Subhead 2 col, 2 line: Bears looking tomake it 4 straightIt's Bradley-Cleveland week.Enough said.No other hype is necessary to get Bear Nation and the Rowdy Raider faithful cranked up for the biggest …
It’s Bradley-Cleveland week.
No other hype is necessary to get Bear Nation and the Rowdy Raider faithful cranked up for the biggest game of the year.
However, last year a new twist was added to the 54-year-old rivalry and the same is true for Friday evening’s “Crosstown Clash” at Benny Monroe Stadium.
“There’s a lot of pride on the line this week. I don’t have to get the guys up for this one. They know who we’re playing,” remarked Bradley head coach Damon Floyd.
“If we can’t get up for Cleveland, then we’ve got a problem. This is different than any other week of the year.
“Not only is there the usual emotions and excitement that goes with this game, but since we’re now in the same region, there are postseason implications as well. It’s a very important game for both teams as far as making the playoffs.
With the TSSAA redrawing regions and classifications two years ago, the increased CHS enrollment put the Blue Raiders in the state’s largest class for the first time in school history, the division the Bears have played in since the TSSAA started the playoffs in 1969.
With just four playoff spots available in each region, the arch rivals are looking to secure the best position possible for the postseason.
Last year, both teams made the Class 6A playoffs, Bradley as a second seed and the Raiders earned the No. 3 spot from Region 2.
With the added incentive, last year’s classic was proclaimed as “one of the most exciting games ever in this rivalry” by longtime local radio broadcaster Coach Earl Rowan, who had personally witnessed all but one of the previous 43 battles.
The action, in front of more than 7,000 fans, was so hot, it knocked out the Bear Stadium lights — twice.
Bradley two-time all-stater Lameric Tucker scored on a six-yard run with just 76 seconds to go to secure the 27-21 outcome for the Bears’ third straight win in the series.
The teams combined for 37 first downs and more than 650 yards of offense last September, but were also flagged 28 times 270 yards.
The teams are expected to once again be in the thick of the postseason hunt, but both have stumbled out of the gate with just one win in their first three games. The difference is Cleveland’s victory was over region foe William Blount, while the Bears dropped a 28-27 heartbreaker to Ooltewah in their 2-6A opener two weeks ago.
While Bradley was enjoying a bye week last Friday, Cleveland made at trip up I-75 to face reigning 5A state champion Knox Catholic.
“They (CHS) were impressive against Catholic,” assessed Floyd. “They had two 14-point leads, but gave up 21 points in the fourth quarter to let them come back and win (35-27).
“Both of us are coming off games we felt like we should have won, but we let it slip away.”
It was the Raiders who came up with late rallies in their first two games.
“They had a close game against Blount (19-13 midway through the fourth quarter) until they blew it out with four touchdowns in final five minutes,” Floyd related.
“They were down 21-7 to Bearden with two minutes to go in the third quarter, but came back to make it just a touchdown difference in the final two minutes of the game. They can score in a hurry.”
Although Cleveland lost the vast majority of their playmakers from last year’s 7-4 squad, they have managed to put 92 points on the scoreboard in their first three games this season.
“They’ve had a lot of kids step up this year, but I think it’s starts up front with them,” assessed the Bear mentor. “They’ve got five guys up there (on the offensive line) that have played a lot of football. They are big. They’re physical and they move well. They are giving (QB Jackson) Moore a lot of time to throw the ball.”
Floyd was quick to point out a key factor in the Raider offense. “The one thing you notice when you watch them on film or in person is (Robert) Flowers. How athletic he is. But you can’t just concentrate on him because they have other guys that are very capable as well.”
The 6-foot-3 junior wide out leads the area with 334 yards on just 15 catches (22.3 ypc) and has found the end zone four times. The southpaw slinger has also played some quarterback in his career and tossed a 32-yard scoring pass against Blount.
Senior Moore has handled the signal calling duties, completing 35-of-62 aerials so far for 525 and four TDs. He has also averaged 5.7 yards on 17 carries, including a 23-yard dash to the house.
“The (Jackson) Moore kid shows a lot of poise,” proclaimed Bear assistant coach Keith Freeman. “He’s getting the ball to his athletes, plus running the offense well and getting people lined up.
“He’s also shown some ability lately in running the ball,” added Floyd.
“Cleveland is good up front on both sides of the ball with guys who have been in there for three years. They are very athletic with a lot of speed, like Cleveland always is.
“Defensively, the scheme they are running is hard to go against. They bring people from all different directions. You throw in how fast they are at getting to the ball, plus I haven’t seen a whole lot of missed tackles,” the Bear coach commented.
“The (David) Dorsey kid is tremendous in the secondary. He has four interceptions. I don’t know why people are throwing his direction.”
While Floyd admits you always prepare for whatever your opponents does, his main concern this season has been closer to home.
“The truth is before we worry about what Cleveland does, we need to focus on what we do. We have to shore up some problems we’ve had,” the veteran mentor declared. “We did a better job cutting down on penalties against Ooltewah (8-for-58), but we’ve got to take care of the ball and not turn it over (but only twice in their last outing).
“We can’t give the game way, which we feel we’ve done a couple of times this year. A team like Cleveland can make you pay quickly for turning the ball over.”
The teams are pretty evenly matched on paper — Bradley with 51 first downs, to 43 for Cleveland.
The Bears have rushed for 473 yards on 103 carries, while the Raiders have gained 457 on 100 rushes.
Bradley has completed 51-of-83 passes for 581 yards, with Cleveland gaining 557 on 36-of-63 aerials.
Both have scored five TDs through the air and five on the ground.
The difference in scoring comes from a pair of special teams scores — a 50-plus yard kickoff return (Victor Dodd) and a 70-yard punt return (Dorsey) — plus a 41-yard “Pick 6” (Dodd) by the Raiders.
With eight miscues in the season opener against seventh-ranked Farragut, the Bears have struggled with a 5-13 takeaway-turnover ratio, while the Raiders have given the ball away as many times (8) as they have snatched it.
While Bradley has drawn almost twice as many yellow flags (29-15), but the Raiders have accumulated 255 penalty yards, while the Bears have been set back just 218.
Bradley is getting back one key component, but could be without another.
Sophomore Tray Curry, a 6-foot-5 speedy receiver who already has a trio of NCAA D-I offers on the table, missed the Ooltewah game after suffering a high ankle sprain against Walker Valley, but is expected to be back.
“Tray should be good to go. We gave him last week off and he practiced yesterday (Monday). He’ll be in there Friday,” related Floyd.
However, leading rusher senior Ricky McCleary, who has 271 yards on 48 carries (5.6 ypc), may not.
“He missed the final quarter against Ooltewah, due to a ‘turf toe’ injury and hasn’t practiced since,” the Bear coach revealed. “Parker Johnson (9-61, 6.8 ypc, TD) and Kahlil Lamberth (4-22, 5.5 ypc) will run the ball in his sted if he can’t go.”
Friday’s game will mark the first time Bradley will play on the Raider Field artificial turf.
“We’d always rather play them in Bear Stadium, but it is what it is,” remarked Floyd. “We’ve already played on turf (at Farragut) this year and other places in previous years, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Cleveland leads the overall series 27-16, but the Bears have notched three in a row, plus have won six of the last nine meetings.
Floyd is 6-6 against the Raiders in this head coaching career, while Cleveland coach Scott Cummings will be looking for his first win over the Bears in his fourth try.
Bradley Central 20 21 20 7 — 68
Cleveland 10 21 30 31 — 92
Bradley Central 22 0 28 14 — 64
Cleveland 7 21 14 42 — 84
First downs 51 43
Rushes-yards 103-473 100-457
Passing yards 581 557
Total yards 1054 1014
Comp-Att-Int 51-83-7 36-63-5
Punts -Ave. 10-35.3 7-36.3
Fumbles-Lost 8-6 4-3
Penalties 29-218 15-255
Rushing: Ricky McCleary 48-271 (5.6 ypc), TD; Dylan Standifer 28-108 (3.9), 2 TDs; Parker Johnson 9-61 (6.8), TD; Ike Phanor 3-22 (7.3); Kahlil Lamberth 4-22 (5.5); Tray Curry 4-16 (4.0), TD (BC): Jeffrey Perez 36-177 (4.9), TD; Josiah Bowman 36-155 (4.3); Jackson Moore 17-97 (5.7) TD; Javaris Bowman 3-30 (10.0), TD; Jay Townsend 1-17 (17.0) (CHS).
Passing: Dylan Standifer 47-79-6 551, 5 TDs (BC): Jackson Moore 35-62-5 525, 4 TDs (CHS).
Receiving: Saylor Clark 19-255 (13.4 ypc), 4 TDs; Tray Curry 9-125 (13.9); Ethan Vaughn 8-112 (14.0), TD; Ashton Boyd 5-32 (6.4); Trentavious Roberts 3-10 (3.3) (BC): Robert Flowers 15-334 (22.3), 4 TDs; Jay Townsend 4-69 (17.3) TD; D’Rhann Thomas 5-68 (13.6); Lael Crisp 5-65 (13.0); DeAndrez Bridges 3-14 (4.7) (CHS).
Defense: Hayden Owenby 21 tackles (12 solos), 3 TFL, 2 sacks; Cole Reyher 20 tackles (17), 4 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 takeaway; Brandon Adams 13 tackles (11); Tucker Still 13 tackles (9), 1 TFL; Kam Arrowood 11 tackles (8), 2 TFL, 1 sack (BC): Parker Chastain 28 tackles (9), 1 TFL; Leo Palelei 26 tackles (9), 1 TFL, 1 takeaway; Logan Strickland 26 tackles (13), 2 TFL, 1 sack; Money Palelei 22 tackles (8), 1 TFL, 1 sack; Myles Clabough 18 tackles (6), 3 TFL, 1 sack; David Dorsey 14 (6), 2 TFL, 5 takeaways (CHS).
Records: Bradley Central 1-2, 0-1 Region 2-6A; Cleveland 1-2, 1-0 Region 2-6A.
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