“We played our best game of the year,” declared Walker Valley head coach Ted Lockerby. “We had a great week of practice and the kids have finally bought into what we have been telling them.”
“We have no excuses,” proclaimed Bear head coach Damon Floyd. “They (Walker Valley) came ready to play and took it to us.”
Despite trailing early and again in the third quarter, Bradley “found a way to win” according to Floyd after the 40-33 final saw a key fourth-down stop by the beleaguered Bear defense in their own territory with just over two minutes.
“I am proud that we kept our composure. We made some mistakes but they didn’t kill us,” the Bear mentor praised. “I’m proud of the kids’ attitude. Our defense struggled much of the night but we came up with the big stop there at the end when we really needed it.”
“Our kids played with heart, determination, desire, emotion and passion,” proclaimed Lockerby. “Those things can overcome size differences. We saw a lot of positive things that we can build on for the future.”
The Mustangs finish the season with a 2-8 record with victories over McMinn Central and Brainerd but lose just three starters off the 2010 squad.
On the other hand, Bradley (8-2) is far from done for the year as it enters the TSSAA playoffs as one of four No. 1 seeds in the Class 6A brackets.
The draw gives the District 5-AAA runners-up home field advantage throughout the postseason with Coffee County making a return visit to Bear Stadium Friday night for the playoff opener.
The 3-7 Red Raiders are the only team to make the state’s top bracket with a losing record, but earned the District 6-AAA championship Friday with a 12-7 upset of Cookeville (6-4). All three of Coach Eddie Nunley’s victories have come against 6-AAA opponents.
Bradley blanked Coffee County 35-0 back on Aug. 27 in the second game of the season (see full bracket details in related story, this page).
“We have to learn from this game (Walker Valley) that we can’t just show up and expect to win,” Floyd remarked. “Just because we beat Coffee before doesn’t mean they are going to come in here and roll over. Just ask Cookeville.”
Walker Valley set the tone quickly Friday night, recovering a Bear onside kick at midfield to open the game.
The Mustangs then used 10 plays, including a 19-yard fake punt run by freshman Garrett Wallace, to punch in the game’s first score. Junior Hunter Keefer did the honors from four yards out at the 7:43 mark and classmate Aidan Flock booted the extra point to electrify the home crowd with a 7-0 lead.
The Mustang defense showed it meant business as well, stopping the Bears on a fourth-and-1 to regain possession. However, after four penalties during a three-and-out of their own, the home team was forced to punt.
Speedster Justin Houston fielded the ball at his own 26 and went the distance for Bradley’s first return kick for a score of the season. Freshman kicker Clayton Steels came on to even the game with 3:35 to go in the opening frame.
The Bears were able to take their first lead of the game midway through the second quarter when sophomore quarterback Bryce Copeland hit James Stovall in the flat and the junior made a nice spin move on the defenders and raced 23 yards to paydirt.
Trailing 13-7 at the half, Walker Valley retook control of the game early in the third quarter, falling on a Bear fumble on the third play of the half. The Mustang offense then put together an eight-play drive that covered 59 yards, the final three of which were covered by senior Hayes Hooper for the score. Flock added the extra point for a 14-13 lead at the 8:11 mark.
Bradley answered right back with senior track standout Steven Dodd returning the ensuing kick to near midfield. A half dozen plays later, Copeland scampered in from five yards out to put the Bears back up.
Not intimidated, Walker Valley responded in kind with a 58-yard march that saw workhorse Kelvin Wells Jr. carry the rock three of four plays. Scoring on a 40-yard dash, the sophomore sensation finished the night with 155 yards on 29 carries to push his area-leading season total to just one yard shy of 1,500.
Thirteen seconds later, the home team scored again when sophomore Carlton Hunter scooped up another Bear fumble and raced 37 yards to the house for a 26-19 lead with 4:01 on the clock in the third frame.
Regaining their composure, Dodd gave the Bears good field position again, crossing the mid-stripe to the Mustang 36 on a 44-yard kickoff return.
Bradley kept the ball on the gain for five straight plays, with senior fullback Dewaun Massengill bulling for 13 yards on the first play and 11 on the final for the score.
Still trailing by a point, Bradley didn’t retake the lead until the 8:07 mark of the final quarter, when Copeland hit Houston in the flat and the junior capped off a seven-play, 63-yard march with a slick 31-yard run after the catch that saw him fake a pair of defenders off their feet, spin to break couple of more tackles, then outrun two more Mustangs to the end zone.
Houston and Copeland hooked up on a slant pass for the two-point conversion for a seven-point lead.
With a pass interference flag and an unsportsmanlike penalty on the conversion play assessed on the ensuing kickoff, the Bears tried another onside kick from the Mustang 30. The ball only traveled a few yards, but a Walker Valley player tried to scoop it up and fumbled the ball.
Bradley junior Akeem Humphries jumped on the loose pigskin and five plays later Copeland hit senior A.J. Shelton in the end zone for a 14-yard strike.
Down 14 with just over seven minutes left, Walker Valley still wouldn’t surrender and used a 36-yard screen pass to Wells on a fourth-and-5 play to keep an 11-play scoring drive alive. Wells did the honors from a yard out with 3:19 on the clock.
Needing an onside recovery of their own the Mustangs got just that when junior Austin Melton made a sliding recovery at the Bear 46.
After gaining eight yards in the first three plays, Walker Valley went for it on fourth down for the sixth time on the night but a host of Bears stopped the ball carrier just inches short of the marker.
With 2:02 left in the game, Bradley was able to gain a pair of first downs to run the clock out and preserve its best record since 2000.
The Bears outgained the hosts 332-301 despite running 22 less plays (72-50), but allowed the Mustangs to match the highest point total of any opponent this season.
Wells added a pair of catches for 39 yards to go with his 155 on the ground, while Houston countered with 107 total yards (58 receiving and 49 rushing).
Massengill collected 81 yards on a dozen carries, while Copeland completed 13 of 18 passes for 136 yards and three touchdowns, plus gained 60 yards on 10 carries, including a score.
Cleveland (5A) 5-1 6-4*
Bradley Central (6A) 5-1 8-2
Rhea County (6A) 4-2 5-5**
Soddy-Daisy (6A) 4-2 6-4
Ooltewah (6A) 2-4 4-6
McMinn County (6A) 1-5 2-8
Walker Valley (5A) 0-6 2-8
*Cleveland wins district title by virtue of head-to-head win over Bradley.
**Rhea County gets third place by virtue of head-to-head win over Soddy
Friday, Oct. 29
Bradley Central 40, Walker Valley 33
Soddy-Daisy 42, Cleveland 21
Ooltewah 17, McMinn County 9
Rhea County 35, Warren County 7
Friday, Nov. 5
Coffee County (3-7) at Bradley Central (8-2), 7
Oak Ridge (6-4) at Cookeville (6-4), 8
Lincoln County (5-5) at Soddy-Daisy (6-4), 7
Franklin County (5-5) at Riverdale (7-3), 8
Cleveland (6-4) at Lawrence County (7-3), 8
White County (5-5) at Tullahoma (7-3), 8
Lenior City (4-6) at Columbia (8-2), 8
Shelbyville (6-4) at Knox Catholic (6-4), 7
Polk County (3A) 4-0 9-1
Sequoyah (4A) 3-1 4-6
Sweetwater (3A) 2-2 5-5
Meigs County (3A) 1-3 2-8
McMinn Central (3A) 0-4 0-10
Thursday, Oct. 28
Sequoyah 34, Sweetwater 13
Friday, Oct. 29
Polk County 48, Meigs County 0
Sequatchie County 42, McMinn Central 7
Friday, Nov. 5
Tyner (8-2) at Polk County (9-1), 7
Kingston (6-4) at CAK (9-1), 7
Sweetwater (5-5) at Alcoa (10-0), 7
Howard (8-2) at Loudon (8-2), 7
Sequoyah (4-6) at Knox Gibbs (9-1), 7
Bradley Central 7 6 12 15 — 40
Walker Valley 7 0 19 7 — 33
WV — Hunter Keefer 4-yd. run (Adian Flock kick), 7:43
BC — Justin Houston 74-yd. punt return
(Clayton Steels kick), 3:35
BC — James Stovall 23-yd. pass from Bryce Copeland (kick failed), 5:44
WV — Hayes Hooper 2-yd. run (Flock kick), 8:11
BC — Copeland 5-yd. run (pass incomplete), 5:41
WV — Kelvin Wells Jr. 40-yd. run (run failed), 4:14
WV — Carlton Hunter 37-yd. fumble return (run failed), 4:01
BC — Dewaun Massengill 11-yd. run (kick failed), 2:00
BC — Houston 31-yd. pass from Copeland
(Houston pass from Copeland), 8:07
BC — AJ Shelton 14-yd. pass from Copeland
(Steels kick), 7:15
WV — Wells 1-yd. run (Flock kick), 3:19
First downs 18 19
Rushes-Yards 32-196 59-262
Passing 136 39
Total yards 332 301
Comp-Att-Int 13-18-1 2-13-0
Punts-Ave. 1-57.0 3-42.3
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 1-1
Penalties-Yards 6-57 13-110
Rushing: Dewaun Massengill 12-81 TD, Bryce Copeland 10-60 TD, Justin Houston 9-49, Steven Dodd 1-3 (BC); Kelvin Wells Jr. 29-155 2 TDs, Hayes Hooper 14-55 TD, Logan Hindman 7-24, Garrett Wallace 1-19, Hunter Keefer 7-12 TD, Gabe Cartwright 1- -3 (WV).
Passing: Bryce Copeland 13-18-1 136 3 TDs; Logan Hindman 2-13-0 39 (WV).
Receiving: Houston 5-58 TD, James Stovall 6-50 TD, Shelton 1-14 TD, CJ Talley 1-14 (BC); Wells 2-39 (WV).
Records: Bradley Central 8-2, 5-1 District 5-AAA; Walker Valley 2-8, 0-6 District 5-AAA.