“It’s a combination of several things coming together at the right time,” commented the former Bear standout who is now in his fifth season at the helm.
“I guess if I have to say, the biggest thing is our balance,” Floyd assessed. “Our kids understand their roles. Everybody can’t be a star. The stars are making the big plays because the other guys are doing their jobs.”
“It may be a cliche’ but it’s a total team effort that has gotten us here,” he added. “There are a lot of kids doing things that go unnoticed to the fans and don’t get their names in the paper but we as coaches see them and know they are the key to our success.”
“Our assistant coaches have put in many extra hours with the kids in the weight room during the offseason. The players are hungry. They’ve worked hard and have been willing to do whatever it takes to win.”
“We’ve had good competition at every position,” Floyd continued. “Each of our starters are being pushed by other players for their position. The starters can’t relax because there someone else ready to step in an give it their all.”
“We’ve been very fortunate this season that when someone went down with an injury, someone else stepped in and did the job. We have good depth and everybody is excited about playing.”
Floyd admits that wasn’t the case when he first returned to his alma mater.
“When I first got here, it was hard to get kids to play because the team wasn’t very good and the players took some harrassment from their fellow students.”
Bradley won just two of its previous 20 games before Floyd took over the program in 2006. In fact, the Bears were just 9-41 from 2001-05.
Floyd’s first team went 4-6, and after a slip to 2-8 in 2007, the Black-and-Gold has been on the verge of the TSSAA playoffs the past two seasons while going 9-11.
This year the Bears opened the season with big win over fifth-ranked (Class 3A) Polk County and have outscored their opponents 240-138 while posting a 7-2 mark and securing the District 5-AAA runner-up spot going into Friday night’s regular season finale at Walker Valley.
“Offensively, we’ve been very balanced and taking what defenses have given us,” Floyd expressed. “If they (opponents) stack the box, then we can throw. If they set back we can run.”
With 1,718 yards on the ground and 1,410 through the air this season, Bradley’s multifaceted offense has proven to be very effective averaging 27 points per game.
Sophomore quarterback Bryce Copeland has completed 90-of-171 passes 1,247 yards and eight touchdowns, plus has gained 243 yards on 52 carries.
The 1-2 punch of the running game finds “big bull” fullback Dewaun Massengill with 622 yards on 111 carries and nine TDs, while junior “scatback” Justin Houston has 470 yards rushing and another 315 receiving and seven scores.
The aerial attack features a pair of 6-foot-4 bookend receivers in junior James Stovall and senior A.J. Shelton. Stovall leads the area with 49 catches for 774 yards and seven touchdowns, while Shelton has average 21 yards a catch on a half dozen receptions (126 yards and a score), since returning to the lineup after a preseason injury cost him the first three games of the year.
“Teams can’t just key on one thing with us,” Floyd explained. “We have so many weapons this season that if they try to take one away, we just go to another.”
With nine returning starters, the Bear defense was expected to be a strong point this season and has.
Ranked 13th out of the 55 Class 6A teams in the state in points allowed, the Bear D has allowed an average of 235 yards and 15 points per game.
“Our defense is a good example of our team overall,” Floyd remarked. “We have 15-17 guys who can rotate in at any given time and we don’t lose anything.”
“Tucker Bolton and Bradley Colbaugh really set the tone and the rest of the defense feeds off them,” he said of the pair of Bear wrestling standouts. “They are both tough competitors and play with so much intensity. They approach football like they do wrestling, with an all out effort on every play.”
The senior co-captains lead the team in tackles. Bolton, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound defensive end has 88 solo tackles in 117 total hits, including 30.5 for loss, 10.5 sacks, 15 quarterback hurries and three fumble recoveries so far this season.
Colbaugh has 50 solos in his 71 total tackles, has blocked two punts, one he picked up and returned 40 yards for a touchdown and the other he fell on in the end zone for another score. The 5-foot-8, 160-pound linebacker has also caused a fumble, recovered three, picked off an interception, has three tackles for loss, broken up a trio of passes and forced three QB hurries.
Doing double duty, Massengill has also had a big impact from the middle linebacker position with 61 tackles, including 10.5 for loss and four hurries.
“People don’t understand the punishment Dewaun goes through in a game starting at both fullback and linebacker,” praised Floyd of another of his team’s co-captains. “He delivers some very hard licks from both positions.”
Senior Chandler Bennett has also made some “Sports Center” plays this season with 10 tackles for loss among his 39 total hits and three fumble recoveries. He has also punted for an average of 38.8 yards on 29 kicks.
“Bennett is such a tremendous all-around athlete, that no matter where we put him he is going to make the play,” the coach related. “He can do so many things its hard to keep him in one spot. He can play anywhere from defensive line to secondary. Nobody can handle his speed.”
The Bear coach points out the guys in the limelight are making the big plays because of the work of players like defensive linemen Matt White and Patrick Benson.
“Matt and Patrick are plugging the holes up front and forcing teams to the outside where the other guys are waiting on them,” Floyd commented. “Benson has been playing hurt most of the season but still going both ways on the line, while Matt does a great job but doesn’t get the credit he deserves.”
White, a 5-foot-11, 290-pound senior has 5.5 tackles for loss, including 2.5 sacks among his 35 total tackles, while Benson, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound Bear wrestler, has caused a pair of fumbles, and has five tackles for loss in 31 hits.
A couple of more unsung heroes have been linebackers Nate Mills and Shelton.
“Nate has been a huge surprise. Being a sophomore, we didn’t expect this much out of him but so physical and makes such big hits, we moved him to linebacker to get him on the field,” Floyd stated. Mills has seven tackles for loss and an interception, plus has caused a pair of fumbles.
“Shelton has been huge. He’s so long and athletic and really makes the play,” the coach asserted. In his limited time, Shelton has been in on 19 tackles, with 3.5 of them coming behind the line of scrimmage. He has also recovered a fumble and picked off an interception.
The Bear coaches have also been proud of their secondary, which has allowed just two teams to pass for more than 125 yards in a game while surrendering just 976 yards in the air this season.
“We gave up a few big plays but overall our secondary has been tremendous,” Floyd declared. “Having Rue (Goldston) back in the lineup makes a huge difference.”
The speedy junior missed a few games with an elbow injury suffered in the Cleveland game, but has three of Bradley’s 11 interceptions on the season. He also leads the team by breaking up 13 passes and two of his 24 solo tackles have been for loss.
“Teams seem to try to pick on him because of his size (5-foot-8) but he makes them pay when they do. He is so strong and can really leap,” Floyd commented.
The Bear mentor has similar praise for the rest of the secondary. “Justin (Houston) or Akeem (Humphries) on the other side do a great job as well and are very smart players, as is Korey Green, who gets us lined up in the right spots each play.”
Another sophomore the coach bragged about is safety Alex Hopkins, who has been in on 42 tackles and broken up a half dozen passes. “Like Mills, we didn’t know for sure what to expect from a sophomore, but Alex is a hard hitter and very smart. He understands his role and will lay out if he has the chance.”
“Our attitude has changed around here. We expect to win. Our fans, faculty and student body are excited about what is happening and rallying around the team and the players are responding by playing their heart out every time we take the field,” proclaimed Floyd.
For the first time in a decade, the Black-and-Gold faithful will get to do some November gridiron cheering as the Bears will play at least one home game in the TSSAA playoffs and possibly two or three depending on the final seedings.