With eight catches for 208 yards, two touchdowns and nearly a third, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound leaper led the Bears past Coffee County 35-0.
Coupled with last week’s win at Polk County, the victory over the Red Raiders marks Bradley’s first 2-0 start in a decade. The Bears won their first three games in 2000 and started 5-0 in 1999, their last two winning seasons.
With a pair of victories over 2009 TSSAA playoff teams in its pocket, Bradley will now get ready for the annual showdown with arch-rival Cleveland High Friday night at Bear Stadium.
The Blue Raiders (1-0) are coming off a 47-6 thrashing of McMinn Central, which, like Cleveland, also made the post-season playoffs last fall.
“There was no secret we were facing Coffee County in between to very big games (Polk County and Cleveland) but we did a good job of not overlooking them and taking care of business tonight,” Bear head coach Damon Floyd stated after the Bears posted 411 yards of offense and held the opponents to just 123 Friday evening.
Before the season started, Floyd made no bones about the fact his Bears were going to air it out this year.
“We’ve got so many guys that are capable of doing good things with the ball we are going to spread it around and let them do their thing,” he stated in a pre-season interview.
Several of them were on display against the Red Raiders.
To go along with Stovall standout performance, sophomore Bryce Copeland completed 9-of-14 first half passes for 125 yards, including a 23-yard scoring strike to classmate Caleb Cain for the Bears first of five touchdowns.
Right before the end of the first half, Copeland completed his final pass, finding Stovall across the middle for and 18-yard gain that came up just inches short of the goal line. Senior fullback Dewaun Massengill, who had 41 yards on 11 carries on the night, punched it in on the next play.
With Copeland still feeling the effects of a groin pull from a couple of weeks ago, senior Chandler Bennett moved from tight end to quarterback for several plays in the second quarter and the entire second half.
Bennett threw just four passes, but he connected with Stovall on two of them, the first was a perfect 50-yard throw down the right sideline that Stovall caught in stride and carried the rest of the way for a 75-yard strike early in the second quarter.
The two hooked up again on the opening Bear offensive play of the second half, with Bennett hitting Stovall with a bullet in the right slot and the fastest player on the Bear squad split a pair of defenders and was off to the races for a 58-yard score.
Justin Houston showed his versatility as well with more than 100 all-purpose yards on just six touches.
The speedy junior gained 61 yards on three carries, including a slick 54-yard touchdown run on a late option pitch from Bennett, plus he caught a 13-yard pass, returned an interception 20 yards, plus gained another 20 on a punt return.
Houston also returned another punt 65 yards to paydirt, but one of only two Bradley penalties in the contest brought it back for a block in the back.
The Bear defense dominated the visitors, allowing just one first down and 40 yards of offense in the opening half.
Defensive end Tucker “Thunder” Bolton struck several times throughout the game with two sacks, several hurries, plus he got his hands one Red Raider pass batting it high into the air before it was caught and he made the tackle for an 8-yard loss.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior had five tackles for loss among his 10 total hits.
“We had a great all-around effort from everybody tonight,” Floyd praised. “Stovall was amazing. Copeland did a good job, but with a good lead and Cleveland coming up we didn’t want to risk him. We wanted to get Bennett some reps and he responded great (133 passing yards plus six rushes for 44 yards).”
“Houston did a tremendous job on both sides of the ball and on special teams,” the coach continued. “Bolton was all over the place and in their (Coffee County’s) quarterback’s face all night.”
“Our defense continued to play unselfishly. Some guys aren’t getting big tackle numbers but what they are doing sets up other guys for the tackle,” Floyd remarked. “Our offensive line is doing a good job in winning the battle up front and giving us time to throw.”
The only negative the Bear mentor saw was the fact his team put the ball on the ground four times, losing a pair of fumbles. “We need to hang onto the ball. We gave them the ball in our territory twice but our defense rose to the occasion and kept them from cashing in.”
Coffee County (0-2) got into the Red Zone just once in each half. A tackle for loss by junior defensive end Tyler Stanley pushed them back outside the 20 in the second quarter, while Houston’s interception the third frame ended the Red Raiders’ deepest threat.