After several tremendous offensive highlights in Friday night’s “Crosstown Clash,” the difference in the final score came from a defensive play.
After Bradley Central went 97 yards on a pair of pass completion to pull within a point of the lead with less than two minutes remaining, Cleveland High senior Jonathan Terrero made a diving block of the extra-point kick to preserve the 21-20 outcome at Benny Monroe Stadium.
“We only have one block play, so that’s what we ran. Jonathan [Terrero] was able get past his man and came through for us,” declared Raider head coach Ron Crawford, whose team ironically had lost the previous week to fourth-ranked East Hamilton by the same score. “We’re 3-1 in the district now and control our own destiny. We have to go hard at it and take care of business.”
The victory, which saw Cleveland uncharacteristically gain 350 of it 456 offensive yards on the ground, snapped a three-game skid by the ninth-ranked (5A) Blue Raiders, plus marked its first victory over the archrival Bears since 2010.
At 5-3 overall and 3-1 in District 5-AAA play, Cleveland will wrap up its regular season with a short road trip to Walker Valley (3-4, 0-3) Friday before entertaining district leader and third-ranked Ooltewah (7-1, 4-0) on Oct. 25.
Having trouble tacking on PATs, Bradley’s three losses to state-ranked teams have come by a total of five points.
The Bears (4-3, 1-2) will entertain McMinn County (2-5, 1-2) for homecoming festivities Friday before hosting Soddy-Daisy (3-5, 0-3) for the program’s 1,000 game on Oct. 25. Bradley will travel to district newcomer East Hamilton (6-1, 3-1) on Nov. 1.
The 39th meeting between the local squads saw the Bears dominate early, scoring on their first and last possessions of the opening half.
After senior speedster Dee Crisp returned the opening kickoff 31 yards, Bradley used a mix of five running plays and seven pass completions to cover the needed 64 yards to paydirt.
Senior quarterback Brett Standifer hit classmate Cal Pickel for a nine-yard scoring strike to put the first points on the scoreboard with 6:20 left in the opening quarter.
Senior linebacker Jordan Timmons and junior Warren Crisp set up the second Bear scoring drive, when Timmons went high in the air to tip away a pass and the younger Crisp picked it off and returned to Raider territory.
Despite Cleveland defensive linemen Dalten McDonald and John Simpson combining for a nine-yard sack on the next play, Bradley was able to move into the Red Zone a few moments later on a 27-yard pass from Standifer to junior Daniel Clark.
With a first-and-goal at the Raider 5, it took the Bears three plays to break the plane of the goal line as senior Logan Fetzner dove into the end zone from a yard out. Senior Clayton Steels booted his second extra point of the evening with 47 ticks on the clock to give Bradley a 14-0 halftime advantage.
Despite not getting past the Bear 39 and turning the ball over twice, Coach Crawford felt like his squad “didn’t need to adjust” their strategy after the intermission, but rather “needed to execute better.”
“With what they (Bradley) were giving us, we were being able to run the ball. Austin (Herink) was able to complete the passes we were able to throw,” the Raider mentor expressed. “We just needed to hold onto the ball and keep doing what we were doing.”
The hosts did just that, keeping the ball on the ground for the first 19-of-21 plays and exploding for a trio of third-quarter touchdowns to take control of the contest.
Herink capped an all-rushing 61-yard march with a five-yard stretch into the end zone on the ninth play of the opening second half series.
After the Raider defense allowed the Bears just one yard before forcing a punt on the ensuing possession, Cleveland’s offense needed just four plays to find the end zone again as senior wide receiver DJ Jones raced for 26 yards on a reverse, while junior tailback TJ Parker carried the rock for 8, 16 and 15 yards, the latter of which for the score exactly three minutes after the previous TD.
Another Bradley three-and-out set up the final Raider score. Taking over on its own 28, Cleveland moved the ball past midfield with a 12-yard dash by junior Raekwon Bunion and a their first pass attempt of the second half, a 10-yard completion to Parker Smith. After Henrink added an eight-yard run, the senior southpaw gun slinger found Tyler Davis across the middle, who outraced a pair of Bear defenders for a 49-yard touchdown.
Sophomore Oscar Galvan tacked on his third extra-point kick for what turned out to be the game-winning point with 25 seconds remaining in the third frame.
Bradley looked like they were going to answer on the ensuing possession, moving the ball with a 17-yard completion to Pickel and 38- and 10-yard catches by Clark to move the ball into the Red Zone. However on a first down from the 13 yard line a miscommunication on a passing rout put the ball right into the hands of Raider defensive back Michael Huff to stall the drive.
After the teams exchanged punts, Cleveland moved into position to put the game on ice. Driving from their own 15 to the Bear 6, the Raiders had the ball stripped away by Warren Crisp and teammate Eduardo Trevino pounced on it at the 3.
A trio of unsuccessful pass attempts later, Bradley made a gutsy call by going for it on a fourth-and-10 with 3:06 left in the game. The result was Standifer shaking away from the Raider rush in the end zone and firing a 43-yard bomb to Clark, who out leaped a pair of Cleveland defender to come down with the ball.
Two plays later, Standifer threw a lateral pass to Dee Crisp, who in turn completed the flea-flicker to a wide open Pickel for a 54-yard touchdown to close the gap to a single point.
When the teams lined up for the extra point, Terrero said he felt like speed gave him an advantage over the lineman assigned to block him and raced past him to swat the kick down just after it left the Bear kicker’s foot.
Bradley then tried a pair of onside kicks, but after a penalty on the first, Cleveland’s Jackson Earle covered the second and the hosts were able to gain a couple of first downs to run out the clock for the hard fought victory.
“My hats off to Bradley. They are a very well coached team and had a great game plan,” Coach Crawford commented. “We once again hurt ourselves with turnovers [19 on the season], but that interception for us by Huff [in the Red Zone] was huge.”
The Raider offense showed balance in their running attack with Bunion carrying the ball 18 times, while Parker and Herink toted the mail 17 times apiece. Parker led the squad with 137 yards, while Bunion went for 104 and Herink 81. The signal caller also completed 7-of-12 passes for a season-low 106 yards.
“Our plan was to make them run the ball, and we did, but we missed a ton of tackles in the backfield,” bemoaned Coach Floyd Saturday. “In grading out the film, we missed more tackles than we have in any other game this season. Our special teams have struggled lately (a blocked extra point and field goal against Ooltewah the week before, to go along with the block Friday evening) and we’ve got to improve that.”
“We have got to do a better job of getting the guys to understand you have to execute on every play,” the Bear mentor stated. “Dee [Crisp] did a good job of shutting down DJ (Jones, two catches for 26 yards), just like he did the week before against (Mike) Williams of Ooltewah, [Reggie] Upshaw of Baylor and the Blackman kid.”
Crisp himself was held to just a trio of catches for 21 yards, but had 79 yards on three kick returns, plus the 54-yard touchdown toss.
Standifer complete 24-of-39 passes for 260 yards, while Clark led the Bear receiving corps with nine catches fo 137 yards. Pickel pulled in five catches for 107 yards and a pair of scores, while Fetzner had 51 yards on eight carries and four catches.
While Bradley posted 336 yards of offense, only 22 came on the ground from 17 rushing plays.
“The bottom line is we’ve got to suck it up and get ready to play,” declared Coach Floyd. “We’ve got McMinn [County] coming in Friday night. We have got to focus. We can still make the playoffs, but we can’t sit and worry about what could have been.”