“We came out flat. There’s no other way to explain it,” the veteran coach remarked. “We didn’t come out ready to play. The bottom line is right now the kids aren’t responding to me right now.”
“You have got to want to play the game,” he added. “I know historically whoever loses the Bradley-Cleveland game is usually flat the next week, because it is such an emotional game, but that’s no excuse. We were playing our oldest rival (McMinn), with our playoff hopes on the line and we weren’t inspired.”
The 28-8 Cherokee victory put the Bears run of three straight TSSAA playoff appearances in serious jeopardy. At 4-4 on the season, and 1-3 in the district, Bradley would need to sweep both Soddy-Daisy (3-5, 0-4) Friday and fourth-ranked East Hamilton (7-1, 4-1) in Collegedale on Nov. 1 to guarantee a post-season berth.
The Senior Night contest Friday against the Trojans at Bear Stadium will be the 1,000 game in the Bradley football program’s history, which dates back to 1916 (see related story this section).
After taking the opening kickoff, McMinn County (3-5, 2-2) used a 53-yard run by quarterback Corbin Powers on the third play to set up the first of his three touchdowns on the evening with a three-yard plunge with 10:22 still showing on the first quarter clock.
The Tribe added two more scores in the second frame, one on a seven-yard Powers dash to cap a 12-play, 78-yard drive with 5:03 left in the half and the other on an 88-yard “Pick 6” by Trevor Crisp, the first of his two interceptions on the night. The turnover thwarted Bradley’s deepest penetration of the opening half at the Cherokee 23.
McMinn’s final score came with 4:11 left on the third quarter clock as Powers, who gained 105 yards on 10 carries, scampered in from 18 yards out and then tacked on the two-point conversion himself.
With the Bear offense being held to just 101 total yards and having to punt seven times in the first three frames, Coach Floyd brought in freshman quarterback Cole Copeland for the final quarter.
After struggling some in his first two possessions, the latest in a long line of Bear football standouts put together Bradley’s lone scoring drive of the night, covering 77 yards in 10 plays.
Copeland connected with Bear standout receiver Daniel Clark for a 10-yard toss on a third-down play to start the sticks moving and got the second first down himself on a 14-yard scramble.
The 6-foot-2 freshman moved the ball over midfield with a 23-yard hookup with sophomore Kylar Lynn and then three plays later found sophomore Swan Parker in the back of the end zone from 28 yards out for the touchdown to prevent the Bears from being shutout for the first time since 2007.
Copeland connected with sophomore Ryan Still for the two-point conversion pass with 1:15 left in the contest before McMinn was able to run out the clock for their 13th victory in the last 14 meetings with Bradley. The Bears still hold a 50-38-3 edge in the second-longest continuos rivalry in the state, dating back to 1927.
Adding a team-leading 21 yards on a trio of rushes, Copeland completed 5-of-9 passes for 63 yards. Starting senior QB Brett Standifer went 14-of-29 for 100 yards, but was sacked three times and finished with just six net yards on nine carries.
Senior wideout Cal Pickel pulled in eight catches for 72 yards, making several outstanding catches under heavy defensive pressure.
“We had several people just going through the motions out there, but not Cal (Pickel). He played a heck of a game,” praised coach Floyd.
Bradley senior Clayton Steels punted the ball eight times for a 38.8-yard average, including the first three which pinned McMinn on its own 8, 12 and 4 yard lines respectively. He also had a pair of long punts that traveled 47-yards apiece.
Powers paced the Cherokees with 12-of-17 passing for 80 yards to go with his 105-yard rushing game. Speedy DJ Kimpson helped out with 81 yards on 17 carries, while Dre Sanders had 45 yards on nine touches.
McMinn County will return to Bradley County Friday to face Walker Valley (3-5, 0-4) at “The Corral,” before wrapping up the regular season by hosting Ooltewah.
McMinn County 6 14 8 0 — 28
Bradley Central 0 0 0 8 — 8
MC — Corbin Powers 3-yd run (kick failed), 10:22
MC — Powers 7-yd run (DJ Kimpson run), 5:03
MC — Trevor Crisp 88-yd interception return (kick failed), 2:05
MC — Powers 18-yd run (Powers run), 4:11
BC — Swan Parker 28-yd pass from Cole Copeland (Copeland to Ryan Still pass), 1:15
First downs 13 11
Rushes-yards 37-204 21-36
Passing yards 80 163
Total yards 284 199
Comp-Att-Int 12-17-0 19-38-2
Punts -Ave. 6-37.2 8-38.8
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 3-0
Penalties 5-50 3-33
Rushing: Corbin Powers 10-105 3 TDs, DJ Kimpson 17-81, Dre Sanders 6-12, Xavier Abernathy 3-5, Dre Hall 1-1 (MC); Cole Copeland 3-21, Brett Standifer 9-6, Logan Fetzner 6-5, Baylor Terrell 1-7, Dee Crisp 1- -1, Daniel Clark 1- -2 (BC).
Passing: Corbin Powers 12-17-0 80 (MC); Brett Standifer 14-29-1 100, Cole Copeland 5-9-1 63 TD (BC).
Receiving: Dre Sanders 3-33, Clay Bennett 3-26, Dre Hall 5-14, Matt Derrickson 1-7 (MC); Cal Pickel 8-72, Swan Parker 1-28 TD, Kylar Lynn 1-23, Daniel Clark 2-12, Logan Fetzner 2-12, Tyler Carpenter 2-18, Dee Crisp 3-3 (BC).
Records: McMinn County 3-5, 2-2 District 5-AAA; Bradley 4-4, 1-3 District 5-AAA.