“The bottom line is if you don’t get excited about playing a district game at home this late in the season, then why are you playing football,” expressed Floyd. “This is why we train all year. This is what we work so hard for. These kind of games.”
Both squads enter Friday’s contest at Bear Stadium sporting four victories so far this season, but Bradley is 2-0 in District 5-AAA play, while the Owls are 1-2, having lost to the other two teams that are yet to lose a district game — Cleveland High and McMinn County. The Blue Raiders (4-2, 2-0) and Cherokees (5-1, 3-0) clash Friday evening at Benny Monroe Stadium.
“Every district game is important. We need this game to stay in the hunt for the district title,” Floyd remarked. “Ooltewah had to deal with some suspensions and injuries earlier, but they had everybody back for the first time last week.”
With all their weapons available, Coach Shannon Williams’ Owls blanked Soddy-Daisy 48-0, posting 427 yards of offense, while holding the Trojans to just 61.
“They are a run-first team, but they have a good quarterback and some good receivers, who can hurt you through the air as well,” stated Floyd. Ooltewah (4-3) gained 330 yards on 30 rushes in last Friday’s victory, including touchdown runs of 25, 35, 43 and 55 yards.
“They (Ooltewah) had four running backs that are dang good,” Floyd expressed. “All of them can make people miss and then out run others. We are going to have recognize their formations and stay in our lanes. They will want to try to get out to the edge and turn the corner. If they do, they’re gone.”
After opening the season with a 32-0 shellacking of Brainerd, the Owls handed fourth-ranked (4A) East Hamilton its only loss of the season with a late field goal for a 31-28 tally. Two weeks later the Hurricanes blew out the Bears by a 41-7 margin on one of Bradley’s down swings.
Ooltewah did lose back-to-back games in a mistake-filled contest against Cleveland and a good old fashion 47-7 trip to the woodshed by second-ranked Siegel, before bouncing back to outscore East Ridge and Soddy by an 86-6 margin.
“Athletically they’re as good as you get,” Floyd assessed. “They have an explosive offense and a lot of speed that helps them make up for some mistakes they do on defense. They do a lot of stunting and have more ‘Pick 6s’ than anybody I’ve seen.”
“We better come ready to play or it could get ugly,” the Bear coach added. “We are still dealing with a few injuries, but we have shown we can still play at a high level when we want to.”
Along with leading-tackler Alex Hopkins and starting defensive end Jordan Sharp, who are out for the season, Bradley will once again be minus starting offensive and defensive tackle DJ King. “DJ hasn’t been released yet and won’t be until next week,” Floyd said of the 6-foot-2, 260-pound senior who suffered a knee injury five weeks ago in Soddy.
Bradley did get starting tailback Logan Fetzner back in the lineup last week, after he missed a couple of games, having been hampered by an ankle injury suffered in the second game of the season at Baylor. “It was good to have him back. We may been too cautious with him, but we want to keep him healthy,” Floyd said of the junior’s 14 carries for 61 yards.
The Bears are also expecting senior Nate Mills back in his linebacker spot after he was on the sidelines with his shoulder in a sling last week.
Like the Owls, Bradley (4-2) also shut out Soddy earlier this year in an impressive 35-0, in one of their better balanced efforts of the season.
While the Bradley coaches have been striving to get the Bears to a high-intensity level for each game, the “fire” hasn’t been consistent on the gridiron this season.
“Yes we have had to deal with more injuries than I’ve had in my coaching career, but the fact of the matter is whoever is on the field for us, has to play with intensity on every play,” proclaimed Floyd. “We can play with anybody we take the field against, but we have to play hard and win every play.”
As for the Bear faithful, they are hoping Dr. Jekyll shows up Friday night against their longtime nemesis and that Mr. Hyde has made his last appearance of the season.