After five years as a head coach in Florida and two at Chattanooga Kirkman, being named the Co-Coach of the year for the Chattanooga area in 1963, Coach Bobby Scott’s first team in Cleveland played a junior varsity schedule with players from Arnold Junior High while the CHS facilities were being built.
“We only had freshmen and some eighth-graders, but we played a B-team schedule,” explained Scott, whose young team lost its first two games against Rhea County (7-6) and Rossville, Ga. (14-0), before winning its last six contests.
One of Scott’s assistant coaches that first year was John Swafford, who had been a head coach in McMinn County and moved on to a head coaching position in Alabama after just one year. Swafford later got Scott to go into the furniture business with him.
Jim Woodall and Jim Tanarra were also assistant coaches in the beginning of the Raider program.
Playing on Bradley Central’s Jimmy Lovell Field for its home games the next year, the first varsity Blue Raider squad had only freshmen, sophomores and a few juniors, as the school was yet to have a senior class.
Coach Scott’s crew shut out Wheeler High School out of Marietta, Ga., 21-0 in its inaugural contest, then defeated McMinn County (27-6) and Sequatchie County (20-13) before tasting defeat for the first time in a 16-12 contest against Etowah.
The only other loss for the Blue Raiders during the regular campaign was a 19-14 defeat in the first of 39 battles against archrival Bradley.
Cleveland finished the 1965 regular season with an 8-2 record before playing in the Thoroughbred Bowl. The young Raider squad took on powerhouse Red Bank, falling 21-7 at Lovell Field in their first postseason contest.
Cleveland scored an average 24.8 points per game that first season and gave up just 9.7 ppg.
On their own field in 1966, the Raiders — with seniors on the team for the first time — split their first four games, but then wouldn’t taste defeat again until the fifth game of the 1969 season.
“In our last loss before the (32-game) streak we played Rossville, Ga. Bobby Scott was their quarterback,” Coach Scott related. “It was raining and a tie game when we hiked the ball over the punter’s head in the final minute. We gave them the ball on the 1 and he snuck the ball over for the game-winning score. The headline said ‘Bobby Scott beats Bobby Scott.’”
Both Bobby Scotts played at the University of Tennessee.
After a stellar high school career at Bradley, Coach Scott was recruited by legendary coach Gen. Robert Neyland and was a “pulling guard” in the old “single-wing” offense in front of All-American tailback Johnny Majors in the 1950s. The younger Bobby Scott threw for more than 3,300 yards and 30 TDs, plus rushed for 10 more scores in 27 games as the Vol QB from 1968-70.
Wrapping up the ’66 regular season with five wins, including their first of a half dozen straight over Bradley in a 39-0 contest, and a scoreless tie at Knox Young, the 7-2-1 squad was invited to Dayton to play Chattanooga Kirkman in the Strawberry Bowl. The Raiders notched their first postseason victory with a 40-0 whipping of Coach Scott’s former team.
The program’s first of five undefeated seasons came in 1967, but it was the only one without a state championship to show for it. A 6-6 tie with powerful Maryville Everett was the lone blemish on the Raiders’ 10-0-1 record as they averaged 32.3 ppg, while giving up just 8.9 points an outing.
Coach Scott’s third squad beat Lebanon 20-14 on its home field in the Mid-State Bowl. Louie Alford, Derrick Weatherford and Bryan Draper joined the program as assistant coaches that season.
Undefeated private school powerhouse Montgomery Bell Academy shut out six of its 10 opponents and gave up just 40 total points to sweep the Associated Press, UPI and Litkenhouse state titles for the ’67 season.
In 1968, Cleveland had its first perfect record, going 9-0 during the regular season and defeating Nashville’s Two Rivers (which later combined with four other schools to form McGavock High School) 27-13 in the Apple Bowl.
The Raiders were voted as the UPI state champs, second in the AP state poll and 19th in a national ranking. MBA went unbeaten for the third straight season, surrendering just 35 points in 11 games, while once again recording a half dozen shutouts to win the AP and Litkenhouse crowns.
One of Cleveland’s victories that season came against Oak Ridge, which was ranked No. 1 in the AP poll at the time.
“We were ranked No. 1 in one poll and they were No. 1 in the other,” related longtime CHS baseball and football coach Danny Carson, a lineman on the ’68 team who sacked Wildcat All-State QB Bill Wilcox and recovered a fumble in that game. "We had a lot of great athletes on that team, with great size and speed for that era.”
The game came down to the last play. Oak Ridge wide receiver Edmond Love caught a pass in the end zone for a potential game-tying TD, but he came down out-of-bounds under pressure from CHS defensive safety David Darnell, preserving a 28-21 Raider victory.
Four players from those teams went on to play at Tennessee, including David Beckler, Paul Johnson and Bill Emendorfer, an All-American and All-SEC two-way lineman, as well as Ronnie Weir, who was the QB for the first four Raider teams (including the B-team only year).
“Greg Davis could have played college football if he wanted to, but chose basketball (at Oral Roberts University) instead,” Coach Scott remarked. “He was a tremendous athlete.”
“We also had guys go to Minnesota (Kenneth “Big” George), Texas (Rob Schultz), Clemson (Mike Hooper), Georgia Tech (Joe Hardwick), Florida State (Rodney Wilson), Alabama (Jackie Lane) and Western Carolina (Greg Walton and Mike Sharp), as well as some other places.”
Some of the other standouts on the undefeated teams included Steve "Dough Ball" Hixson; linemen Bill Varnell and Tom Kimsey; fullback Ricky Cope; brothers Vicky and Kenny Westfield; Steve Benton; Paul Bacon, Mitchell Weir, Lamar McKinsey, Denny Griffith, plus Carson and Johnny Borders, who both coached at CHS for many years.
“We had a lot of really great players on those teams,” commented Alford, who was an assistant coach for the Raiders from 1967-69 and later led Bradley’s program for nine seasons, including their undefeated 1976 state championship run. “Coach Scott did a great job of bringing them along and getting the most out of them.”
“You still see a lot of those guys around town as very successful men who contribute a lot to our community,” remarked Alford, who is the current chairman of the Bradley County Commission.
Many of his former players credit Coach Scott’s influence as a key component to the success they had later in life.
“Coach Scott believed in a strong work ethic and expected you to deliver,” commented David Beckler. “He also worked very hard to get his players college scholarships.”
“If it wasn’t for what he did for me, I’da never been able to go to UT (Tennessee). It was a tremendous benefit to my family, which couldn’t afford to send me to school,” related Beckler who is retired from being vice president of labor relations for the Tennessee Valley Authority. “The work ethic I learned from Coach Scott not only got me a college education, but a successful career at TVA.”
Beckler was one of 23 players Coach Scott helped get a college scholarship.
“The coaches worked us hard and showed no favoritism. We had a lot of youthful enthusiasm, but they were able to harness that and turn us into a very good team. I think the practices were harder at Cleveland than they were at UT (Tennessee),” Beckler stated. “He (Scott) had the ability to get the most out of you and to put the right people in the right positions. We were 5 percent athletic and 95 percent desire.”
After being voted by his fellow coaches to direct the East All-Star Team in the summer of 1969, Scott’s Raider squad won its first four games that fall before falling to Loudon, which went on to win the Class AA state title in the first season of TSSAA playoffs. Cleveland went 8-2 that season, with its other loss coming to a powerful Clarksville squad.
The Blue Raiders were one of just four teams across the state to make the 1970 playoffs after a 9-1 regular season. CHS had five shutouts, including three in a row, and only gave up 53 points in the first 11 games.
Coach Scott’s crew knocked off Lexington 21-0 in the semifinals, but fell to Maryville, with future Raider head coach Benny Monroe as an assistant, in the Class AA state championship game played on Loudon’s field. It was the first of 14 state titles for the Rebels.
Cleveland went 6-2-1 in 1971 before four years at or just above the .500 mark until Scott’s final campaign.
“I had told the principal and superintendent I was going to leave (to go into the furniture business) that summer and they asked me to coach one more year,” he expressed.
Scott’s final Raider squad returned to the playoffs after an 8-2 regular season. Cleveland downed Lake City in the opening round, but found Maryville once again waiting on the team the following week.
Scott’s final game was a hard fought 17-14 battle with the Rebels. The next day he was moving furniture into the building Scott’s Furniture still occupies today.
With Scott stepping down, Ronnie Weir took over the reins of the program.
“Ronnie was a tremendous player for us when we started the program,” stated Scott. “He was a pure, natural athlete. He brought a lot of excitement to our team, which is what we needed starting a new program.”
Currently the head coach at Ocoee Middle School, Weir directed the Raider program for just two seasons, going 5-5 his first campaign and 4-6 in 1978.
The following season Benny Monroe took over the Raider program and led them to their greatest years of success. (See related story in this issue.)