In the best matchup of the night at Finley Stadium, the two powerful offenses dominated the 20-minute session with 278 yards and 27 points scored while the clock ran continually.
“We expected it to be a very exciting matchup,” commented current Bear head coach Damon Floyd after his Bears pulled out a 14-13 victory with their second touchdown coming with just 33 seconds to play.
Signal Mountain came out strong with a 25-yard pass completion from quarterback Reece Phillips to Will Queen to open the contest.
The Eagles, who won the Class 2A state title last before moving up to Class 4A this season, then kept the ball on the ground for seven straight plays,plus was aided by a late hit on an out-of-bounds tackle.
Andrew Price punched it in from 1-yard out for the contest’s first score. What turned out to be the deciding play of the battle happened next when the Signal Mountain kicker pushed the uncontested extra point kick wide right.
After the teams traded penalties and a pair of incomplete passes, the Bears got their offense going when junior quarterback Bryce Copeland connected with all-state wide receiver James Stovall for a 39-yard gain.
Bradley got a little help with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Eagles on the following play to move the ball to the 15 yard line. Two plays later Copeland and Stovall hooked up again, this time on a corner route for the score with 10:03 on the clock.
The Bears took the lead when sophomore Clayton Steels booted the ball through the uprights for the extra point.
Sophomore Edwardo Trevino gave the Bradley fans something to cheer about on the first play of the ensuing series when he blasted through the line and nailed Phillips for a sack and a nine-yard loss.
“Edwardo made a couple of big tackles for us,” Floyd praised the 5-foot-10, 210-pounder. “He can play linebacker or on the defensive line for us.”
Undaunted, the Eagles got those nine yards back on the next play before Phillips and Queen connected on another 25-yard pass to move the ball across midfield.
A 15-yard run by bull (6-foot-3, 230-pound) running back Tim McClendon and a 17-yarder by Mitchell Hall put Signal Mountain back in the Red Zone. Fullback Zack Bowman finished off the scoring drive from nine-yards out and this time the Eagle kicker was right on the money for a 13-7 advantage.
With less than five minutes left on the clock, Copeland went right back to work, hitting sophomore Cal Pickel for a 17-yard strike.
Once again the yellow flag helped a scoring drive as the Eagles were flagged for roughing the passer on a second-and-15 incomplete pass.
With the ball on the Eagle 41, Copeland hit Stovall on a quick slate and the 6-foot-3, 185-pounders broke a couple of tackles and gained 25 yards after the catch to move the ball to the 11.
After the Bears lost three yards on only their second running play of the period, Copeland tried to find Stovall in the corner again but couldn’t make the connection. Faced with a third down, the junior lefty found sophomore fullback Logan Fetzner across the middle in the end zone for his second TD toss of the night.
With the game tied and only 33 ticks to go, Steels came on an once again drilled the extra point for the difference in the contest.
After Signal Mountain tried a running play, Phillips and Queen hooked up for another 35-yard pass to end the game as it began.
The Eagles outgained the Bears 165-113, with Phillips completing all four of his passes for 92 yard. Three went to Queen for 83 yards. Tim McClendon, who is a half brother to Cleveland High’s Henry McClendon and cousin of Indianapolis Colt Jacques McClendon, gained 29 yards on four carries.
Copeland completed 5-of-9 tosses for 115 yards and the two scores. Stovall caught three of the passes for 85 yards.
“They (signal Mountain) were playing man-to-man (pass defense) and bringing the house (blitzing) and we’ll take that matchup any day,” Floyd proclaimed. “Our defense still has a lot of work to do but I liked the way our kids kept playing no matter what happened.”
“We gave up some deep passes and hurt ourselves with a late hit penalty but we were able to bounce back with some big plays of our own,” Floyd remarked. “They (Signal Mountain) are a very good team and with us being without five starters, I thought we did very well.”
Not dressed out for the contest due to minor injuries were three Bear senior captains — Justin Houston, Rue Goldston, Tyler Stanley — along with Tennessee committee junior Austin Sanders and sophomore Jackie Black.
“None of them are serious injuries but playing on (artificial) turf and it just being a scrimmage, we didn’t want to risk anything more serious,” the coach explained who has lost a starter for significant time in the past three jamborees.
Bradley’s lone injury Friday night came when junior linebacker Jordan Sharp hurt his hand.
“He went to the hospital for X-rays, but there was no facture, so he should be okay,” Floyd related.
The Bears will now turn their full attention to Friday’s season opener against Polk County.
The neighboring teams have split their last two season openers, with Bradley winning 26-16 last year in Benton and the Wildcats taking a 20-13 decision the last time the two teams met in Bear Stadium.