the stadium, the real fireworks didn’t start until Bradley Central and Dobyns-Bennett took the field.
The teams combined for 932 yards of offense and 98 points in a “Super 32” shootout in Kingsport Friday evening.
“To come all the way up here (180 miles) and get a win over the winningest program in the state (768 victories since 1921) like this is tremendous,” proclaimed head coach Damon Floyd after the big 56-42 Bear win.
“We came in with a chip on our shoulder (after a one-point loss to Bearden the previous week), and the kids responded. We just kept fighting and found a way to win.”
The 56 points is not only the most by a Bear offense since 2000, it was the most given up by an Indian defense in 53 years. Dobyns-Bennett came out on the short end of a 62-14 final against Oak Ridge in 1962.
“We executed our game plan. We felt like we could take advantage of their man-to-man coverage,” Floyd stated. “Our offensive line did a great job of giving us time to throw and opening holes on runs. Cole (Copeland) found his receivers and hit them in the right spots, plus picked up some key yardage on the ground for us.”
Copeland had 579 of the Bears 600 offensive yards, completing 31-of-41 passes for 464 yards and five touchdowns, plus carrying the ball 21 times himself for another 115 yards and three more scores.
The junior gunslinger’s aerial total was just 31 yards shy of his uncle Brent’s school passing record of 495 yards in a single game. The older Copeland completed 42-of-56 passes and threw for seven TDs in a 52-43 defeat at the hands of Cookeville in 1996 to set the school mark.
After being held without a catch as Bearden had him double covered all night in last week’s game, Tyler Carpenter took advantage of the single coverage Friday evening to pull in 17 receptions for 303 yards and a pair of scores.
The very impressive total is just shy of Colby Lonas’ school record of 316, which he did with Brent Copeland in the game against Cookeville 20 years ago.
Lonas’ yard total is still second in TSSAA history, while former Bear all-stater James Stovall is second in state history with 20 catches in a game.
Announcing Friday he is accepting a baseball scholarship offer from Lee University, Carpenter’s 17 ties him for fourth in the TSSAA record book.
“They were just in sync tonight,” declared Floyd of the potent “Cole-to-Carp” connection. “We felt like we could be successful passing against their (D-B’s) defense and we were. We took what they gave us and executed well.”
The victory moves 11th-ranked Bradley (5-2) into four-way tie for third place in the Region 1-6A race, along with Dobyns-Bennett (4-3), which is No. 8 in the Associated Press poll this week, Bearden (4-3) and Hardin Valley (4-3), all of which are 2-2 in league play.
The Bears will host the Hawks of Hardin Valley for the first-ever meeting between the programs this Friday evening for Bradley’s homecoming festivities.
Two-time defending state champion and No. 1 ranked Maryville (7-0, 4-0) and sixth-ranked Science Hill (7-1, 3-1) occupy the top two spots in the region standings. The top four 1-6A teams will get to host opening round TSSAA playoff games in November.
Around 50 very vocal Bear fans weathered the constant rain showers to witness Friday’s offensive explosion on the Virginia border and saw the teams combine for nine touchdowns in the opening half and five more in the final two quarters.
The Indians and Bears traded scores in the opening 101 seconds, with the hosts needing just five plays to cover 70 yards to put the first points on the board when junior quarterback Cole Maupin snuck in from the 1 with 10:46 still on the clock.
Bradley answered with a three-play, 80-yard march as Copeland found sophomore Nick Howell for a 58-yard scoring strike 27 ticks later.
One of the Bears’ unsung heroes of the night was senior soccer player Anthony White, who stepped in because of the absence of regular place kicker Mikhail Beregovsky and was true on all eight extra-point tries.
After the Indians’ second possession ended in a missed 23-yard field goal try, Bradley took its first lead of the contest with a dozen-play drive that once again covered 80 yards. Copeland capping the series with a 12-yard pass to sophomore Lameric Tucker with 3:50 to go in the opening frame.
The advantage was short-lived as junior Bryce Barrett, who was averaging 28 yards a kick return coming into the contest, went the distance for an 82-yard score on the ensuing kickoff.
After the teams traded punts, the Bears needed just three plays to score again with Copeland and Carpenter connecting on a 47-yard pass to set up a one-yard toss between the two for the touchdown with 10:02 on the second quarter clock.
Not to be outdone, D-B responded with Barrett returning the ensuing kickoff to near midfield before the Indian offense put together an eight-play, 55-yard march to even the score with a three-yard run by senior Jacoby Thompson, who finished the night with 144 yards and a pair of scores on 21 carries.
The fireworks continued when it was the Bears’ turn with the “Cole-to-Carp” connection capping a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a 17-yard scoring toss. The pair hooked up four times on the drive for a total of 77 yards.
Once again the Indians were able to knot things up on the ensuing possession, needing five runs to cover 66 yards, with Thompson breaking free for the final 20 yards to paydirt with 2:32 left on the first half clock.
The D-B defense had its second stop of the game on the following series, forcing Howell to punt, but the ball bounced off an Indian player and Bear senior Zack Peak pounced on it.
Two plays later Copeland found Tucker in the end zone for the second time, this one from 23 yards out.
The hosts tried to match Bradley’s 35 first half points, driving from their own 39 to the Bear 11 in the final 72 seconds, but senior linebacker Colby Alford ended the threat with an interception, allowing the Black-and-Gold to hold a seven-point advantage at the intermission.
The second half started just like the first with touchdowns ending the first three possessions.
Starting at its own 20 as Indian kick Landon Saylers put all of his kickoffs into the end zone, Bradley used a 51-yard “Cole-to-Carp” hook up to spark a six-play march, with Copeland carrying the ball in from the 4 for the score.
Down by two touchdowns for the first time, D-B answered with a half-dozen play scoring drive of its own, with Thompson doing the majority of the damage with 45 yards on a trio of carries, including the final one for four yards to paydirt.
The visitors came right back to push the lead back out to two scores, needing 10 plays to cover the 80 yards, with Copeland bobbing-and-weaving his way in from 15 yards out.
The next two possessions ended in interceptions as senior Ryan Still picked off a Maupin pass just in front of the goalline and returned it to the Indian 37, but three plays later D-B junior Josh Rapcan out jumped a Bear receiver for the takeaway at the 12 yard line.
The Bear defense forced the second Indian punt of the contest, thanks mainly to back-to-back sacks sophomore Jay Person and Still.
Getting the ball back Bradley chewed up a big chunk of the fourth quarter clock with a 15-play, 81-yard scoring drive.
The “Dynamic Duo” of Copeland and Carpenter connected for passes of 28 and 19 yards in the series, the latter of which came on a fourth-and-10 play and moved the ball to the Indian 6.
The Bear signal caller took the ball in from there, gaining five yards on the first try before punching it in on the second from the 1 to put the Black-and-Gold up by 21 points with 3:25 left on the game clock.
The hosts were able to score the game’s final touchdown, but it took them 11 plays and more than two minutes with Maupin finding senior Jordan Jeffers for the three-yard payoff.
With only 63 seconds remaining, Bradley was able to run out the clock after the failed onside kick attempt.
Sophomore running back Adam Mullis helped out the victors with eight second-half carries for 23 yards, plus he caught a pass for nine more, to grind the clock down.
Along with Carpenter’s astronomical receiving numbers, Howell covered 80 yards on four catches, including his 58-yard touchdown catch and run, while Tucker totaled 47 yards and his two scores on a half dozen snags. Junior Trevon Hill had a trio of receptions for 25 yards.
Maupin, who like Copeland is a 6-foot-2 junior, connected on 20-of-35 passes and a pair of TDs, plus carried the ball 13 times for 68 yards and a score. He hit a half dozen different receivers with Edward Newcomb being his top target with six catches for 84 yards, while Alijah Dunn pulled in four aerials for 57 yards.
Two of the busiest players in the contest were kickers White and Saylers, who combined to be on the field for 31 plays — 16 kick offs, 14 extra points and the missed field goal attempt.
Bears Rally Inch Short
JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor
Whoever said “football is a game of inches” sure was right Friday evening as Bradley Central came up just short with the game on the line. Snapping out of nearly three and a half quarters of doldrums, the Bears rallied from a pair of 14-point deficits with three touchdowns in the final seven minutes, but with a chance to win the game with a two-point conversion from inside the 1-yard line, they couldn’t punch the ball across the goalline to pull off the comeback
.“When you can’t get two feet with the game on the line, you don’t deserve to win,” declared Bradley head coach Damon Floyd of the heartbreaking 28-27 loss to Bearden in a key Region 1-6A battle at a “squooshy” Bear Stadium.“For the second game in a row we didn’t play with any enthusiasm until there at the end,” he assessed. “We were able to get away with one at Jefferson County (a 28-23 win), but we didn’t this time.”
Now 4-2 overall and 1-2 in “Super 32” play, Bradley will have to regroup and prepare for its longest trek (a 360-mile round trip) of the season as the Bears head to the Virginia state line to take on sixth-ranked Dobyns-Bennett in Kingsport this week.
With Mother Nature having saturated the Bear Stadium turf with two days of downpours, but tappering off to just a heavy mist by kickoff, the playing conditions were far from ideal Friday evening. Both teams struggled in the first half, each scoring just one touchdown, while combining for only 161 yards of offense.
After an exchange of three-and-outs to open the contest, Bradley scored first with a five-yard pass from junior quarterback Cole Copeland to sophomore defensive end turned tight end Kevin Gentry to cap a 10-play, 55-yard drive with three minutes left in the opening quarter. Senior Makhail Beregovsky tacked on the extra point for a 7-0 advantage.
Returning the ensuing kickoff to near midfield, Bearden (3-3, 2-1) was able to answer with an eight play, 51-yard march.Bulldog quarterback Cam Young hit Ty Warren for a 12-yard pass for his first of four passing scores. The PAT kick by Caleb Wilkins with just over 20 seconds on the opening frame clock knotted the score.
After neither team was able to find the end zone in the second quarter, the boys from Knoxville stunned the home team with a 78-yard scoring pass from Jones to a wide open Skyler Hammett on the second play after the intermission.Bradley’s offense went three-and-out in its first try of the third quarter and the Bulldogs appeared on their way to another score, driving to the Bear 1 yard line before a penalty and the Black-and-Gold defense stuffed them and forced the ball to be turned over on downs.
After gaining just one first down, the Bears were forced to punt again and this time Bearden cashed in with a 54-yard march on a half dozen plays. Jones and Hammett connected for the score again, this one from 11 yards out and a 21-7 advantage with 2:03 left in the third frame.
The teams traded four straight three-and-outs, before the Bradley offense came out of hibernation and took advantage of a shanked Bulldog punt, giving the host possession just 33 yards from the end zone.Copeland took matters in his own hands, running the ball six times and completing a short pass before a one-yard plunge to cap the drive with 6:49 left on the game clock.
Taking advantage of a failed onside kick, Bearden pushed the difference back to two scores with a another six-play drive, this one covering 49 yards. Jones found another wide open receiver, Ty Chandler, for the 22-yard touchdown. Wilkins’ PAT kick, which turned out to be the game-winning point, pushed the lead to 28-14 with 4:20 remaining.
Having awaken from their slumber, the Bear offense wasted little time in pulling the Bulldogs back within reach as Copeland connected with sophomore Nick Howell for a 41-yard gain on the first play after the kickoff and then four plays later hit a wide open Lameric Tucker in the end zone on a 17-yard strike. Beregovsky added the extra point just 49 ticks after the visitors’ final score.
The Bradley defense then got its sixth three-and-out of the contest to give the Bear offense one last opportunity.Taking over on their own 26 with just 96 seconds remaining, the Bear offense was able to get off 10 plays, the final of which was a 35-yard toss to sophomore Devon Hill, who had to use all of his 6-foot-4 frame to out jump a Bulldog defender for the ball at the 5 yard line, then spin and outrun a pair of would-be tacklers into the end zone.Beregovsky lined up and booted what would have been the game-tying PAT with just under 18 seconds on the clock, but the Bulldogs were flagged for offsides.
The Bradley coaches immediately sent the offense back on the field to go for the win and after another offsides call on the visitors, the ball was placed just inside the 1 yard line for the all-important try.Although everybody in the stadium knew the Bears were going to run a quarterback keeper, Bradley did so from the shotgun formation, meaning Copeland would get the ball five yards behind the line of scrimmage instead of just a couple of feet from the goalline.
“We have run that play from the shotgun for two years and nobody has stopped it,” explained Floyd. “We’d rather Cole be running downhill than just try to push it in with defenses stacking the line.”
Copeland took the snap and got a head of steam, but the Bulldog defense had gotten penetration and hit him behind the line of scrimmage. The top Bear rusher gave a strong second effort and appeared to break the plane, but the side judge whistled him down just short of the goalline.
“When you only need a half yard, you’ve got to execute the play right and we simply didn’t,” bemoaned Floyd. “We weren’t executing most of the night. We couldn’t get into a rhythm until there at the end. We were undisciplined and that’s on us as coaches.”
Just as the final score indicates, the game was very even with both squads earning 16 first downs, Bearden ironically outgaining Bradley by a single yard (306-305), both teams fumbling twice, but not losing either and each unit punting seven times for a matching 32.9 yard averages.
As usual, Copeland paced the Black-and-Gold offense with 81 yards on 25 carries, plus he completed 16-of-26 passes for 180 more. He had a hand in each of the four Bear touchdowns, running one in and throwing the other three.With senior Tyler Carpenter, the area’s leading receiver, “bracketed” by two defenders all night, Copeland connected with Howell a half dozen times for 100 yards, plus hit Hill twice for 44 yards and Tucker four times for 20.
Senior Courtland Bradley, who scored three TDs in the season-opening victory at Walker Valley, returned to the Bear backfield from a hamstring injury and carried the ball seven times for 23 yards. Tucker picked up 16 yards on four rushes.
For Bearden, Jones completed 10-of-17 passes for 217 yards, finding Hammett three times for 110 yards and the two scores. Warren finished with 80 total yards, 60 on 23 carries, plus 20 more on a trio of catches.“We’ve said all along these ‘Super 32’ teams are going to a battle,” Floyd reiterated. “They (Bearden) aren’t the 1-9 team from last year. They made the plays tonight when it counted the most and we didn’t. We gave them some wide open opportunities because we weren’t disciplined in our coverage and they took advantage.”
Bear Defense Rises to the Occasion
JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor
A week after putting up 600 yards of offense and its most points (56) since 2000, Bradley Central scored just one touchdown in each half Friday night, but one thing in common between the two games is both were a “W.”
“Last week, we won with offense. This week, it was our defense that [was] outstanding. The most important thing though — both were wins,” declared head coach Damon Floyd after his 10th-ranked Bears overcame a second-half deficit to capture an 18-8 victory in the program’s first-ever meeting with Hardin Valley.
“This is a team game. Our defense kept them out of the end zone, out special teams coverage was better, and our offense was able to put enough points on the board to get the “W,” the veteran coach remarked. “We just want to win, whether its with offense or defense or both.”
While the Bear offense was held to its lowest score of the season, the Black-and-Gold defense had its best effort, allowing the Hawks a just pair of field goals and picking them off twice in the end zone in four trips into the Red Zone. Hardin Valley’s defense also notched a second quarter safety for the other two Hawk points.
The victory improves Bradley to 6-2 on the season and more importantly 3-2 in Region 1-6A play, while Hardin Valley slips to 4-4 and 2-3. The Bears are tied with Bearden (5-3, 3-2), which knocked off Dobyns-Bennett 21-9 Friday, for third place in the league standings.
Bradley faces the daunting task of traveling to top-ranked Maryville (8-0, 5-0) this week. The Rebels, which have won 11 state titles in Coach George Quarles’ 16 season at the helm, ran their current winning streak to 38 Friday with a 42-0 blowout of county-rival William Blount (2-7, 0-5).
“Maryville is a great program with a great system, a very tough team. We’re going to have to put it all together and play our best game of the season to have any shot at all,” exclaimed Floyd, whose only meeting with the Rebels was in the opening round of the playoffs two years ago — a 42-21 Maryville win.
Bradley is the only two programs with more than seven meetings to have a winning record (6-4-2) against the Rebels. All but the most recent game (2013) was played between 1928-46.
After Bear defense opened the homecoming contest Friday with the first of a trio of three-and-outs, the Bradley offense took over on its 39 and seven plays later were sitting on the Hardin Valley 5-yard line before the march ended with a Hawk interception in the end zone.
Hardin Valley took possession at its own 20 and used back-to-back first down plays to move the ball to the Bear 35, but that was as far as they would go, as Bradley defenders allowed just one net yard in the next four plays to hand the ball back to the host offense.
Going to the air on seven of eight plays, the Bear “O” once again found itself on the Hawk 5 and this time junior quarterback Cole Copeland took the ball across the plane of the goalline himself for the score. Anthony White tacked on the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 2:03 remaining in the opening quarter.
After the ensuing kickoff, Hardin Valley put together its longest drive of the night, going 74 yards to the Bear 6 before a bad snap sailed over its quarterback’s head, resulting in a 23-yard loss and Bears Ryan Still and Jake Person were right there when the Hawk signal caller tried to pick the ball up. On the 15th play of the series, Hawk kicker Andrew Foster booted a 33-yard field goal with 8:35 on the second period clock.
The teams then exchanged punts, with Bradley getting backed up to its own 5. On the next play Copeland got sacked in the end zone by Hardin Valley’s Elijah Jones to cut the lead to 7-5, which would be the score at the halftime break.
The Bear defense came up big in its final two efforts of the opening half, with three plays for a total of nine negative yards, including a sack by Still and Hunter Duggan in the first try, and then Still picked off a Hawk pass in the end zone just before the intermission.
After senior Julia Evans was crowned the homecoming queen and Bradley was forced to punt after just one first down on the initial second half possession, the Hawks took possession at the Bear 43. The boys from Knoxville were able to again drive to the 6-yard line, but for the second time had to settle for a field goal, this one from 23 yards out to take an 8-7 edge at the 5:17 mark of the third quarter.
Bradley answered with its second scoring drive as Copeland hit sophomore Nick Howell for 60 yards on the on the first play after the kickoff. Four plays later the “Cole-to-Carp” connection struck with senior Tyler Carpenter pulled in a six-yard scoring pass. Copeland then hit sophomore Lameric Tucker for the two-point conversion and a 15-8 lead with 3:30 to go in the third frame.
The Bear defense forced two more three-and-outs on the next two Hawk series with a 17-play 78-yard Bear march in between. Hardin Valley stopped Copeland on a one-yard, fourth down sneak from the 1 to take over possession.
After forcing the visitors to punt from their own end zone, Carpenter returned the ball to the Hawk 22. However, the Bear offense sputtered, forcing a 38-yard field goal tray by senior Mikhail Beregovsky, which had plenty of leg but went wide left.
Two plays later Person picked off a Hardin Valley aerial at the 45 and returned it to the Hawk 19. Seven plays later Beregovsky got a shot at redemption with a 26-yard kick that split the uprights with just under 25 seconds left.
After ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, Hardin Valley quickly moved the ball across midfield, but on its third straight pass attempt Bear defensive back Cason Still came away with the ball in the end zone to end the threat. Copeland just had to take a knee on the following play to run the clock out on the victory.
Person led Coach Cortney Braswell’s defense with eight solo tackles and an assist, including a pair of tackles for loss, plus his “pick.”
Cason Still, Zach Peak and Colby Alford were in on seven hits apiece — Still with a half dozen solos along with his interception, while Peak made four tackles by himself and Alford had two.
Jake Pressley had four solo tackles and a pair of assists, while Ryan Still was in on five tackles and Logan Swafford four.
The Bear defenders held the explosive Hawk triple-threat Issiah Aguero to just 48 yards on 22 touches and 0-2 passing, just a week after he exploded for 223 yards, including two touchdowns, plus completed a pair of touchdown passes for 68 yards. It marked just the second time this season he has been held under 100 total yards.
“Our kids are really fighting,” declared Coach Braswell, whose unit held the Hawks to just 232 yards of offense. “We (the Bear defense) went from the outhouse to the penthouse in just a week.”
Despite playing injured most of the night, Copeland once again paced the Bradley offense, completing 18-of-27 passes for 204 yards, plus gained 92 yards on two dozen carries.
“Cole fought through some injuries tonight,” revealed Coach Floyd. “He took some hard shots but only came out for the one play (late in the second quarter). He’s tough and wants to be out there.”
Howell led the receiving corp with 89 yards on four catches, while Carpenter pulled in a trio of aerials for 43. Tucker finished with four receptions for 39 yards, plus rushed three times for 10 yards. Sophomore Adam Mullis carried the ball 10 times for 28 yards, while classmate Steven Mahonan pulled in five passes for 24 yards.
Bradley Dominate Raiders in Bear Stadium
JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor
CLEVELAND --- Even Mother Nature couldn’t put a damper on the “Crosstown Clash” Friday evening as Cole Copeland hoisted the Black-and-Gold on his shoulders to lead Bradley Central to a convincing victory over Cleveland High in the annual rivalry game.
“We started out great and scored two quick touchdowns, but then we came out flat after the (hour-long lightning) delay, and Cleveland got the momentum,” remarked Damon Floyd of the 34-20 victory in his 100th game as the Bear head coach.
“We even struggled the first couple of possessions of the second half and let them cut it to one (14-13) before Cole took over and opened up our running game,” he added.
The junior signal caller had been limited to just five net yards in his first 11 carries before busting loose with 129 yards on his final 17 rushes in the game’s final 16 1/2 minutes. The strong-armed gunslinger finished the night with 292 all-purpose yards and had a hand in all five Bear scores, rushing for two and throwing for the other three.
Improving to 3-1 on the gridiron season, Bradley has now won 14 of the 41 meetings between the two programs.
“We’ve played three rivals (Walker Valley and McMinn County also) in four games, and now we have to turn our attention to our region race the rest of the way,” commented Floyd, who has four wins in the last seven meetings against three different Raider coaches.
With their only loss this season coming the previous week to fourth-ranked and unbeaten Science Hill in the Region 1-6A opener, the Bears will travel to Jefferson County Friday to take on the 2-2 Patriots, who are coming off a 31-7 whipping at the hands of sixth-ranked (5A) Morristown-West.
Cleveland slips to 1-3 overall in Coach Scott Cummings’ inaugural campaign and will travel to Athens Friday evening for a Region 4-5A battle with McMinn County (2-1, 1-0), who had its game cancelled before it kicked off due to the thunderstorms in Lenoir City Friday. The Blue Raiders dropped their region opener to undefeated Soddy-Daisy a week ago.
“We seem to find ways to implode,” bemoaned the new Raider mentor. “This was just another sign of our inexperience. We had a chance to cut the game to a single score in the fourth quarter and turned the ball over on a bad exchange between our center and quarterback inside the 5 yard line. Bradley jumped on the fumble and then went down and scored.”
“We are starting a lot of freshmen and sophomores, and we have to learn to have the same approach on every snap,” Cummings added. “Give Bradley credit. They came out with a great game plan and outplayed us at the beginning. We were able to come back and run with them after the delay, but then we fell apart for a while.”
The Bears were able to score in their first two possessions of the battle, with Copeland connecting with his favorite target, senior Tyler Carpenter, on a 34-yard touchdown pass for the first and then pushing his way in from the 3 on the second.
After the second touchdown, there was a 62-minute lighting delay before senior Mikhail Beregovsky was able to put the extra point attempt through the uprights with 3:07 remaining on the opening quarter clock.
After heading to their cars or Jim Smiddy Arena, the vast majority of the estimated 5,500 fans returned to watch the rest of the game that ended after 11:30 p.m.
“The fans and teams did a great job of getting in out of the weather in an orderly fashion,” remarked new Bradley County Director of Schools Dr. Linda Cash, whose 6-foot-5, 285-pound sophomore son, Chris, is the starting left guard for the Bears.
When play resumed, the teams traded possession a half dozen times before Cleveland was able to take advantage of a turnover. Romeo Wykle picked off an interception and got his feet down in bounds at the Raider 46 yard line with five minutes to go in the first half.
A 34-yard gain on a screen pass from JaShawn Hill to Keegan Jones got the drive started and a pass interference call two plays later moved the ball into the Red Zone.
Hill capped off the five-play drive when he snuck in from the 1 with 3:20 left on the clock, giving the game a 14-7 halftime score.
After the intermission, the teams traded a trio of punts before the Raiders won the field position battle, taking over on the Bear 35, and then needed just four plays to find paydirt again.
Hill connected with Skylar Davis on a 20-yard reception just in front of the goalline, but the ball squirted loose after the catch and went into the end zone, where the Raider receiver was able to pounce on it for the score. The extra-point that would have tied the game was unsuccessful, so the hosts were still up 14-13 with 4:35 to go in the third period.
Shaking off their short hibernation, the Bears responded with back-to-back scoring drives.
The first covered 70 yards on 11 plays, including 57 yards on eight Copeland carries, plus he hit Carpenter for a 17-yard gain and found Jeffrey Brewer in the end zone for the final four yards.
After the Bear defense forced a three-and-out, including a big 14-yard sack by Jake Tolleson and Kevin Gentry, the second scoring march only had to go 40 yards. Copeland connected with Nick Howell twice for 15 yards and then on his fourth rush of the series high stepped in from the 3.
Despite being down by two touchdowns with just 8:47 in the contest, Cleveland took the ensuing kickoff and quickly marched downfield, with a 21-yard run by Jones moving the ball to the Bear 12. Bradley sophomore Jay Person saved a touchdown on the play when he dragging Jones down from behind.
On the very next snap, the pigskin slipped loose and Bradley’s Jake Pressley covered it at the Bear 5.
Keeping the ball on the ground to eat up the clock, Copeland and Adam Mullis chewed up real estate for eight plays before the “Cole-to-Carp” connection struck again, this time from 14 yards out to push the lead to 34-13 with 2:42 remaining.
Not willing to surrender, Cleveland took to the air, hitting five straight passes, the last a 36-yarder to Wykle, before Hill scored his second touchdown of the night on a one-yard plunge with 11.3 seconds on the clock. Toren Beck added the extra point to give the game its final tally.
Hill completed 14-of-21 passes for 169 yards. He was thrown for minus 23 yards on nine carries but was able to break the plane of the goalline twice.
Jones garnered 155 total yards, with 88 coming on nine carries, plus he pulled in a half dozen catches for another 67.
”We were able to have a bit of an identity on offense,” Cummings commented. “Our offensive line got off the ball like we expect them to.”
Along with his 134 rushing yards on 28 carries and two scores, Copeland connected on 14-of-19 aerials for 158 yards and raised his season passing touchdown total to eight.
The “Cole-to-Carp” connection has accounted for seven of those scores as the senior receiver pulled in four passes for 93 yards.
“Those two have a lot of experience working together, and it really pays off in the games,” related Floyd.
The Bear coach also had high praise for sophomore Nick Howell, who pulled in eight passes for 61 yards, a couple from his knees and many in key situations.
“Nick did a great job tonight,” he said. “That just goes to show we have several guys who are capable of making big plays for us.”
Senior linebacker Colby Alford led the Bear defense by being in on 11 hits, including a sack, while classmate Ryan Still collected five solo hits and assisted on three other tackles, including a sack.
Person had four solo tackles and a trio of assists, while junior Hunter Duggan also had four solo takedowns and sacked the Raider QB.
Bears defense trip up Tribe
JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor
ATHENS — Bradley Central head football coach Damon Floyd got a special birthday present from his Bears and longtime coaching cohort Keith Freeman — a big victory over McMinn County for a 2-0 start to the new gridiron season.
“We couldn’t have gotten him a better present,” stated Freeman, Bradley’s offensive coordinator who has served as the interim head coach while Floyd served a two-game TSSAA suspension.“Any time you can come to Athens and beat Bo (Cagle, the Cherokees’ head coach), it’s a big win,” declared Freeman after the 34-14 convincing victory.
“Damon will be real proud of us. We’ll welcome him back to where he belongs tomorrow (Saturday).”With Bradley’s first 2-0 record to start a season since 2010, Freeman earns the distinction of having the best winning percentage of any “head” coach in the 98-year history over the program.Despite the success, he said he will be more than happy to hand the reins back over to his close friend.“I’ll gladly go back to where I belong during games — in the press box — and let him take care of things on the sideline,” Freeman said.
Floyd’s first foray into the Friday night action this season will be a big one, as sixth-ranked Science Hill invades Bear Stadium this week for the teams’ inaugural Region 1-6A battle. The Hilltoppers opened the 2015 campaign Friday evening with a 28-21 win over fifth-ranked (3A) Elizabethton.Bradley will be looking for revenge on Coach Steve Spurrier’s alma mater for a 59-47 defeat in Johnson City which ended the Bears’ season in the opening round of the TSSAA playoffs last November.
For the second straight week Freeman’s offense put 34 points on the scoreboard and while he was very happy about that, he was quick to credit Friday’s victory in Athens to defensive coordinator Cortney Braswell’s unit.
“We had another strong offensive output, but the key ingredient in tonight’s (Friday’s) win was Coach Braswell’s defense shutting down (McMinn star DJ) Kimpson,” he proclaimed. “He (Braswell) had a great game plan, and I can’t say enough about the way his kids played.”
Kimpson had gained more than 240 yards against Bradley in the last two meetings, but the Bear defense held the speedy Cherokee running back to just 77 yards on 22 carries. They also stopped him behind the line of scrimmage a half dozen times, plus for two or less yards on nine other occasions. Kimpson only had three double-digit gains, including a 34-yard dash where he was run down from behind by Bear junior safety Cason Still for a touchdown saving tackle.Still also saved a score when he caught McMinn’s Damiese Bradley at the 2 yard line after he had broken free on a 76-yard run, however the play was called back for a holding penalty on the Tribe. Still was in on a half dozen tackles, including one where he trapped Kimpson for a seven-yard loss.
“Cason is a special kind of kid. He has once in a decade type of speed,” praised Coach Braswell. “He’s a smart player that always gets in position to make plays.”
Sophomore outside linebacker Jay Person was all over the place as well.
“He’s an animal,” declared Coach Freeman. “He’s going to be a very special player for us.”
“Jay is just so physically gifted, plus he puts in the effort and prep work to succeed,” echoed Coach Braswell. “He’s young and does make some mistakes, but the sky is the limit for him.”
Senior inside linebacker Colby Alford set the Bear defensive tone early with four of his 11 tackles coming in the opening Tribe drive, which ended when Bradley stopped a fourth-down play just inches short of the marker at the Bear 21. He finished with five solo tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Senior outside linebacker Ryan Still led the Bear attack with a dozen total hits, including a trio of solo tackles and nine assists. Senior cornerback Zach Peak helped out with four solos, five assisted tackles, plus an interception, while guys like Hunter Duggan, Trevon Ware, Jake Pressley, Kevin Gentry and many others also got several hits as the Bears stopped the hosts at or behind the line of scrimmage 14 times during the contest.
On the offensive side of the ball, Bradley started with a bang as junior quarterback Cole Copeland hit Lameric Tucker with a swing pass in the right flat and the sophomore took off down the sideline for an 80-yard gain before being knocked out of bounds at the 1-yard line. Unfortunately, Bradley was flagged for a sideline violation as one of the referees ran into a Bear staff member on the play. Pushing the ball back to the Cherokee 16, Copeland scampered in from the 9 for the score five plays later.
“That was a great play, but it put me on edge the rest of the game,” declared Coach Freeman. “If we had gotten another sideline penalty in the game, I would have been thrown out, plus the head coach would have to sit out the next game. I didn’t know if that would be me or Damon (Floyd). I spent the rest of the game making sure everybody stayed back (off the sideline).”
Copeland, who led the team in TDs last season with 30 (18 passing and 12 running), scored again in the second quarter, capping an 80-yard, eight-play march with a 16-yard jaunt to paydirt.Bradley cashed in on its fourth offensive possession of the opening half as well when Copeland found his favorite target, senior Tyler Carpenter for the first of two 34-yard touchdown tosses between the pair on the evening.
After the intermission, the Bears pushed their advantage to 27-0 with a 47-yard, six-play drive that culminated with Copeland’s third touchdown run, this one from eight yards out. McMinn finally got on the scoreboard on the final snap of the third quarter when sophomore QB Bradley Hayes snuck in from the 1 to cap a 10-play, 61-yard march.
Both teams added a fourth-quarter score with the second “Cole-to-Carp connection,” finishing off an eight-play, 60-yard series, while the Cherokees covered the same distances in nine plays. Kimpson broke free on a 16-yard dash before Person tackled him at the 1 to save a score, but Cherokee senior carried the ball over the goal line on the following snap.
Despite injuring his shoulder while being tackled after a 32-yard run early in the second quarter, Copeland finished with 296 yards of offense, completing 13-of-18 passes for 227 yards and carrying the ball a dozen times for 69 more.
“People probably didn’t realize he hurt his shoulder, but I told him at halftime if I called his number (for a run) in the second half to ignore me, but he still ran the ball a few three times,” Freeman related.
Senior Courtland Bradley, who averaged more than six yards a carry and scored three times against Walker Valley, was limited to just three carries for seven yards after tweaking a hamstring, but sophomore Devin Moore took advantage of an opportunity with five carries for 43 yards, including breaking off a 28-yard run when the Bear second-team offense played the final series.
Carpenter pulled in a half dozen passes for 101 yards and the two scores, while Tucker finished with a trio of receptions for 85.Senior Nick Howell not only caught three passes for 41 yards, he also punted four times for an average of 36.8 yards.
“Coach (Todd) Stevison’s special teams did a great job as well tonight,” praised Coach Freeman. “We had some great coverage and returns that help set us up in good field position.”
Cason Still, who opened the Bradley season with a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown the week before, had a pair of kickoff returns for 55 yards, while Carpenter ran back a punt 17 yards into Tribe territory.
Makhail Beregovsky booted four of five point after touchdown attempts for the Bears, with the first one getting blocked after a low snap.
Making the field look like Auntie Em’s yard after the Wizard of Oz tornado, 19 penalty flags were thrown on the two teams. The Bears were set back 10 times for 104 yards, while laundry was dropped on the Cherokees nine times for 74 yards.
Its second straight win over McMinn (the first since the 2000 Bears beat them twice, once in the regular season and once in the playoffs), gives Bradley a 51-38-3 advantage in the 88-year rivalry, reportedly the second longest continuous streak in the state behind only South Pittsburg and Marion County.
Bears come close but fall to Hilltoppers
RICHARD ROBERTS Banner Sports Editor
CLEVELAND --- After moving the Bears nearly 40 yards with three pinpoint passes and a quarterback keeper for a first down with fewer than 10 seconds left in the the game, Bradley Central quarterback Cole Copeland stepped under center for the first time — after standing in the shotgun — all night with the intent of spiking the football with six seconds left on the clock.
What happened next was the source of chaos and confusion for some minutes as stunned Bears fans watched coaches from both sides work feverishly to restore order on the field.With no timeouts left to work with and the seconds quickly ticking down to zero, Copeland hustled the No. 11 Bears (2-1, 0-1 Region 1-6A) to the line. But, instead of throwing the ball to the ground to buy time, Copeland found himself racing to fall on the bouncing pigskin after the exchange from center was ruled a fumble. The Bears’ QB could only watch helplessly as a diving Hilltopper claimed the prize preserving a 29-24 Region 1-6A win for the No. 5-ranked Hilltoppers.
“We went under center one play tonight — with six second left. I guess they thought it (the snap) was a fumble,” said a disappointed Bears head coach Damon Floyd as he kept a wary eye on the diminishing disarray. “That’s their (the officials’) call. I disagreed, but what do you do? It’s official.”
The Hilltoppers took a 14-0 lead on a returned fumble for a touchdown and a second quarter score as the Bears struggled offensively, battling poor field position nearly the entire game before the final-minute fireworks.
“Our offense sputtered, there’s no doubt. That falls on me because I didn’t have them ready,” said Floyd. “Field position really killed us at the get go. We were always backed up on our half (of the field).”
Copeland and Lameric Tucker brought the Bears’ crowd to life with just over five minutes left in the half with a 60-yard pitch and catch to the Hilltoppers’ 20-yard line. Two plays later, Copeland found Tyler Carpenter for 18 yards and a touchdown to cut the Science Hill half-time lead to 14-7.
Coming out of the break, the Bears overcame a 5-yard substitution infraction before the first snap of the second half to move 66 yards — aided by a pair of personal foul calls on late Science Hill hits — to the Hilltoppers’ 14-yard line. Three plays for no gain sent Bradley place kicker Mikhail Beregovsky onto the field for a 31-yard field goal attempt. The senior placekicker split the uprights cutting the margin to 14-10.
The Hilltoppers answered with a late third quarter drive that ended with a 1-yard TD run and a 21-10 lead five plays into the fourth.After throwing only 11 passes in the first three quarters, Copeland’s 13th pass of the game — a 68-yard scoring strike to Carpenter — capped off a 79-yard, five-play drive that moved the Bears back to within five points at 21-16.
The Bradley defense stepped up big on the next Science Hill possession.Looking at a punt while facing fourth-and-long, the Hilltopper snap sailed over the head of the Science Hill punter who desperately raced after the ball. The ensuing attempt to get the punt off was blocked by the Bears with thefootball landing squarely in the hands of Ethan Vaughn who raced 14 yards untouched into the end zone. A Copeland to Tucker pass for the two-point conversion completed the turnaround that put the Bears out front for the first time, 24-21.
“The defense played great. Our offense gave up seven points, our defense scored seven points. Offensively we have to pick up our end,” Floyd acknowledged.
The Hilltoppers wasted no time regaining the lead scoring on a 66-yard drive in six plays to go back out front 29-24.The fluke two-point conversion — scored by Science Hill scored when the Toppers snapped up a loose ball on a bad snap on the extra point attempt and shuffled into the end zone — forced the Bears into a must score six points situation instead of being able to work toward field position for a game-tying field goal.
“Our kickoff team is killing us. We’re not covering the kick. We’re giving everybody great field position. That’s got to get better. We’ve got a lot to improve on,” said Floyd.
Bradley found itself against the wall on their next possession quickly when a Copeland to Jeffrey Brewer pass was picked off by the Toppers.A brilliant defensive stand by the Bears defense holding Science Hill on a fourth-and-five gave Bradley one final shot at the Topper’s 48 with 48 seconds left on the clock.
Three consecutive perfectly executed sideline completions by Copeland to Carpenter and Devin Moore for 31 yards set the Bears up first-and-10 at the Science Hill 17. After two incomplete passes, Copeland lowered his head and picked up a first down at the nine with nine seconds on the clock.Looking to spike the ball to stop the clock with no time outs, the snap from center went apparently awry sending Bears and Hilltoppers scrambling to recover the loose football. The Hilltoppers’ recovery as time ran out turned the potential game ending Bears’ fireworks into a fizzled dud and a win for Science Hill.
A philosophical Floyd, although not happy with the outcome, felt the Bears held ther own for the most part, particularly on defense for 48 mintes.
“The good thing is, they (Science Hill) are a good team and we went toe-to-toe. I feel like we gave them all they wanted,” he said. “It was a close game. That’s the way it’s going to be in this league.”
Floyd will get the Bears back to work Monday in preparation for Friday’s battle with cross-town rival Cleveland.“Every week is a big week. Every week is a big week no matter who we are playing. We’ll just go back to work on Monday and try to get better,” said the Bears coach.
“It’s going to be a tough, competitive week every week. I’m happy the kids fought. We came up short tonight but we’re competing. It’s one game. Whether we win or lose it we are going to keep going. It’s not going to change how we work on Monday. We’re not happy we lost, but we had a lot of positives.”
Courtland Bradley out runs a Mustang Defender
Emotional Bears Round Up Mustangs
JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor
Bradley Central had plenty of motivation going into the season-opening gridiron game at the “The Corral,” but after the payback victory over its cross-county rivals, the biggest celebration of the night took place 11 miles away at Bear Stadium.
“We told Coach (Damon) Floyd we’d meet him on the 50-yard line (on Bradley’s home field) after we won,” proclaimed interim head coach Keith Freeman after the 34-27 victory over Walker Valley.
“We’re going to park the (team) bus at the north gate (at Bear Stadium) and run out to midfield to celebrate this win with our mentor and leader,” said a choked-up Freeman Friday evening as he wiped away tears from his eyes.
Floyd, the second-longest tenured head coach in the 98-year Bear football history, wasn’t allowed at the contest due to a controversial TSSAA suspension, but rode to the stadium with his team before leaving to watch the contest on the internet.
“He (Floyd) has built this program from scratch to what it is today,” declared Freeman, who has been by Floyd’s side during the 10-year process, which includes five-straight playoff appearances. “Not being able to have him here made this a very emotional night for us.”
The victory was extra sweet for the Bear players and coaches, who walked off the same field with their first-ever loss to the Mustangs in a heartbreaking 17-14 outcome last September.
“It (last year’s game) hurt worse than any loss I’ve ever had,” declared Bear junior quarterback Cole Copeland, who finished Friday night with 236 yards of total offense. “I’m glad to get that bad taste out of my mouth.”
Bradley faces a similar situation this week when it will once again be without Floyd as the team heads to Athens to face their oldest rival — McMinn County.
The Cherokees, who have played the Bears 92 times since Bradley opened in 1916, including the last 88 years straight, opened the 2015 campaign with a revenge win of their own, stopping their county-rival McMinn Central 34-20 Friday.
Walker Valley will regroup to get ready to head to Hixson to battle the Wildcats, who took it on the chin from reigning state champion Marion County Saturday in its season opener.
“This loss stings, but it’s not the end of our season,” proclaimed Mustang head coach Glen Ryan. “We’ve got to bounce back and get ready to face a good Hixson team.”
Both coaches (Ryan and Floyd) said going into the contest that the team that made the fewest mistakes would win.
“They made the plays and took care of the things they needed to do and we didn’t,” assessed Ryan. “We knew it was going to be a tough game, but the little things didn’t go our way. We had some opportunities but didn’t cash in on them.”
Bradley dealt the hosts a big blow right out of the gate when junior Cason Still fielded the opening kickoff on the 6-yard line, broke a couple of tackles and headed down the left sideline (in front of the Bear bench) to paydirt.
After the 94-yard scoring dash, senior soccer player Makhail Beregousky entered his first-ever football game to boot the extra point with just 15 seconds gone off the game clock.
To their credit the Mustangs took the body blow and came right back with an 11-play drive covering 74 yards to answer with points of their own.
Junior Alex King carried the ball over from eight yards out for the first of his four touchdowns on the night.
The extra-point kick was wide leaving the boys from the south side still in the lead at the end of the opening quarter of play.
After going three-and-out in its first try, the high-powered Bradley offense got going in its second try.
Copeland ran the ball three times for 27 yards during the drive, plus completed 4-of-5 passes for another 44, including an 18-yard toss to the back of the end zone to senior Tyler Carpenter, who showed off his vertical leap to pull it down and get his feet just inside the back line of the end zone.
After the Bear PAT attempt missed, it was Walker Valley’s turn for some excitement as King returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown. Andrew Hannah evened the game with his extra point kick just 27 seconds into the second frame.
Back-to-back penalties and some good Mustang defense holding the visitors to just one yard in three plays, forced the Bears to punt from their own end zone.
Walker Valley junior Bryce Nunnelly returned the kick 25 yards to the Bradley 11. Three plays later King bulled in from the 2. Hannah’s kick gave the hosts their first lead of the contest.
Copeland answered by orchestrating another scoring drive to knot the contest at 20-all.
Stepping into the starting 1-back role this year, senior Courtland Bradley showed what he is capable of doing with his first of three touchdowns on the night on an 11-yard scamper to paydirt to cap the 10-play, 63-yard march.
The Bear defense came up big on the second play after the ensuing kickoff when sophomore Jake Pressley went up high to tip a Mustang pass and then came down with the interception near midfield.
Needing just a half dozen snaps to cover the 55 yards needed, Bradley scooted the final 16 yards to put the Bears back on top 27-20 at the half.
“That turnover shifted the momentum,” declared Coach Ryan. “We were up by a touchdown and then we let them score twice in a little more than a two minute span.”
After getting off nine snaps but coming up empty in the final 127 seconds before the bands took the field, Walker Valley took the opening kick off of the second half and drove down to even the score once again.
King crossed the plane of the go from three yards out on his fifth carry of the 10-play, 74-yard march. Hannah split the uprights to knot the game at 27-all with 8:20 left on the third quarter clock.
After stalling the Bears’ next drive at the WV 26, the hosts gave the ball back four plays later when a fourth-down try by King was met by the Bear defense behind the line of scrimmage, giving the ball back to Copeland just 33 yards from paydirt.
After the talented signal caller gained 11 yards on three plays, he once again handed the ball to Bradley, who raced the final 22 for what turned out to be the game-winning score with 1:37 left in the third quarter.
“Courtland showed a spark tonight,” declared Coach Freeman of Bradley’s 68 yards and three scores on 11 carries. “He’s patiently waited for his turn and he’s ready to make the most of it.”
After the offenses and special teams combined to put 61 points on the board in the first three frames, the fourth quarter was dominated by big plays by defenses.
The Bears stopped the hosts on a fourth-and-2 play near midfield when sophomore Jake Pressley hit King behind the line of scrimmage before junior linebacker Hunter Duggan finished him off for no gain.
The Black-and-Gold was able to pick up a couple of first downs but were forced to punt, which Howell dropped in perfectly to be downed on the 1-yard line.
King got the Mustangs out of the shadow of their own goalposts with a 15-yard run and then sophomore Kolten Gibson hit junior Cooper Melton for seven yards. However, a holding penalty, a pass attempt knocked away by senior Ryan Still and a sack by junior Dalton Taylor forced a Mustang punt.
Walker Valley junior linebacker Skyler Swafford then started a three-and-out with a five-yard tackle for loss. He led the ’Stang defense with a dozen tackles, including eight solos.
Howell’s final punt of the night gave the Mustangs one last chance to rally, but they would have to go 81 yards in a little over two minutes.
The Navy-and-Gold Stallions opened the drive with a 17-yard connection from Gibson to junior Dylan Towers, but two plays later Bear junior defensive end Malik Whaley was able to record a sack with 95 ticks left on the clock.
After an incomplete pass, Walker Valley was faced with a fourth-and-17 when Gibson hooked up with Towers again to get the first down at midfield.
However, on the next play Duggan hit the receiver of a screen pass immediately for a three-yard loss.
After using their final timeout with 53 seconds remaining, Gibson then completed a pass to himself (the ball popped straight up out of his hand while throwing and he caught it on the way down) before Taylor tackled him for another seven yards in the wrong direction.
Walker Valley was able to head in the right way with an 11-yard pass to King on the next play. With the clock still running, the Mustangs rushed to the line to spike the ball, not realizing it was fourth down. However, the hosts were given one more chance for a miracle when the Bears called a timeout prior to the snap with 0.6 seconds remaining.
With 48 yards to the end zone, Bradley set up its prevent defense, which worked well when Gibson hit Nunnelly with a short pass and the Bears were able to tackle him at the 26.
“The defense came up with some big plays when we needed them the most,” praised Freeman. “Coach (Cortney) Braswell has come in and done a great job of reworking our defense to a 3-4. He’s one of the best defensive coordinators I’ve ever been around.”
Walker Valley finished with 356 yards of offense, with Gibson completing 23-of-31 passes for 199 yards, while King bulled for 108 yards on 17 carries.
The Bear offense countered with 319 total yards as Copeland rushed 22 times for 122 yards, plus completed 12-of-20 aerials for 102 yards.
Courtland Bradley gained 68 yards on 11 carries, while Carpenter covered 59 on four receptions.
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Relentless Pride …….Honored Tradition
Bears Crush Govs
RICHARD ROBERTS Banner Sports Editor
After falling behind by 21 points early in the second quarter, William Blount mounted an impressive comeback to close the gap to 28-21 with just over four minutes left in the first half. But it was not nearly enough momentum to stop Bradley Central quarterback Cole Copeland and his group of sticky-fingered receivers.
Copeland threw for an astounding 179 yards on only six first-half passes and completed 11 of 13 attempts to lead the Bears to a 59-21 Senior Night mauling of the Governors Friday inside Bear Stadium.
“I think you have to give credit to William Blount. Their receiver (Isaiah Hannah) is pretty talented. They were throwing it up and he was going and making plays,” complimented Bears Coach Damon Floyd afterward. “We were in position but he made the play. But in the second half we came out and shut them out. The offense was clicking and we got some looks that we wanted. They gave us some open spots and Cole did a good job. We also ran the football good tonight which was big. It’s a great way to go out on Senior Night. The good thing is we have another game at home next week.”
Copeland ended his regular season campaign with 284 passing yards completing 14 of 16 attempts before handing the reins to Dylan Standifer with the win safely tucked away in the fourth quarter. Standifer was a perfect 3-for-3 for 18 yards. Lameric Tucker found himself on the receiving end of the Bears’ share of passes from Copeland hauling in five catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns. The speedy sophomore also scored the first rushing TD for Bradley from 27 yards in the first quarter to put the Bears out front 7-0. Tyler Carpenter hooked up with Copeland three times for 103 yards. Trevon Hill, Courtland Bradley, Malik Whaley and Stephen Muhonen all contributed with catches for the Bears on the soggy turf.
“Coach (Keith) Freeman (offensive coordinator) did a good job of finding those spots and getting him in position. That was one of the matchups we thought was going to be key. With Nick Howell being out this week we were down some receivers. We thought Lameric could be big and he came through for us when we needed him,” said Coach Floyd. “His (Copeland’s) grandmother passed away this week and it’s been a rough week for him. I’m sure he was playing for a lot more than just himself and his teammates having her in mind. It was nice to see him come out and execute. We had a lot of guys step up and play really well.”
The Bears (7-3, 4-3 Region 1-6A) rolled up 501 total yards while holding the Governors (2-8, 0-7) to 265. Defensively, the Bears held the Governors to only two yards rushing and tackled William Blount runners 10 times for negative yards. The Bears did not have to punt the entire four quarters.
“That’s pretty big. I’ll be honest with you, they can run the football. They have a physical running back and they have been able to run the ball on some people. That’s big for our defense. Hopefully we are finding our groove here at the end of the season. That’s what you want but it will be totally different next week,” said Floyd after the 38-point win.
The win will give the Bears home field advantage against Riverdale. Bradley will host the 5-5 Warriors at 7 p.m. in Round 1 of the run to the state championship at 7 p.m. inside Bear Stadium. Riverdale finished the season 3-4 in Region 2-6A after a 42-21 loss to Cookeville.
After Tucker’s scamper to the end zone on the Bears’ first possession to open the night’s scoring, Blount countered with an 8-yard drive to tied the score at 7-7.
It took only two plays for Bradley Central to retake the lead after starting at their own 37-yard line. Sophomore fullback Adam Mullis picked up 18 yards on his second carry of the night to the William Blount 45. On the next play, Copeland found Tyler Carpenter for the TD to put the Bears back out front for good.
Copeland put Bradley on top 21-7 with a rushing touchdown from eight yards out, then — on the Bears’ second two-play drive of the half — threaded the needle between two Governors’ defenders into the outstretched fingertips of Tucker for 73 yards and the fourth Bears’ TD of the game.
William Blount battled back with a 68-yard drive to cut it to 28-13 after a missed extra point attempt then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and pulled within seven points to make it a 28-21 game after successfully converting a two-point conversion attempt.
“They weren’t able to run the ball the first half. Our run defense was really good, we had them in long yardage situations, we knew the deep ball was coming and they made the play. We should not allow that,” stated Floyd. “But our guys came out and executed in the second half.”
The 14 unanswered points by Blount were answered on the Bears’ next possession after Bradley covered the Governors’ pooch kick at the Bears’ 37-yard line. Two runs by Mullis and Copeland netted 16 yards to the Blount 47 where Copeland again hooked up with a leaping Carpenter to the 16-yard line. Floyd called on Mikhail Beregovsky who booted a field goal from 30 yards when the drive stalled on the 12-yard line.
After forcing a punt from the Governors on their first possession of the second half, the Bears overcame two penalties of five and 10 yards and continued to attack with a time eating 91-yard, 13-play drive to take a 17-point lead. Copeland hooked up with Carpenter for 18 yards, Tucker for 15 and Muhonen for eight during the march. The Bears’ junior QB pushed the drive along with 37 yards on four carries. Copeland capped the excursion with another toss to Tucker, this time for 20 yards, for the score to put the Bears a 38-21 lead.
William Blount tried to find a way back into the game with a fake punt on a fourth-and-10 on its next possession but was stopped by a rejuvenated Bears defense six yards short, giving Bradley the ball at the Governors’ 44-yard line. This time, the Bears took three plays to cover the distance with Copeland connecting on passes of 22 yards to Bradley and the final 20 yards to Tucker.
“They made some plays, you have to give them credit. We were out of position on some plays and some we were in good position but they made the play. But they only had two yards rushing all night so it’s kind of hard to be too upset with our defense. We stuck with what we were going to do,” said a pleased Floyd, whose Bears made no defensive adjustments for the second half. “At this point in the season everybody kind of knows what each other is going to do, it’s just a matter of if you are going to execute. If you were at the game you saw we just didn’t execute on some long yardage situations. I think the biggest thing was just going out and executing.”
With Floyd’s Bears holding a comfortable 45-21 lead, linebacker Jay Person added to the cushion when he stepped in front of a William Blount pass on the first play from scrimmage after the kickoff and returned the interception 23 yards for a touchdown to make it a 52-21 game.
With the win all but tucked away, Carson Still pounced on a Blount fumble at the Governors’ 45-yard and Standifer stepped in for Copeland to guide the Bears the rest of the way. The freshman signal caller took the Bears the distance in 10 plays with Ezrick Whaley putting the final touch on the 59-21 win with a 2-yard plunge.
“It didn’t look like he is a freshman,” Floyd said of Standifer’s cool under center. He’s got composure and he’s been around it a long time. His dad grew up and had a chance to play college ball and his brother is playing college ball so it’s in his family. Dylan is a good player.”
The Bears will return to work next week to prepare for the Warriors, who are no strangers to Floyd and Bradley Central.
“We are kind of familiar with each other, but the big thing is we are playing at home in Bear Stadium in round one of the playoffs. This is what we’ve been working for. Hopefully our guys are excited and we can come out and execute like we did tonight,” he said. “We’ve got to come back next week ready to work. Hopefully our kids will be excited for the playoffs and hopefully the community will come out and support this team.”