“We saw a lot of positives — we had over 500 yards of offense, we matched them score for score in the first quarter and won the second half 14-10 — but we made some mistakes in the second quarter that put us in a big hole. You can’t help a good team like that,” remarked Bear head coach Damon Floyd after his eight-ranked (Class 6A) Bears fell 45-28 to No. 3 (Division II) Baylor.
“They have a lot of people (17 starters) back from a team that almost won a state championship last year,” the Bradley mentor added. “We knew they’d be tough when we scheduled them. I was proud of the fact our guys never gave up and played hard until the final whistle.”
The two teams treated more than 4,000 fans to more than 900 yards of offense, 10 touchdowns and a 57-yard field goal in Bradley’s second straight battle against a fellow state-ranked opponent.
The Bears defeated 10th-ranked (3A) Polk County 34-12 in the season opener and now turn their attention to the important District 5-AAA race as Soddy-Daisy comes to town for homecoming Friday at Bear Stadium.
After an opening period that was reminiscent of an old Loyola-Maramount basketball game, the score stood knotted at 14-all after both teams scored in the final 50 seconds of the quarter.
Baylor drew first blood, going 80 yards on 11 plays in its first possession, with quarterback Matthew Oellerich punching the ball in from five yards out.
The Bears answered immediately, covering 80 yards in just two plays — a 22-yard pass from junior QB Bryce Copeland and a 58-yard reverse run by all-state wide receiver James Stovall. Copeland threw a key block to open door to the sideline for Stovall just 45 seconds after the Red Raiders had burst the scoring floodgate.
Both teams found the end zone within 12 seconds of each other in the final minute for the frame.
Taking over on their own 16 after a Baylor punt, Bradley used a 24-yard Copeland to Stovall hook up to help move them across midfield. On the sixth play of the drive, Stovall returned the blocking favor from the previous touchdown to spring Copeland free on a 44-yard scoring dash with just under 49 seconds to go in the frame.
The only Bear lead of the night lasted just 12 seconds as Oellerich showed his speed on an 80-yard dash on the first play after the ensuing kickoff to even things up.
Despite a pair of penalties and a three-and-out forcing a Bear punt to open the second quarter, the home side erupted in excitement when sophomore safety Alex Hopkins picked off a tipped Raider pass and returned it 43 yards.
However, once again the Black-and-Gold thrill was short lived as a block in the back penalty, one of 11 flags on the home team during the contest, moved the ball back to the Bear 39. On the very next play Baylor’s Russell Burton intercepted a Bradley pass at midfield.
Five plays later, Oellerich swept around right end, but fumbled the ball and Deosha McColley scooped it up for the first of three Red Raider touchdowns in the second frame.
Two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Baylor’s Landry Taylor picked off another Bear aerial but as he was heading down field, Stovall stripped the ball from him but the Red Raiders recovered the pigskin at the Bear 26.
A pair of runs by Houston Clements and a five-yard penalty on the Bears and Baylor was up by two touchdowns.
Undaunted, Bradley bounced right back with a seven-play drive, overcoming three more yellow flags to get into the visitors’ Red Zone. Senior speedster Justin Houston covered 54 of those yards a reverse play.
Facing a fourth-and-8 at the 18, coach Floyd sent out the field goal team, but the Red Raiders burst through the line to block the kick. Landry Taylor scooped up the loose ball and raced the other way, with senior kicker Miles Christian making a TD-saving tackle at the 11-yard line.
Baylor needed just three plays to find paydirt again with Oellerich sneaking across for his third score with 2:16 left in the half.
Bradley once again got up, dusted themselves off and went right back to work. On one of the few kickoff that didn’t make the end zone, Stovall fielded the ball at the 1 and raced to the 32 before being stopped.
Three connections between Stovall and Copeland, plus a pair of runs each from seniors Rue Goldston and Jeff Stokes moved the ball to the Raider 33 but that’s as close as the home team would come with an eight-yard tackle for loss and an incomplete pass turned the ball back over with just a few ticks remaining.
Despite trailing 38-14 and losing Houston for the night to a groin injury, Bradley had out gained the Red Raiders 309-275 and returned to Jimmy Lowell Field after the intermission with a renewed determination.
The Bear defense held Baylor to just 31 yards of offense in the third quarter, but getting the ball at midfield after stopping Bradley on a fourth-and-2 set up one of the most amazing plays of the night.
After a pair of Clements runs moved the ball to the Bear 35, a fumble and an incomplete pass set up Baylor with a fourth-and-11 at the 39. Instead of pooch punting to try to pin the Bears deep in their own territory, Raider coach Phil Massey sends out senior kicker Henrique Ribeiro, who had been booming kickoffs into the end zone all evening.
The holder put the ball down on the Baylor 47 and the senior blasted a shot that landed on the crossbar and bounced through. The 57-yarder tied the state mark for the sixth-longest field goal in TSSAA history. Former University of Tennessee kicker Jeff Hall holds the state mark, hitting a pair of 62-yard field goals while playing for Franklin County in 1991 and ’92.
Despite the difference jumping to 24 points, the Black-and-Gold wasn’t ready to fold their tents. Starting on their own 20 after Ribeiro nearly put the ball through the uprights again on the kickoff, Copeland directed his team down field four straight completions. On the seven play of the drive, the junior showed off his running skills once again, zig-zagging his way 56 yards to paydirt.
Bradley moved the ball well on its first possession of the final quarter reaching the Baylor 14, but back-to-back sacks moved the ball out of field goal range.
Despite sophomore punter Clayton Steels pinning the visitors on their own 8, the Red Raider offense put togehter its only sustained drive of the final half. Using 11 plays to cover the 92 yards in front of them, Conner Davidson carried the rock the final eight yards for the score.
Once again down by 24 points with just 92 seconds on the clock, Copeland hit six straight passes to four different receivers for the game’s 10th touchdown. Stovall did the honors, making a great catch while fighting off a defender just inside the goal line for a 15-yarder.
Steels added his fourth PAT with 14.2 showing on the clock to give the game its final outcome.
“Our guys just wouldn’t give up. We hurt ourselves with penalties, turnovers and getting that kick blocked, but we can right back every time,” Floyd praised. “The mistakes we made shouldn’t have happened at this point, but they can be fixed. Playing a team of this caliber will help us down the road.”
Copeland finished with 314 yards of offense, including 109 on 11 carries, two for touchdowns. He also completed 22-of-31 passes for 205 yards and a score.
Scoring twice, Stovall pulled in 11 aerials for 104 yards, plus had two carries for 50 yards. Junior Caleb Cain pulled in three for 38 yards. Sophomore Cal Pickel caught five passes for 30 yards.
Goldston collected 68 yards on nine carries and a reception, while Houston had 72 on three rushes and a pair of catches. Senior Jeff Stokes carried the ball a half dozen times for 35 yards, including a pair of double digit gains.
Oellerich paced Baylor with 155 yards on 13 carries, three for scores. He also completed 5-of-13 pass for 47 yards. Davidson gained 100 yards on 14 rushes, while Clements gained 90 on 15 tries.
Baylor 14 21 3 7 — 45
Bradley Central 14 0 7 7 — 28
Bay — Matthew Oellerich 5 run (Henrique Ribeiro kick), 5:45
BC — James Stovall 58 run (Clayton Steels kick), 5:00
BC — Bryce Copeland 44 run (Steels kick), :48
Bay — Oellerich 80 run (Ribeiro kick), :36
Bay — Deosha McColley 12 fumble recovery (Ribeiro kick), 8:44
Bay — Houston Clements 11 run (Ribeiro kick), 7:12
Bay — Oellerich 1 run (Ribeiro kick), 2:16
Bay — Ribeiro 57 yard goal, 5:45
BC — Copeland 56 run (Steels kick), 2:44
Bay — Conner Davidson 8 run (Colin Brewer kick), 1:32
BC — Stovall from Copeland 15 pass (Steels kick), :14
First downs 16 24
Rushes-Yards 42-357 34-307
Passing 46 205
Total Yards 403 512
Comp-Att-Int 5-12-1 22-31-2
Punts-Avg. 3-35.6 3-36.3
Fumbles-Lost 6-0 2-0
Penalties-Yards 4-40 11-60
Rushing: Matthew Oellerich 13-155 3 TDs, Conner Davidson 14-100 TD, Houston Clements 15-90 TD (Bay); Bryce Copeland 11-109 2 TDs, Justin Houston 3-63, James Stovall 2-50 TD, Rue Goldston 9-44, Jeff Strokes 6-35, Logan Fetzner 2-2 (BC).
Passing: Oellerich 5-12-1 46 (Bay): Copeland 22-31-2 205 TD (BC).
Receiving: Colton Jumper 1-19, Deosha McColley 1-9, Wyatt McRae 1-7, Jeffrey Bowens 1-6, Reggie Upshaw 1-5 (Bay); Stovall 11-104 TD, Cal Pickel 5-30, Caleb Cain 3-38, Goldston 1-24, Houston 2-9 (BC).
Records: Baylor 2-0; Bradley Central 1-1.