For the first time in 11 years Bill Price will once again be on the sideline for a varsity game at Bear Stadium, Friday evening.
However this time the veteran coach will be on the visitor’s side as he brings his fifth-ranked (4A) Signal Mountain squad to battle his former team.
“Our players don’t really know who he is because they were so young when he was here, but our fans remember coach Price,” expressed current Bear head coach Damon Floyd. “He has real hard-nosed, tough, physical teams and has had a lot of success at Signal Mountain.”
Directing the Bradley program to the TSSAA playoffs in 1999 (9-2 record) and 2000 (9-4), Price finished with to a 27-27 record while with the Bears from 1998-2002. Price took the head coaching job at Coffee County in 2003 and went 25-29 in five seasons before moving to the newly opened school on Signal Mountain. His high-flying Eagles have gone 37-9 in their first four 1/2 years of varsity play. His team had to vacate a half dozen wins in 2011 due to having used an ineligible player.
“Being a smaller school (Class 4A), they will come in here with something to prove against a 6A team,” assessed Floyd, who is in his eighth season at the Bear helm.
“They are a really good team that can score a lot and fast, playing an up-tempo wing-T offense, with the ability to throw the ball deep,” the Bradley mentor related. “Plus they are college huge size-wise, with a 260-pound fullback, a 6-foot-7 tight end and their entire defensive line is 6-foot-4 or taller. They are as talented of a team as we’ll see this year.”
James McClellan may be the Eagles’ bulldozing fullback, but he also has some speed, scoring two of his three TDs on runs of 71 and 63 yards in last week’s 63-7 shellacking of Grundy County. On the season the “big bruiser” gained 766 yards on 96 carries, a half dozen of which have ended in the end zone. He also had a touchdown catch.
“They don’t throw the ball a lot but are accurate and have the ability to go deep,” Floyd commented. In last week’s win, the Eagles used more than a dozen ball carriers and three quarterbacks, with starter Jack Teter completing 8-of-9 passes for 126 yards and two scores. McClellan gained 146 yards last week, while Hunter VanDyken went 139 yards on just four carries, including a 49-yarder for one of his two TDs.
Although they are minus last year’s quarterback, Reese Phillips, who is now playing in the SEC for the University of Kentucky, this year’s Signal Mountain team has outscored its last four opponents by a 223-35 margin, including giving up 28 points to then state-ranked Tyner.
The Eagles opened the season with a 14-12 loss to fifth-ranked (5A) East Hamilton, but, according to Floyd, Signal Mountain should have won. “A blocked field goal and a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown (both by Vanderbilt commitment Tre Herndon) made the difference in that game. They had East Hamilton beat everywhere but the scoreboard.”
Now 3-1 on the season, Bradley comes into the first-ever varsity meeting between the schools off a strong performance in a 38-14 District 5-AAA victory over county rival Walker Valley.
The Bears, who had struggled on the ground this season, gained 257 yards behind the 100-plus yard efforts of seniors Logan Fetzner and Brett Standifer. Fetzner broke free for 126 yards on 13 carries, while Standifer not only scored twice while gaining 101 yards on 15 rushes, he also threw for 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“‘Fetz’ (Fetzner) did a good job of breaking some tackles and getting to the second level of the defense. He was able to get into a groove and had a good game,” praised coach Floyd. “When we can establish our run game like we want, then that helps open up our passing game.”
Senior receiver Dee Crisp had his best game of the season with five catches for 152 yards and a pair of scores. The speedster is averaging more than 24 yards per catch for 315 yards and five going for scores this season. Classmate Cal Pickel has 251 yards with a trio of TDs in 17 catches.
“They (SM) use a four-man front on defense, but they’ll bring other rushers,” remarked Floyd. “We’ll have to be able to beat their (pass) coverage and get the ball out there. We’ll have to get behind them and take some shots.”
The Black-and-Gold also got a big boost last week with the return of senior linebacker Eduardo Trevino, who made his 2013 debut with five solo tackles and was in on seven more hits as the Bear defense didn’t allow the Mustangs to take a snap past their own 43-yard line.
“Eduardo makes a big difference. He’s a college-potential player. He’s the real deal. A real ‘Mike’ linebacker,” declared Floyd. “He got God-given ability. He’s strong, bench pressing 375, but most of all he’s a good kid who loves the game.”
“He’s our emotional leader. The other players rally around him,” the coach continued. “He’s the type of player that every coach wants to have on their team.”
“We are going to have get some three-and-outs, or four-and-outs because they don’t like to punt, and (we should) make them (Signal) go the length of the field when they do drive,” assessed Coach Floyd. “We can’t afford mistakes (turnovers and penalties) against a team like this. No extra opportunities.”
“They’re a very tough team. We can’t help them out. It’s going to take our best effort to be able to beat them,” the Bear coach summarized. “We are coming off an emotional district win against a rival, but we are going to have to bring that same level of play again this week.”