High school football has another four months before stepping out under those Friday night lights, but this past Friday Cleveland and Bradley County were treated to a rivalry game of epic proportions.
Hosted by Southeastern Football Rivals, local history took to the field as former Bears and Blue Raiders donned their alma maters’ colors one more time for a fundraising game.
Current Cleveland Head Coach Ron Crawford got put to work Friday evening on the sidelines, while Bradley Central Head Coach Damon Floyd, a former Bear standout, pulled double duty as a coach and a player.
“I was really nervous about how it was going to go with this being the first time, but it couldn’t have gone any better. We had a great crowd and good players on the field. There was a great atmosphere for some solid competition,” said a slightly sore Coach Floyd Saturday. “There was a lot of respect out there. The game was all in fun, but it’s always good to end with a win,”
By the end of four full contact, 12-minute quarters, it was the Bears who came away with a 27-21 victory over their longtime rival Blue Raiders.
“You never like losing, but the big thing was that no one got hurt. I think everyone left having fun, feeling good about themselves and the team,” Coach Crawford commented. “It was entertaining, and we scored the most points in any game that Southeastern Football Rivals has put on. It was a cool event, and there was a solid crowd considering all the different events that were going on Friday night.”
While Cleveland’s alumni roster was peppered with an older contingency, Bradley had a large number of recent players who returned for the chance to go head-to-head with their biggest rival.
“Our guys hadn’t played or been coached in forever, so that’s just how it goes. I was impressed by what I saw from Brandon Fields, Lonnie White, Terrance Constant and Tez Davis,” Crawford stated. “They had more younger players on Bradley’s side.”
According to Coach Floyd, the Bears alumni were represented by some players who graduated in the last few years, but also had several from the 1990s back to the mid 1980s.
“I thought our defense, especially the front seven, all played really well. Blake Morris, Deonte Lindsay and Shiloh Lindsay,” Floyd stated. “I think Cleveland performed well and had a lot of athletes out there on the field. There were a lot of plays made on both sides, which shows the athleticism both teams had.”
Official attendance numbers have not yet been reported by Southeastern Football Rivals, but there were at least upwards of 4,000 fans in the stands.
The alumni rivalry game has the potential to become an annual event, but an official decision has yet to have been made.
“It’s been 15 years since I’ve played a football game,” said Coach Floyd, who went onto play at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga after graduating from Bradley. “ I told my wife that this might have been the most fun football game that I have ever played in.”