Bears not fooled by Bearden mark

By JOE CANNON
Posted 9/12/19

For the second straight week, Bradley Central will square off against a winless gridiron team Friday night.

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Bears not fooled by Bearden mark

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For the second straight week, Bradley Central will square off against a winless gridiron team Friday night.

However, there is a world of difference between Heritage, whom the Bears thrashed 62-14 for their 18th straight loss last week, and Bearden, who has lost to a trio of state-ranked, undefeated teams this season.

The Bulldogs fell to 10th-ranked (5A) Knox West 34-31 in the season opener, No. 2 (6A) Maryville (47-14) and eighth-ranked Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett 39-14, last week.

"They are 0-3, but their record is not indicative of the type of team they are," remarked veteran "Papa Bear" Damon Floyd, whose sleuth moved up from eighth to seventh in this week's Associated Press Class 6A poll.

"They've (Bearden) been beaten by three very good, ranked teams, that haven't lost a game yet this season.

"They have also been without their four-year starting quarterback (Collin Ironside) for the last two games. Word is he may be back for us Friday, but we don't know yet," he added.

Ironside threw for more than 5,000 yards and 50 TDs in his first three years and holds every Bulldog passing record.

"He (Ironside) suffered a high-ankle sprain early in the Maryville game (two weeks ago)," Floyd explained. "They have a freshman backup (John Carlevato) that has a lot of ability, but not much experience.

"If Ironside plays, they are a totally different team and offense. They are very multiple when he's in there," the Bear coach related. "He's a big (6-foot-2, 195 pounds), strong kid that can throw it and run it very well. He's a smart kid — No. 1 in his senior class, I'm told — and the team rallies around him. 

"With him, they run a lot of RPO (run-pass options). With the other kid they are more basic and not as multiple on offense. They are a spread team that will give a lot of different looks to try to take advantage of your weak spots."

Ironside had completed 26-of-48 attempts this season for 323 yards, four TDs and had yet to throw an interception before going down against the second-ranked Rebels.

"The last time we played up there, Ironside was a freshman starter," Floyd said of the Bulldog signal caller's 28-of-45 performance for 225 yards and a pair of scores.

"Defensively they run a three- and four-man front and will show different coverages. They have a pair of lock-down corners playing man-to-man. They feel good about them being out on an island."

Bradley's high-powered offense is coming off its most prolific scoring effort in 19 seasons, having put up more than 60 points for the first time since 2000 in Coach Bill Price's heydays.

"Our offense is playing well (121 points the last two weeks) and we are getting great production from a lot of different players," praised Floyd.

Bradley has had four different 100-plus yard rushers so far this season — Javin Burke (165) and Ricky McLeary (128) against Farragut, plus Tray Curry (112) and Riley Harmon (104) last week versus Heritage.

Burke has also completed 31-of-53 passes for 485 yards and five TDs, spread out among seven different receivers.

As a team, the Bear offense has gained 1,279 yards and put 151 points on the scoreboard in its first three outings.

"Our offensive line has done a great job of opening holes and protecting for our pass game," said a pleased Floyd.

Bradley's scoring has also gotten a boost from first-year kicker Issac Vaughan, who is 17-of-18 on extra-point attempts, including 16 in a row, plus has split the uprights on a pair of field goals —  28 and 33 yards.

"Issac has really come on strong, gotten confident and is excited about getting on the field," he said of the senior soccer player, who they talked into coming out to help the team this season. "His kickoffs are getting better and deeper. He's really coming on."

The Bear offense was dealt a couple of blows in last week's victory when seniors Saylor Clark, the team's leading receiver with 11 catches for 154 yards, and key lineman Jacob Tipton left the game with injuries.  

"Saylor has a high ankle sprain from last week, but we expect him back. Linemen Jacob Tipton and Jerad Fox should start and we'll see how they do."

Both Tipton, the starting Bear center, and Fox, the 6-foot-3, 325-pound left tackle, have had shoulder injuries. Both seniors, Tipton re-injured his last week against Heritage, while Fox re-aggravated his against Walker Valley and missed last week's win.

Junior wideout Trentavious Roberts is returning this week from the concussion protocol, while classmate lineman Caden Moore is out with a concussion.

"We're having to deal with some bumps and bruises like everybody does this time of year, but we've had some other players step in and perform well for us," commented the Bear mentor.

Floyd is also pleased with improved performance of his "Black Hole Defense" over the opening week's tackling troubles.

"We are doing a better job of wrapping up and making the tackle on more first hits. We're reading our keys better and getting to the ball," he praised.

The veteran mentor knows his team won't be distracted by Bearden's winless record as the Bears are focused on continuing to build on the success of the past two weeks before heading back into Region 2-6A play the following Friday, with an always-tough trip down the road to Ooltewah.  

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