“This isn’t an Xs and Os thing. It’s a lack of effort and execution,” bemoaned the frustrated Bear mentor after his squad wrapped up the regular season with a 41-11 trip to the East Hamilton woodshed. “Even in the Soddy-Daisy game (a 36-7 victory), we didn’t look good in the second half.”
“It seems like the last few weeks, we’ve just been going through the motions without any passion,” Coach Floyd assessed. “We are not playing for each other right now, like we were earlier in the season. We need to quit pouting (over close losses to Cleveland and Ooltewah) and stop looking for excuses.”
After an opening-season loss at Polk County, Bradley bounced back to win four straight games, but finished the season with just one victory in its last five outings to finish at .500.
While the Bear seniors are the first in school history to make the playoffs (which started in 1969) each of their four seasons, they will travel to face 14-time state champion Maryville in Friday night’s postseason opener.
The 10-0 Rebels have been the top-ranked team in the Associated Press Class 6A Top 10 all season and have played in the last nine state title games, winning six.
Eighth-ranked East Hamilton (8-2, 5-1) tied with No. 6 Ooltewah (8-2, 5-1) and fifth-ranked Cleveland (7-3, 5-1) atop the District 5-AAA standings in its first year, but had to settle for the runner-up trophy in its first season in the league after the tie-breaker was applied. The Hurricanes will play host to Oak Ridge (7-3) in Friday’s 5A playoff opening round (see related story this section for full playoff details).
Wasting no time in letting everyone know they came out with a purpose, East Hamilton scored on its first three possessions Friday night.
After a failed onside kick to open the contest, the Hurricanes needed just five plays to find the end zone. Senior quarterback Hunter Moore connected with speedy classmate Tony Francois for the first of the pair’s three touchdowns on the evening, this one covering 31 yards just 135 seconds into the contest.
The hosts got another quick chance when they stripped the ball from a Bear ball carrier on the first play after the ensuing kickoff and then march 33 yards to paydirt with Moore doing the honors himself from a yard out with less than six minutes into the game.
After Bradley’s second offensive possession went for 13 plays, a sack on a fourth-and-11 at the ’Cane 28 gave the ball back to the hosts, who needed just two plays to score again — this time on a 64-yard hooked between Moore and Francois less than a minute into the second quarter.
After the teams traded punts, the Bears finally got on the scoreboard. Starting on its own 29, Bradley needed just five plays to get into the Red Zone, thanks to a 29-yard pass from senior Brett Standifer to junior Daniel Clark. However, after advancing just three more yards in three plays, the Black-and-Gold had to settle for a 31-yard field goal off the foot of senior Clayton Steels with 3:46 left in the first half.
The Bears looked like they were going to get right back into the contest when senior Austin Foss picked off a Hurricane pass on the second play after the ensuing kickoff, but two plays later the second of five Bradley turnovers on the evening gave the hosts a short field with plenty of time on the clock for another score.
Vanderbilt commitment Tre Herndon carried the ball in from nine-yards out on a reverse pitch for the fourth ’Cane score of the opening half and a 27-3 advantage at the intermission.
After the break, Bradley took the second-half kickoff and marched into the Red Zone, including a 32-yard pass from Standifer to senior Cal Pickel, but once again was denied and a 27-yard field goal attempt went wide.
Adding insult to injury, Moore and Francois hooked up for an 80-yard touchdown on the very next play.
Bradley responded by heading right back to the Red Zone with a 55-yard pass to Pickel on the first play after the kickoff and then a 10-yard connection to Clark, but a pair of 15-yard penalties moved them the wrong way and the black-and-gold eventually turned the ball over on downs.
East Hamilton’s final scoring drive of the night was set up by another interception, leaving them just 41 yards away from paydirt. Third-string running back Kendall Henderson covered the final six yards to set the running clock rule in order.
Freshman quarterback Cole Copeland took over the reigns of the Bear offense for the final quarter, hitting Clark with a 28-yard pass to start things off, but he too was picked off when the ball was taken away from a receiver.
Bradley got the ball back a few moments later when senior linebacker Eduardo Trevino stripped the ball away from a ‘Cane running back. Copeland hit a wide open Tyler Carpenter on the following play for a 50-yard touchdown, then found Crisp on a fade route for the two-point conversion with 3:17 remaining.
Actually in the stat sheet, the Bears out gained the hosts 402-379 and had two more first downs (16-14), but the trio of interceptions and a pair of lost fumbles gave the ‘Canes the advantage in field position.
Copeland finished with 7-of-10 passing for 134 yards, plus carried the ball three times for 24 yards, all in the final frame. Standifer had over 200 yards of total offense, completing 10-of-30 passes for 188 and gaining 14 yards on eight carries.
Pickel pulled in a trio of passes for 98 yards, while Clark 86 on five receptions. Carpenter gained 63 yards on a pair of catches, with senior Logan Fetzner adding 71 total yards (44 on 10 carries and 27 on three receptions).
Moore completed 8-of-13 passes for 221 yards, 182 of which went to Francois on four catches, three of which went into the end zone. Filling in for starting tailback Matt Milita, who missed the game with a thigh injury, David Whiteside had 16 carries for 88 yards to lead the ’Cane rushing attack.