“East Hamilton looks like a college team,” declared Bear head coach Damon Floyd. “They are huge up front and have really good team speed, with good-looking skill guys on both sides of the line. They have a very good running back and a good quarterback who has improved a lot since last year.”
Coming off their first District 6-AA championship and TSSAA playoff appearance in just their third year of existence, the seventh-ranked (4A) Hurricanes started off this year with a bang by shocking Signal Mountain 55-14, before losing on a last-second field goal to Ooltewah and destroying Chattanooga Central 49-3 last Friday.
“They have a couple of very big wins and a very tough loss,” expressed Floyd. “They are a run-first team and will come right at us to see if we can stop them. If we do, they’ll spread it out and have plenty of weapons to go to.”
Last week Bradley shut down Soddy-Daisy running potent attack, limiting the Trojans to just 21 yards on 30 rushes.
This time around the challenge will be to stop speedy tailback Logan Jackson, who has already gained 603 yards in the first three games, including 169 while playing only the first half last week against the Purple Pounders.
“I’ve been looking at film (of East Hamilton) and I haven’t seen anybody tackle him yet, not by themselves anyway,” Floyd stated. Jackson gained 134 yards on 19 carries and a pair of receptions in last year’s meeting, which the Bears won by a 42-7 margin.
The Bradley offense will also face a big challenge, especially in the form of Hurricane junior nose guard Cordell Sands. “I played with his dad at UTC and he went on to play (eight seasons) in the NFL,” Floyd remarked. “His dad (Terdell Sands) was 6-foot-8, 360 pounds. He’s (Cordell) not far behind his dad in size.”
“They (East Hamilton) didn’t lose anybody from last year’s team and they look really good so far this season, so this will definitely be a strong test for us,” the Bear coach assessed. “The main thing we need to do is worry more about ourselves and do what we need to do on every play. We must win the individual battles and the rest will take care of itself.”
Although Bradley has dodged a couple of bullets in the injury category, with defensive end Eduardo Trevino still being able to play despite an injured finger and tailback Logan Fetzner bouncing back from a rolled ankle to still be able to play, the news on senior lineman DJ King, who suffered a knee injury last Friday, may not be as good.
“There is still too much swelling to get an MRI done, but we are hoping it’s just sprained,” Floyd said Tuesday. “We are hoping that with an off week after we play East Hamilton, that he’ll be able to be back for the Blackman game (Sept. 21).”
Bradley has also learned that projected starting defensive end Jordan Sharp will not be able to play this season. “We expected him to start for us but he suffered a shoulder injury before we put the pads on and he is still having problems with it, so it looks like he’s done for the year,” Floyd lamented.
So far this season, the Bear offense has gained 1,175 yards so far this season, including senior quarterback Bryce Copeland completing 43-of-65 passes for 561 yards and four touchdowns, plus he is one of three Bear ball carriers with more than 100 yards rushing this season.
Defensively, Trevino and linebacker LJ Goodridge are coming off 12-tackle performances at Soddy last week, while defensive back Robert Bartolameolli was in on 11 total hits. Trevino sacked the Trojan QB five times, plus nailed a running back behind the line of scrimmage, while Bartolameolli added a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Bouncing back from a hard loss against second-ranked (Division II) Baylor, Bradley opened the District 5-AAA slate with a 35-0 whipping of Soddy last week, showing a strong defensive effort and a very balanced offensive approach, that spread the ball to seven different receivers and well as four ball carriers in a 469-yard performance.
After playing their first three games on the road, the Black-and-Gold will open a four-game home stretch Friday evening, plus have a bye week before they have to leave Bear Stadium again. In fact they only have only regular season game left that is outside of Bradley County, Oct. 26 in Athens against McMinn County.
Note: The Bradley Central baseball team will be hosting fundraising events at each Bear home game with in the “Left Field Lounge,” along the south end of Bear Stadium. “We’ll have barbecue plates and a ‘corn hole’ tournament before each home game,” explained coach Travis Adams.
The barbecue plates and fixings will be $5, while $15 gets you food and a spot in the tournament.