After suffering the rock to the forehead the week before at Polk County, it was the Black-and-Gold’s turn to carry five smooth stones into battle against perennial powerhouse Riverdale and come away with a 39-35 victory Friday evening at Bear Stadium.
“To get the win over a program like Riverdale, especially coming off the loss to Polk, is huge,” proclaimed Bradley head coach Damon Floyd of the first-ever meeting between the two programs. “To even be able to play with a team like them (Riverdale) says a lot about our guys. To see the way they (the Bear players) responded to the challenge after the week we had, says it all.”
The Warriors from Murfreesboro have made 21 of the last 22 TSSAA playoffs, winning four state titles, finishing second five times, playing in five straight state titles games from 2000-2004, while posting a 259-39 record during that span.
“This gives us a big boast heading into our bye week,” declared coach Floyd. “While wins and losses don’t define our work ethic or character, being able to go into the off week 1-1 instead of 0-2 is great.”
The Bears won’t play again until Sept. 13 when they make a trip to Hixson (1-1) to face a Wildcat team that manhandled a perennial powerhouse themselves Friday evening, winning 29-6 at South Pittsburg.
Coming off a season-opening loss to its arch-rival Oakland, ranked No. 2 in Class 6A this week, Riverdale came out with purpose Friday evening scoring on its first two possessions, but the Bears answered them both times, setting the stage for the 700-plus yard, 74-point offensive fireworks to come.
Taking the opening kickoff, the Warriors stayed exclusively on the ground in their first two scoring drives, the first off which covered 75 yards on seven plays and the other used a dozen rushes to go 80 yards.
Bradley went to the air in quick-strike fashion, scoring on the fourth play of each of its first two offensive possessions.
In the Bears first series, Bear quarterback Brett Standifer found a streaking Daniel Clark across the middle and the 6-foot-2 junior made a spectacular leaping, one-hand snag, pulled the ball in and outran the Warrior safety for the final 35 yards of the 54-yard scoring strike.
On the extra-point attempt, the snap bounced before getting to the holder, but senior Baylor Terrell alertly scooped up the pigskin and lofted a pass into the end zone where classmate Logan Fetzner made a diving catch on to complete the two-point conversion fire drill.
Once again on the fourth play of its second series, Bradley found paydirt when Standifer threw a swing pass to senior Dee Crisp, who picked up a big block from Clark and sprung free for a 66-yard dash.
Senior Clayton Steels tacked on the first of his four extra-point kicks on the evening with 11:17 on the second quarter clock.
On the second play after the ensuing kickoff, Riverdale put the ball in the air for the first and Bear junior Christian Hamilton snatched it and returned it to the Warrior 35.
After Bradley was stopped for the first time themselves on a failed fourth-down conversion attempt a few moments later, the see-saw battle continued.
The Warriors went back to the wing-T ground game, using nine plays to cover 64 yards with junior Austin McGrone crossing the goal line for the second time, this one from 11 yards out.
The lead changed hands for the sixth time in the opening half when the Bears put together a 10-play, 78-yard march, with Standifer keeping the ball for the final 11 for the score and Steels split the uprights on the PAT with just 40.6 seconds left on the clock.
That wouldn’t be the last score of the first half however as Riverdale fumbled the ball on the ensuing kickoff return and sophomore Trevon Ware came up with the ball to give the Bears possession at the Warrior 36.
On the first play, Standifer swung a lateral pass to Crisp, who fake a run and then pulled up and fired the ball to senior Cal Pickel, who made the leaping catch as he crossed the goal line. Steels tacked on another point at the :21.6 mark for a 29-21 Bear lead at the intermission.
After winning the coin toss before the game, Bradley had deferred so it would receive the second half kickoff, allowing it to continue its offensive momentum with a 10-play drive to open the third quarter. Standifer capped the march with his third touchdown toss of the night, this one a five-yarder to Terrell.
Once again the visitors helped the Bears almost immediately as the ball was put on the ground again on the first play after the ensuing kickoff. Junior Warren Crisp came with the pigskin at the Warrior 23.
Unable to get a first down, Bradley settled for a 37-yard field goal by Steels for an 18-point advantage with 6:25 left in the third frame for its final points of the evening.
Not willing to surrender, Riverdale stayed with its game plan and answered with 13 straight running plays with a direct snap to tailback Mariko Odom, who won the eight-yard foot race to the pile on for his second score of the contest. He then ran the same play the opposite way to tack on the two-point conversion with 2.2 seconds on the third quarter clock.
After Bradley went three-and-out on the next series, Steels pinned the Warriors on their own 14 with a 47-yard punt that hugged the right sideline while rolling and bouncing before finally going out of bounds.
Using a half dozen plays to move into Bear territory, Riverdale sophomore QB Marquis Odom stunned the Bear defense as he went to the air for just the third time and connecting with Marcus Williams for a 40-yard touchdown pass. The Warriors once again went for a two-point conversion which would have cut the lead to just two points, but Bradley’s Dalton Cooley and Warren Crisp trapped Mariko Odom in the backfield on the running attempt.
With just over nine minutes left in the game, Bradley tried to kill some clock but a pair of three-and-outs gave Riverdale hope. However, the boys from Murfreesboro couldn’t cash in as the Bear defense stopped them just short on a fourth-down conversion try on the first series and then their sixth fumble of the evening was snatched up by Bradley junior DJ Moyse with just 79 ticks left on the clock.
After throwing four TDs in the opener, Standifer came back with three scoring strikes, plus he crossed the plain once on the ground. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior signal caller completed 13-of-18 passes, plus gained 44 yards on 13 carries, but was sacked three times for a total of minus-16 yards.
Crisp covered 75 yards on his two receptions, plus threw the 36-yard scoring pass to Pickel, who gained 61 yards on four catches. Clark pulled in three aerials for a total of 70 yard, while Terrell gained 34 yards on a trio of catches.
Fetzner helped out the Bear ground game with 38 yards on a half dozen carries.
Mariko Odom carried the load for Riverdale with 192 yards and two scores on 25 carries, while McGrone also found paydirt twice while piling up 96 yards on 11 rushes.
“Our defense still needs to work on reading our keys, but we were able to come up with some big play when we really needed them,” commented coach Floyd. “Dalton Cooley played real well, and Jordan Timmons had another great game for us. He’s (Timmons) a real hard-nosed kid that is a very good high school linebacker.”
Riverdale 14 7 8 6 — 35
Bradley Central 8 21 10 0 — 39
R — Mariko Odom 7-yd. run (Kyle Bennett kick), 8:52
BC — Daniel Clark 54-yd. pass from Brett Standifer (Logan Fetzner pass from Baylor Terrell), 6:56
R — Austin McGrone 6-yd. run (Bennett kick), 1:27
BC — Dee Crisp 66-yd. pass from Standifer (Clayton Steels kick), 11:17
R — McGrone 11-yd. run (Bennett kick), 5:03
BC — Standifer 11-yd. run (Steels kick), :40.6
BC — Cal Pickel 36-yd. pass from Crisp (Steels kick), :21.6
BC — Terrell 5-yd. pass from Standifer (Steels kick), 7:41
BC — Steels 37-yd. field goal, 6:25
R — Mariko Odom 8-yd. run (Mariko Odom run),
R — Tad Onwu 40-yd. pass from Marquis Odom (run failed), 9:01
Team stats R BC
First downs 20 14
Rushes-yards 56-384 23-57
Passing yards 40 257
Total yards 424 314
Comp-Att-Int 1-3-1 15-20-0
Punts -Ave. 0-0 3-40.3
Fumbles-Lost 6-3 1-0
Penalties 3-25 3-25
Rushing: Mariko Odom 25-192 2 TDs, Austin McGrone 11-96 2 TDs, Chanton Pace 9-60, Steve Wilson 5-27, Marquis Odom 4-15, Artavious Collier 1-6 (R); Logan Fetzner 6-38, Brett Standifer 16-28, Christian Hamilton 1-0, Baylor Terrell 1- -3 (BC).
Passing: Marquis Odom 1-3-1, 40 1 TD (R); Brett Standifer 13-18-0 3 TDs 254, Dee Crisp 1-1-0 36 1 TD, Baylor Terrell 1-1-0 3 1 two-point conversion (BC).
Receiving: Marcus Williams 1-40 TD (R); Cal Pickel 4-61 1 TD, Dee Crisp 2-75 1 TD, Daniel Clark 3-70 1 TD, Tyler Carpenter 1-22, Logan Fetzner 1-3, Christian Hamilton 1-2 (BC).
Records: Riverdale 0-2; Bradley 1-1.