Coming off a half dozen straight highly emotional "rivalry" battles, and making an hour and 45-minute trip to face a team yet to record a victory this season might be a recipe for a letdown, but …
Coming off a half dozen straight highly emotional "rivalry" battles, and making an hour and 45-minute trip to face a team yet to record a victory this season might be a recipe for a letdown, but Bradley Central head coach Damon Floyd is confident that won't be the case Friday evening.
"We are coming off our best effort of the season (in a 42-8 whipping of Soddy-Daisy), our most complete game, and hopefully we will continue that this week.
"I know it's fall break, but that has actually been a good thing for us as we've been able to focus only on football and what we need to do these last three weeks," he said not only of Friday's games at Heritage of Maryville, but also next week's road trip to William Blount and the regular season finale when top-ranked Maryville comes to Bear Stadium on Oct. 26.
"We need some help to be able to get a home playoff game (both Maryville and Ooltewah are 3-0 in Region 2-6A play)," the veteran "Papa Bear" explained as his team sits at 5-2 overall and 2-1 in league play with a loss to the Owls.
"We have to handle our business and hope someone else is able to knock off either Ooltewah or Maryville."
The Owls travel to Maryville on Friday for what could determine the region championship before hosting Cleveland (3-4, 2-2) the following week. Both Ooltewah and the defending state champion Red Rebels have games left with Heritage (0-7, 0-3) as well.
"Heritage is struggling right now, but we've got to go in, be who we are and play our game," related Floyd. "We've got to do our assignments in all three aspects (offense, defense, special teams) of the game, no matter who we are playing."
The Mountaineers have been outscored 66-341 so far this season, including a 55-7 defeat to Cleveland in their last game two weeks ago. The Bears roared past the same Blue Raiders 32-14 a month ago.
The only other common opponent this season has been McMinn County, which Bradley dropped 21-7, while the Tribe scalped the Mountaineers 48-8.
"They (Heritage) haven't had a lot of success (only 9.4 ppg) offensively, so they are trying different things. They've run a lot of RPOs (run/pass option) from a two-back set," the Bradley mentor stated. "Defensively they run a '3-3 stack' and do different things out of it."
The Bears lead the all-time series between the teams with a half dozen wins in nine meetings, including last year's 27-6 outcome.
Before becoming region opponents last year, the previous matchup came in 2008, also a 27-6 Bear victory at Heritage. Floyd is 3-1 as a head coach against the Mountaineers. The teams played yearly from 2001-08 when they were also in the same region.
While Bradley is looking to make its ninth straight TSSAA playoff appearance, the Mountaineers' lone postseason bid came in 1987, when they went 9-2. They have only had eight winning seasons in their 41-year history, the last coming in 1999 under former Cleveland High head coach Danny Wilson.
Heritage, which is located on the east side of Blount County, opened its doors in 1977 as a combination of the old Townsend, Porter, Everett and Walland high schools.
Riding a four-game winning streak, Bradley comes into this week's game having outscored their last six opponents by a 205-94 margin.
The Bear offense has gained 2,614 yards so far this season with 1,421 coming through the air and the other 1,193 in a strong ground attack. Bradley has put more than 40 points on the scoreboard in a trio of victories this year.
Senior all-state quarterback Dylan Standifer has been a double-threat, completing 97-of-147 passes (66 percent) for a dozen scores, plus gained 309 yards on 74 carries, reaching paydirt five times.
Juniors Saylor Clark and Ricky McCleary have both found the end zone eight times in the last six games.
Clark leads area receivers with 701 yards on 43 catches, while McCleary is second in local rushing stats with 567 yards on 115 carries (4.9 ypc), plus has pulled in five aerials for 50 yards.
The "Black Hole Defense," has held the last two opponents to a combined 365 total yards and only one touchdown each.
Senior linebackers Hayden Owenby and Cole Reyher lead the Bradley defense with 47 and 39 total hits respectively.
Owenby has 30 solo tackles, a half dozen behind the line of scrimmage, plus a pair of QB sacks.
Reyher has 29 solo take downs, six tackles for loss (TFL) with four sacks and a trio of takeaways, including a 51-yard scoop-and-score fumble return for a touchdown against Rhea County two weeks ago.
Sophomore safety Tucker Still has 23 solo tackles in his 30 total hits, while classmate Kins Hooper has made a name for himself with 19 solos, 10 assists, a half dozen TFL and five sacks from his linebacker position.
Moving over to defense for his senior season, Kahlil Lamberth has responded with 21 of his 28 hits being solo tack downs, plus he has a trio of takeaways.
Junior LB Kam Arrowood is also making an impact with 20 solos in 27 hits, six tackles behind the line, a pair of sacks and a takeaway.
"We've gotten better as the season has come along with several players stepping in and making big impacts," praised Floyd, who had to replace 18 starters from last year's 10-3, state-quarterfinal team.
"This (Heritage) is a big region game for us to get playoff position. We won't underestimate them."
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