The contest proved to be a battle of the quarterbacks. Blue Raiders QB Michael May and the Bears’ Cole Copeland put on an show for the fans at Benny Monroe Stadium.
The Blue Raiders struck first early in the first quarter, at the 5:54 mark, when Michael May connected with wide receiver Robert Anderson on a screen pass for a 16-yard touchdown.
After the ensuing kickoff the Bears promptly marched 59 yards down the field and evened the score on a 1-yard QB sneak for a touchdown by Cole Copeland.
The second quarter was marred for Cleveland by a series of ineffective drives by the Blue Raiders.
“We had way too many three-and-outs. We simply could not convert on third down and it cost us, while on the other side the Bears were able to do just that. The Bears converted a number of third downs that served as momentum for their offense. They converted, and we didn’t,” Blue Raiders assistant coach David McMahan said.
The Blue Raiders had no answer for the Bears running attack in the second quarter. Led by sophomore running back Jamey Billups, the Bears pounded the ball from the get-go and tacked on seven points at the 7:04 mark after an 18-yard scramble into the end zone by Copeland.
The Bears rendered the Blue Raiders scoreless in the second quarter, making the score 14-7 in Bradley’s favor heading into the second half.
“Even though we didn’t score, we stayed within striking distance. Our defense kept us within reach and took a lot of the pressure off of our offense by only allowing one touchdown,” McMahan said.
From the onset of the third quarter the Blue Raiders came out firing on all cylinders. Led by a balanced running and passing attack, Cleveland rebounded from its anemic second quarter and evened the score at 5:12 on a Michael May 30-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Peeler.
Less than 15 seconds would run off the clock before the Bears answered. Senior Cal Pickel took the kickoff 80 yards to the house after weaving in and out of would-be Blue Raider tacklers.
“The Bears’ kick return for a touchdown killed us. It served as a huge momentum change for them, but it effectively took the wind out of our sails. We came out almost completely flat on both sides of the ball for the rest of the game,” coach McMahan said.
The Bears dominated their crosstown rivals for the remainder of the game, scoring 21 answered points in the closing moments of the third quarter and into the fourth quarter.
While the score was constantly changing for the Bears, it remained the same for the Blue Raiders until the closing moments. Cleveland scored one last time with a minute left to make the final score 42-20 in Bradley’s favor.
“Bradley is a really good team. They have a lot of big guys that are able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. But with that being said, I am pleased with our effort in tonight’s game. We played the entire game and played hard despite the final score,” coach McMahan said.
Cleveland will look to recover from Monday night’s loss as it travels to Walker Valley to face the Mustangs on Monday.
The Bears will try and ride the wave of momentum into their next game as they host a tough McMinn County squad, also on Monday night.