The north side of town will be rocking when the Bears (4-2, 1-1 District 5-AAA) invade Benny Monroe Stadium to take on the ninth-ranked (5A) Blue Raiders (4-3, 2-1).
Walker Valley (3-3, 0-2) will return to the gridiron after a week off as the Mustangs gallop south on Interstate 75 to take on the District 5-AAA leading Ooltewah Owls (5-1, 3-0), who are ranked third in this week’s Associated Press Class 5A poll.
In a battle of state-ranked Class 3A teams, No. 7 Polk County (5-1) will return to Benton this evening for a non-district showdown with No. 10 Notre Dame (4-2) at the Larry Davis Football Complex.
With each of the local teams still in the TSSAA playoff hunt, every game is critical for their postseason hopes, as the regular season is in the home stretch with just three weeks left after tonight.
The Bradley-Cleveland matchup marks the fourth battle against a state-ranked opponent for the Bears (Polk County, Signal Mountain, Ooltewah and Cleveland), while the Raiders have tangled with three (McCallie, Knoxville West, East Hamilton) fellow Top 10 squads.
While Cleveland leads the local series by a 25-13 margin, Bradley has won three of the last four meetings, including last years exciting 16-14 battle at Bear Stadium and an 18-0 shutout the last time the two teams played on Raider Field before an ESPN internationally televised audience.
Tonight’s “Clash” also marks the 81st game for Bradley head coach Damon Floyd, tying him with Bill “Chief” Robertson for the third most games in Bear coaching history. By the end of this his eighth season, Floyd will also move into second place on the list, past Bill Smith (83) but still far behind Jimmy Lovell’s 211 games.
Other games this evening involving District 5-AAA teams include McMinn County (2-4, 1-1) traveling to fourth-ranked (5A) East Hamilton (5-1, 2-1), and 11th-ranked (5A) Rhea County (5-1) going to Soddy-Daisy (3-3) for a non-district contest.
District 5-AA squads also facing non-league opponents this evening include McMinn Central (3-4) traveling to ninth-ranked (4A) Knoxville Carter (6-0). Playing at home tonight will be Sequoyah (4-2) entertaining White County (6-1), Loudon (1-5) hosting winless Kingston (0-6) and Sweetwater (3-3) welcoming winless Cumberland County (0-6).
All local games this evening kick off at 7:30 p.m.