“It wasn’t our best performance. Hixson is no slouch, so to come out of here with a win is something,” declared Bear head coach Damon Floyd after late-game scoring drive provided a 14-13 victory over the black-and-gold clad Wildcats.
Coming off back-to-back wins over state-ranked South Pittsburg and Tyner, Coach Jason Fitzgerald’s 2-2 Hixson squad dominated the game’s statistics, outgaining the Bears 283-8 on the ground and 335-175 overall, but a missed extra point with less than 10 seconds remaining in the opening half proved to be the difference.
“We couldn’t establish our running game. We had several dropped passes, but we were able to come up with a big drive there in the fourth quarter to pull it out,” remarked coach Floyd. “We lacked consistency at time. We had lulls, which makes it tough and frustrating, but we kept grinding it out.”
The narrow victory improves Bradley to 2-1 on the season with a date against a red-hot Walker Valley (3-1) squad set for Friday to open District 5-AAA play.
“Walker Valley is playing well and fighting hard, so it’s going to be a battle, and we better be ready,” proclaimed Floyd. “We have got to execute and win every play, or we could be in trouble.”
The Mustangs claimed their third come-from-behind victory of the season with a 24-17 win over previously unbeaten Rhea County Friday evening. Walker Valley hasn’t come out on top in eight previous cross-county gridiron meetings with the Bears.
Bradley started out strong in Friday’s trip to northern Hamilton County, forcing the Wildcats into a pair of three-and-out offensive series, sandwiched around the first Bear scoring drive.
After the game’s first punt, Coach Floyd’s sleuth of Bears took possession at their own 46 and used a dozen plays to find paydirt.
While the running game struggled from the start, gaining just 12 yards in nine plays, three passing game bailed Bradley out as quarterback Brett Standifer hit his first three passes to move the ball into the Red Zone.
After connecting with seniors Dee Crisp for 27 yards and Baylor Terrell for three, Standifer found junior Christian Hamilton for a dozen yards to move the ball to the 12 yard line. The senior signal caller then called his own number for a nine-yard dash, but it took the Bears six plays to cover the final three yards with junior DJ Moyse finally breaking the plain of the goal from a six-inches out.
Senior Clayton Steels split the uprights with 4:54 left in the opening frame, but it would be another be another 36 1/2 minutes of game time before he would get another chance at a PAT.
Bradley had another golden opportunity to score on its second possession after a three-yard punt gave them the ball at the Wildcat 32, but the Hixson defense stiffened, forcing Steels to try a 41-yard field goal, that had plenty of leg, but was just outside the left upright.
Getting the ball on its own 20, Hixson got their two-head running attack heated up with Isaiah Robertson breaking loose on a 44-yard run and Kendrick Bradley four times for the other 36 yards, including the final eight to paydirt on the third play of the second quarter. Luke White was true on his extra-point kick to knot the game at 7-all.
The hosts put together another scoring drive just before the half, going 80 yards once again in 11 plays after a 51-yard Steels’ punt couldn’t be downed at the 1,\ but was carried into the end zone instead.
Bradley and Robertson once again carried the load with four combined double digit gains before Bradley punched the ball in from the 1 yard line with 9.7 seconds left on the clock. What turned out to be the difference in the game followed when the extra-point kick sailed wide.
After managing just 90 yards of offense in the first 24 minutes, Bradley had an inauspicious beginning to the second half, with a half dozen incomplete passes, except the one caught by a Wildcat defender, plus a pair of runs for minus six yards. The Bears were also unable to cash in on a pair of fumble recoveries by senior linebacker Jordan Timmons, the second of which was caused by junior Dalton Cooley.
Hixson threatened to score early in the fourth quarter, but its 12-play drive was stalled at the Bear 11 and a 27-yard field goal attempt was off target.
Getting the ball back at its own 20 with 9:19 to go in the contest, Bradley put together what turned out to be its game-winning drive.
Still without any success on the ground (four carries for a negative seven yards), Standifer completed 8-of-9 passes. The aerial attack included a tremendous effort to hang onto the ball after getting nailed on a 16-yard completion by junior Daniel Clark, plus four hookups with senior Cal Pickel for 53 yards.
Pickel, who had made a great leaping catch for an interception in the first half, hauled a diving reception for 26 yards to put the ball in Wildcat territory and little later Standifer found him in the right corner of the end zone from 12 yards out for the score with 4:22 left.
With the game tied, Steels put the game-winning point on the board by splitting the uprights on the PAT kick.
With plenty of time still on the clock, Hixson marched as far as the Bear 33, but a trio of penalties and a key fourth-down sack by Cooley ended the threat and the Bears were able to run out the final ticks of the clock for the victory.
“We were able to come up with some big plays in that final drive that finally got us going,” declared Coach Floyd. “Brett (Standifer) put the ball where he wanted it, and Cal (Pickel) made some great catches. We finally executed our offense there at the end.”
Standifer finished with 15-of-24 for 167 yards, 92 of which, due to rushing losses and a penalty, came on the game-winning drive. Pickel collected five catches for 58 yards, while Crisp hauled in three for 56.
“Hixson is a very good team. Our defense would make two or three good plays to hold their running backs down, but then they’d break off a big run on us,” the Bear coach commented. “Coach (Jason) Fitzgerald has done a great job with this program. They went to the playoffs last year and are picked to win their district (6-AA) this year. They put up 48 points on Tyner last week, and Ooltewah only scored 31 against them (Tyner) last night.”
Robinson and Bradley combined for 268 rushing yards on 41 carries for the Wildcats.
Bradley Central 7 0 0 7 — 14
Hixson 0 13 0 0 — 13
BC — DJ Moyse 1-yd. run (Clayton Steels kick), 4:54
H — Kendrick Bradley 8-yd. run (Luke White kick), 11:05
H — Bradley 1-yd. run (kick failed), :09.7
BC — Cal Pickel 12-yd pass from Brett Standifer (Steels kick), 4:22
Team stats BC H
First downs 11 18
Rushes-yards 29-8 50-283
Passing yards 167 52
Total yards 175 335
Comp-Att-Int 15-24-1 5-9-1
Punts -Ave. 4-42.5 2-13.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-2
Penalties 5-38.5 9-80
Rushing: Baylor Terrell 7-14, Christian Hamilton 1-4, Logan Fetzner 12-4, DJ Moyse 1-1 TD (BC) Kendrick Bradley 21-140 2 TDs, Isaiah Robinson 20-128, Gil Brown 8-14, Austin Gilkey 1-1 (H).
Passing: Brett Standifer 15-24-1 1 TD 167 (B); Gil Brown 5-9-1 52 (H).
Receiving: Cal Pickel 5-58 1 TD, Dee Crisp 3-56, Daniel Clark 1-18, Tyler Carpenter 1-16, Christian Hamilton 1-12, Baylor Terrell 4-7 (BC); Austin Gilkey 1-16, Jordan Johnson 2-16, Allen Diaz 1-11, Kendrick Bradley 1-9 (H).
Records: Bradley 2-1; Hixson 2-2.