Bears to play 1,000th game
by JOE CANNON Banner Assistant Sports Editor
Oct 20, 2013 | 748 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Beginning during early part of the last century, the legacy of Bear football is a well-known part of Bradley County history as its lore has been passed down from generation to generation.

The storied program will reach an impressive milestone Friday evening as the Bears take the field for the 1,000th time in its 98-year history.

“Other than not playing in 1918 (due to either World War I or a worldwide flu pandemic that claimed between 50-100 million lives, or both), the Bear (football) program has survived through two World Wars, the Great Depression and the Vietnam War,” commented local Bear historian and BCHS history teacher Earl Rowan.

“Bradley High has a long, rich sports tradition. The ‘Bear Spirit’ and pride is different than what other local schools have because it goes back nearly a hundred years and has been passed down from generation to generation,” he added. “Other schools have strong passion for their teams as well, but their histories go back only half of what Bradley’s heritage does.”

“When I was a kid at Big Springs Elementary (in the early 1960s), I had a Steve Sloan No. 14 jersey and like every other little boy back then I couldn’t wait til I got to high school so I could play for the Bears,” related Gary Ownbey, another Bradley County sports authority.

Both Rowan and Ownbey have worked alongside legendary radio personality Corky Whitlock during his more than half a century of broadcasting Bradley County sports.

Whitlock’s first year in Cleveland was 1961 when Bradley won the “Triple Crown” of Tennessee high school state championships by being voted the Associated Press state football champions in the fall, as well as winning the TSSAA boys and girls state basketball titles that winter.

Dating back to the opening of Central High School on Charleston Pike, now known as North Ocoee Street (the current site of Ocoee Middle School), the Bear football program played its first game on Nov. 11, 1916. Coach J.F. Conley’s team defeated Tyner 43-6 and later shutout McMinn County 18-0, with a 26-0 loss to powerhouse Baylor in between for a 2-1 record in their inaugural season.

Changing its school name to Bradley County in 1921 and eventually to Bradley Central in 1948, the Bears have compiled a record of 562-408-29 and will play Soddy-Daisy for the 34th time Friday evening in the final home game of the 2013 season in the milestone contest.

After Conley coached the Bears in their first gridiron season, the legendary Jimmy Lovell took over the program the following year and directed the program through the 1938 season. Lovell coached a school record of 211 games, finishing with a 123-79-16 mark while at the Bear helm.

Louie Alford has coached the second-most games at 98 in a pair of stints, directing the Bears to a 54-14 record from 1975-80 before returning from 1991-93.

The current chairman of the Bradley County commissioners, Alford coached of the 1976 TSSAA State Championship squad that defeated Jackson Central-Merry 50-48 in triple overtime in what one national magazine called the “Game of the Century.”

Bill Smith (1952-60) is third on the all-time coaching list at 94 games, claiming 72 victories for a winning percentage of .765. Lee Pate (1939-42, 1946) has the top winning percentage in school history at .789 with a 45-10-2 mark.

Current head coach Damon Floyd (41-41) is in his eighth season at his alma mater and just surpassed Bill “Chief” Robertson, who went 47-34 from 1983-90, for fourth place on the longevity list. Robertson stayed on as an assistant coach with the program for many years until the year before his death from cancer in April of 2011.

In it’s long history, Bradley has had 61 “winning seasons,” including four undefeated marks — 1941 (11-0), 1942 (10-0-1), 1959 (10-0, voted by AP as the state runner up) and 1976 (13-0)— and nine one-loss seasons — 1916 (2-1), 1921 (7-1), 1922 (8-1), 1927 (7-1-2), 1940 (11-1), 1952 (10-1), 1955 (9-1), 1960 (9-1) and 1961 (9-1, state champs).

With the TSSAA state playoffs beginning in 1969, the Bears have made it eight times, plus are 6-3 in post-season bowl games.

While having numerous players go on to compete on the collegiate level, including several to Southeastern Conference teams, Bradley has had at least a half dozen players make it all the way to the professional football ranks — “Lum” Snyder, Bob and Tom Johnson, Steve Sloan, Chris White and Dale Jones.

“There’s nothing being a Bear,” declared Tom Johnson recently. “We weren’t very good when I was there (a 1969 graduate), but we had a great time and there was a lot of pride in putting on that uniform.”

“When we go out on the field, we know that we are not only playing for our team, but for all those who wore the ‘B’ before us,” remarked Coach Floyd. “There is a lot of Bears out there and they are bringing up their kids and grandkids in the Bradley tradition.”

The Bear Booster Club is inviting all former Bear players and coaches to attend Friday’s game and be recognized before kickoff.



Historical Records


Coach Years Wins Losses Ties

Damon Floyd 2006-present 41 41 0

John Allen 2005 1 9 0

Dean Ratledge 2003-04 3 17 0

Bill Price 1998-2002 27 27 0

Marty Wild 1994-97 17 25 0

Louie Alford 1991-93 12 18 0

Bill Robertson 1983-90 47 34 0

David Cawood 1981-82 6 13 0

Louie Alford 1975-80 53 14 0

Eddie Buck 1973-74 11 9 0

Terry Sweeney 1969-72 21 19 1

Bobby Allen 1967-68 6 15 1

Harold Henslee 1961-66 28 33 1

Bill Smith 1952-60 72 20 2

Wendall Sullivan 1947-52 39 23 3

Lee Pate 1946 5 5 1

Milborn Waller 1945 6 2 1

Frank Ditmore 1944 6 3 1

Milborn Waller 1943 6 4 1

Lee Pate 1939-42 40 5 1

Jimmy Lovell 1919-38 121 69 16

No Team 1918 0 0 0

Jimmy Lovell 1917 2 3 0

J.F. Conry 1916 2 1 0

Totals 562 406 29

Postseason record

TSSAA playoffs 8-8-0

Bowl games 6-3-0

State championships 1961, 1976

Top 12 Longest rivalries

McMinn County 50-38-3

Red Bank 29-30-3

Chattanooga Central 26-30-3

Chattanooga City 25-20-5

Cleveland 13-25

Soddy-Daisy 20-14

Polk County 25-8-1

Cumberland County 19-10

Ooltewah 17-12

Rhea County 14-13

Oak Ridge 3-24

TMI 18-7-1


(aa of end of 2012 season)

Points per game average 18.2

Points against average 14.3

Most points scored (1 game) 92

Most points allowed (1 game) 75

Shutouts for 215

Shutouts against 147