Since the TSSAA started post-season playoffs to determine a state champion in 1969, no Bradley class has made the playoffs all four years. A victory Friday night at District 5-AAA newcomer East Hamilton will secure the impressive accomplishment for the current Bear leaders.
“It not only means the playoffs all four years for them, but winning records in each of those years as well,” declared Bradley head coach Damon Floyd.
This hasn’t happened since 1983-88 under Coach Bill “Chief” Robertson. It was also accomplished from 1974-81, 1957-62, 1951-55, 1938-45, 1925-31 and 1919-23.
The Bears face a tall order to keep the current streak alive as the Hurricanes have cut a 4-1 path through the 5-AAA this season and can secure the district championship with a victory, coupled with an Ooltewah loss in Athens.
“This is the playoffs right now,” proclaimed Coach Floyd. “We have to win to be in and they (EH) still have shot at the district title. Both teams have a lot to play for, so it will be a playoff atmosphere.”
The teams have played seven common opponents this season with very similar results, with the exception of one match up.
Both teams defeated state-ranked Signal Mountain (Bears 36-27, ’Canes 14-12) and perennial Middle Tennessee powerhouse Riverdale (BC 39-35, EH 35-14) in non-district games.
In 5-AAA play, both squads had little trouble with Soddy-Daisy (Bears 36-7, ’Canes 38-7) and Walker Valley (BC by 24 points, EH by 21).
Both dropped heartbreaking, hard fought 28-26 battles with sixth-ranked Ooltewah, and both had the same 21-20 final against Cleveland High — the Bears coming up just short, while the Hurricanes nipped the Raiders.
East Hamilton (7-2, 5-1 District 5-AAA) downed McMinn County 24-12, while Bradley (5-4, 2-3) dropped a 28-8 lackluster effort to the Cherokees.
Coach Floyd is 42-41 in eight seasons on the Bradley sideline, while Ted Gatewood is 27-26 in his five years directing the Hurricanes and 67-63 including his tenture as head coach at Ooltewah.
The last time the teams met in Collegedale two years ago, it marked the first-ever home game for the Hurricane squad, which is just in its fifth-year of existence. The Bears dominated that contest by a 42-7 tally, but East Hamilton returned the favor last fall, with a 41-7 victory in Bear Stadium.
“This will be our third time playing them, so we pretty much have a good ideal of how they will play us,” Floyd remarked. “They are very solid team all the way around. They can fly. They have a very good quarterback with a cannon for an arm. Great receivers who can do a lot with the ball after catching it and a very strong running game.”
Senior Hunter Moore (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) directs the ’Cane offense, completing 124-of-221 pass so far this season for 2,365 yards and has an 18-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His longest scoring pass covered 99 yards to Justin Denton. Moore has also rushed for five TDs.
Senior Tony Francois has been Moore’s main target, pulling in 33 passes for 1,005 yards. The 5-foot-6 speedsters has found the end zone a dozen times, including TD receptions covering 82 and 85 yards.
Heading to Vanderbilt as a defensive back, 6-foot-1, 175-pound senior Tre Herndon shines on both sides of the ball for the Hurricanes, hauling in 16 passes for 271 yards, including a 49-yarder for a score.
“Herndon is such a threat on offense and defense,” assessed Floyd. “Against Cleveland, DJ Jones got loose on a play and Herndon ran him down from the other side of the field.”
Tight ends Austin Gatewood (6-foot-1, 215) and Bailey Lenoir (6-foot-4, 220), who has committed to play at UTC, have combined for 311 yards on 17 catches, while junior running back Matt Milita 824 yards of total offense (627 rushing and 197 receiving) and scored 10 times.
After making a run to the Class 4 A state quarterfinals last fall, East Hamilton has been ranked in every Associated Press Class 5A poll, usually in the Top 5, but currently ranked eighth after seventh-ranked Rhea County handed them just their second defeat of the season last Friday.
The Eagles nipped them by a 27-24 score, thanks in part to a pair of blocked punts. The Hurricanes other loss came to arch-rival and sixth-ranked Ooltewah (7-2, 5-1) in a 31-28 contest that was decided by a late field goal.
“Rhea County didn’t do us any favors (by beating them last week). That just made them mad,” remarked Bear offensive coordinator Keith Freeman. “They’ll (EH) be ticked off an looking to come out strong and make up for that loss. We couldn’t get a lot of help from that film because we play such a different style of game than what Rhea does.”
The Bradley offense is nearing the 3,000-yard mark for the season. Senior QB Brett Standifer leads the Bears with 1,834 yards on 136-of-228 passing, including 18 TDs and seven interceptions. He has also rushed for 384 yards and a half dozen scores on 116 carries.
Bear senior running back Logan Fetzner has a pair of 100-yard rushing games this season while compiling 468 yards on 75 carries and 11 receptions, three of which found paydirt.
The trio of seniors Cal Pickel and Dee Crisp, plus junior Daniel Clark lead the Bradley receiving corps. Pickel has pulled in 42 passes for 606 yards and a half dozen scores, while Crisp has 38 receptions for 594 yards and 10 TDs. Clark has helped out with 23 catches for 350 yards and a score.
Senior “TNT” linebackers Jordan Timmons and Eduardo Trevino continue to pace the Bear defense. Timmons has been in on 94 tackles with nine being for loss and he has a trio of takeaways. Trevino has 51 solo tackles in his 96 hits, including 6 1/2 for loss and a pair of turnovers.
“Friday’s game once again boils down to our kids playing with intensity and passion,” assessed Coach Floyd. “We know they (EH) are going to come ready to play, so we need to match that level. It’s simple, we have to win to be in (the playoffs).”