As he enters his ninth season as head coach of the Bears, Damon Floyd expects this year’s squad to be able to turn the trend back to the winning records of the previous three seasons (2010-12) when it went 22-12.
“We’re young, but we have a good group of guys that are working hard and showing some promise of good things to come,” the veteran Bear mentor stated recently. “We’ve got a good core group of seniors to lead this team in the right direction, plus we’ve got the best looking group of freshman (34) we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
There will be a lot of new faces on the field for the Black-and-Gold this season with just four starters returning on each side of the ball. “We are short on returning starters but we do have some guys who have seen action on Friday nights. They’re anxious for their turn on the field.”
For the sixth straight season Bradley will open the gridiron campaign against neighboring Polk County in a “Backyard Brawl” at Bear Stadium Friday.
“Playing Polk in the season opener creates a lot of excitement from both communities. Even though we are a bigger school than they are, they aren’t intimidated. They play smash-mouth football and have beat us twice, including last year (29-27) in Benton,” Coach Floyd remarked.
“Then we get to go to Murfreesboro to face Riverdale, which will be another tough game,” he said of the four-time state champion Warriors, who were the only Bear opponent last season to not make the playoffs. After an 0-4 start to the 2013 campaign, including a 39-35 loss to Bradley, Riverdale bounced back to win four of its final half dozen games to finish third in the extremely tough District 7-AAA race.
After a Friday night off (Sept. 5), the Bears will play host to Hixson, which went 9-4 and advanced to the Class 4A quarterfinals last fall. Bradley will then open District 5-AAA play with a trip to the north end of the county to face Walker Valley before wrapping up its nondistrict slate against former Bear coach Bill Price’s Eagles on Signal Mountain (8-4 last season, including a 36-27 loss in Bear Stadium).
Bradley went 4-1 against that same slate last season before seeing that record reversed in the final five district games to close the season.
“It will be tough to repeat those results (for the first half of the season) again this year,” commented Coach Floyd. “Those will be some very physical games, against teams with very different styles — smash-mouth, option, spread.”
The second half of the season presents an even tougher challenge with five straight district opponents the Bears went 1-4 against in 2013.
Bradley will once again face Ooltewah and Cleveland, the two teams not only picked to win and finish second in the 5-AAA race but that are also ranked fifth and sixth in a preseason state poll, on back-to-back early October Fridays, but this time around the games will both be in Bear Stadium.
Coach Floyd’s crew battled two of the three teams that tied for last year’s district crown within two and one points, respectively, in 2013.
The Bears will then have to hit the road two straight weeks, facing their oldest rival McMinn County in Athens then making the roundabout trip to Soddy-Daisy.
Bradley caps the regular season with a home game against East Hamilton, which won the 5-AAA crown after the tie-breaker criteria was applied in its first season in the district.
The Hurricanes knocked Ooltewah out of the playoffs in the second round last year before falling to Cleveland in the state quarterfinals. Making their first state semifinal appearance since 1995, the Blue Raiders (10-4) fell the following week at Knox West.
“The district is going to be very competitive once again,” assessed Coach Floyd. “The key is to stay healthy and don’t turn the ball over. You can’t give teams like this any extra opportunities.”
“With a district as good as ours is, it’s a matter of survival. Anybody can beat anybody on a given Friday night, so you have to be ready to play your best each Friday night,” he added.
“We have some players with tremendous potential, but now they are going to have to prove themselves on the field,” the coach summarized. “The preseason and scrimmages are over. When the lights go on on Friday nights, that’s where we see who really has what it takes.”
Of Bradley’s 37 offensive touchdowns last season, only seven were scored by players on this year’s roster. The five returning players who found the end zone last season will be key to the success of this year’s Bear squad, plus a few new faces are expected to make a big impacts.
After back-to-back seasons with four-year starters at the helm, Coach Floyd turns the signal calling duties over to a strong-armed sophomore with a very familiar name.
Like his dad (Brian), uncle (Brent) and older brother (Bryce) before him, Cole Copeland is anxious to direct the Black-and-Gold offense.
“Cole thought he should have been the starter last year. I like that confidence in a quarterback,” Coach Floyd remarked. “He very well could have been the starter except for (Brett) Standifer (a three-year starter at Soddy-Daisy) moving in for his senior year.”
Standifer completed 120-of-295 passes for 2,247 yards and 20 TDs, while tossing a dozen interceptions before signing with Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Copeland saw limited action in varsity games last season, firing 19 completions on 31 attempts for 287 yards and a pair of scores, but he was also picked off three times.
“He’s a different style of quarterback from Bryce,” assessed Coach Floyd. “He’s got the size (6-foot-3) you like, but he’s not quite as quick. He doesn’t mind running and has good speed with the ability to make people miss. He needs to not force things, and learn to take what the defense gives him.”
Running the Bear spread offense, Copeland has a bevy of options when looking for help.
With a pool of eight receivers, including four seniors, and a pair of running backs who are also seniors, Floyd feels like Copeland will have plenty of weapons to go to this season.
Senior Daniel Clark is the top returning starter with big play potential anytime he touches the pigskin.
“We’re moving Daniel from our ‘Y’ to the ‘Z’ receiver this year, to help us get him the ball,” proclaimed the Bear coach. “He is a playmaker and a deep threat with good speed and great hands.”
The 6-foot-3, 170-pounder pulled in 38 passes for 523 yards last season for a 13.8 yards-per-catch average, but found the end zone just once on 54-yard scoring pass from Standifer against Riverdale in the second game of the season.
Junior Tyler Carpenter will take over for as the “Y” receiver starter averaging better than 20 yards a catch on nine aerials for 183 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season.
“‘Carp’ has had a growth spurt, going from 5-9 to about 6-1 this summer,” Floyd explained. “He made some big catches for us last year (including a 50-yard TD reception from Copeland against East Hamilton). His dad played here, so he respects the Bear traditions. He’s very smart and athletic. He understands the game.”
Senior Tanner Cox (5-10, 160) steps into the starting lineup this season as the “X” receiver. “Tanner is a guy who has been in our system, gives a great effort and has a great attitude. He catches anything we throw in his direction,” related Coach Floyd.
Senior Christian Hamilton (6-foot, 180) saw plenty of Friday night action last season and will split time between the slot position and the running back in the Bear’s one-back offense.
“Christian has tons of talent. He’s got good speed and strength and has become really physical with his play,” the Bear mentor assessed. “He has speed and moves to break some big plays for us.”
Hamilton had nine carries for 50 yards (5.6 yards average), plus four catches for 43 yards (10.8 ypc), scoring once on the ground and once through the air.
Senior DJ Moyse (6-foot, 240) is a “Dewaun Massengill type fullback, who can stick his foot in the ground and change directions,” according to his coach. “He is a physical runner and should get some big yardage for us this season.” Used mainly in short yardage situations, Moyse had just three carries for four yards, including a short scoring dive against Hixson.
Junior Jamey Billups (5-10, 200) will back up Moyse and Hamilton in the backfield, while several underclassmen will also see some Friday night time at the receiver positions.
“Trevon Hill (6-5, 160 sophomore) has a lot of potential and can really be good for us. Ty Beavers (6-foot-1, 165 sophomore) is long and athletic with really good hands and speed. Swan Parker (5-8, 140 junior) is a ‘Justin Houston’ type that can make people miss and has tremendous vertical leaping ability. Nick Howell (5-10, 170 freshman) is very heady and going to be good. Bryan Adams (5-9, 155 senior) runs good routes and has good hands. He started against Maryville and had a good game,” related Coach Floyd.
The Bear skill players will be protected by a senior group of linemen, including three returning starters.
Brandon Morgan (6-foot, 265) will move from left tackle to center this season, with fellow returnee Logahn McAmis (6-foot, 265) beside him at right guard and Tyler Kellar (6-foot, 325) a three-year starter at right tackle.
“Brandon is making the move to center and working on his snaps. McAmis’ brother Blake played for us a couple of years ago and has been a Bradley kid forever. He has a lot of pride in the program. Kellar got thrown into the starting lineup as a sophomore when DJ King got hurt and has done well for us. He has good footwork,” related Coach Floyd.
Stepping into the starting offensive line for the first time with be seniors Jacob Williams (6-foot, 250) at left guard and Dakota “Big Red” Burgess (6-2, 320) at left tackle. Classmate Colton Scott (6-1, 210) will also rotate in where needed.
“Williams is a straight A student and already has the opportunity to go play at Sewanee. He has put in a lot of hard work and is very disciplined,” the coach remarked. “‘Big Red’ is a tough, hard-nosed throwback type of player. He was on the defensive line last year. Scott can do several things for us up front.”
“These guys are all best friends and push each other to get better,” the coach stated. “We will rotate them around as we need to, depending on the situation.”
“We also have an all-junior line that has been working together, plus a couple of freshman — Tucker Bentley (6-1, 245) and Tyler Collier (5-11, 240) — could also see some time,” Floyd added.
Having to replace last year’s two top tacklers in linebackers Eduardo Trevino and Jordan Timmons, along with three of the next five guys in line, has the Bear defense looking to see who will lead the way this season.
Moyse and Clark were third and fourth on the squad in tackles last season, but both are key offensive players and will need to find some time to get a breather while pulling double duty.
Although slated as a back up at “Mike” linebacker this season, Moyse was in on 74 tackles, including 9.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks and a takeaway last season.
Clark was a part of 70 total tackles with 5.5 of them behind the line of scrimmage and a takeaway from his safety position. He and Carpenter (36 tackles) return as the back line of defense, with sophomore Cason Still (5-9, 165) slated to rotate with them. Howell and Copeland could also see some time in the deep secondary.
Junior Trevon Ware (6-1, 175), “a physical player with good length and speed” will be at one corner, while Hamilton and Peak will both see time but are battling for the starting slot on the other side.
“We are trying to replace Dee (Crisp) and (Austin) Foss, who have been our corners the last two years and did a great job,” expressed Floyd.
An all new linebacker corp is learning the ropes.
Billups has earned the starting “Sam” slot, while Colby Alford (5-10, 200 junior) returns as the “Mike” after starting four games when Trevino was hurt last season. The pair combined for 44 tackles last season.
“Billups is one of the strongest guys in our weight room and is a very good tackler,” the Bear coach commented. “Alford did a good job for us last year. He’s strong, smart and plays with intensive effort.”
Senior Dalton Cooley (6-1, 185) is moving from defensive end, where he had 60 tackles, including 16 for loss, eight sacks and a trio of takeaways, to “Will” linebacker this season. “Cooley has a lot of speed and is still learning what to do, but he’s a tough kid and will help us a lot once he gets it (the new position) down,” said his coach.
Canaan Bennett (6-foot, 185 junior) and Ryan Still (5-10, 180 junior) will also help out at linebacker.
A pair of 6-foot-5 explosive defensive ends has Floyd excited about his defensive front.
“Brett ‘Spider’ Brown (6-5, 200 junior) is a hard-nosed player with a ‘Tucker Bolton motor,’ but he’s not as strong as Tucker was,” the Bear mentor remarked. “Xzayvier Beckingham (6-5, 240) is a transfer from Walker Valley and has all the tools to play at any level. He is still learning our system and reads. Both of these guys are very good wrestlers and know how to mix it up.”
McAmis, Scott and Bentley will back the pair up on the edges.
In the trenches, senior Will Robbins (5-9, 255) is a returning starter who had 43 tackles, four for loss and a sack last season from his defensive tackle position.
The Bradley coaches will rotate junior DJ Adams (5-11, 280, with 43 tackles, 6.5 for loss and a pair of QB sacks last year), Burgess (27 tackles, 3.5 for loss and three sacks) and senior Chris Ogle (5-11, 275) at the other interior slot. Sophomore Eddie Schalstick (6-2, 225) will also see some time on Friday nights.
Coach Floyd is having to replace four-year starter Clayton Steels, who had four field goals and 28 PATs as place kicker, and also averaged better than 38 yards per punt last season.
Seniors Alex White and Logan Snyder are competing for the kicking duties, while Snyder and Clark are working on the punting.
Clark and Parker having been working as the main kick return men during the preseason.
The only change in Floyd’s coaching ranks is Blake Gideon moving over from defense to take over the offensive line duties with Matt Bowman having left the program.
Keith Freeman is still the Bear offensive coordinator, while Matt Day works with the wide receivers, Matt Moody the running backs and Brett Copeland the QBs.
Todd Stevison is the team’s defensive coordinator, with Scott Ford and Dewaun Massengill coaching the linebackers and David Phillips working with the secondary.
Bradley Central Bears
2014 Football Schedule
Date Opponent Time
Aug. 22 Polk County 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 29 at Riverdale 8 p.m.
Sept. 5 Bye
Sept. 12 Hixson 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 19 at Walker Valley* 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 26 at Signal Mountain 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 3 Ooltewah* 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 10 Cleveland* 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 17 at McMinn County* 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 24 at Soddy-Daisy* 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 31 East Hamilton* 7:30 p.m.
*District 5-AAA opponent
5-6 overall, 2-4 District 5-AAA
Date Opponent Results
Aug. 23 at Polk County 27-29
Aug. 30 Riverdale 39-35
Sept. 13 at Hixson 14-13
Sept. 20 Walker Valley* 38-14
Sept. 27 Signal Mountain 36-27
Oct. 4 at Ooltewah* 26-28
Oct. 11 at Cleveland* 20-21
Oct. 18 McMinn County* 8-28
Oct. 25 Soddy-Daisy* 36-7
Nov. 1 at East Hamilton* 11-41
TSSAA Class 6A Playoffs
Nov. 8 at Maryville 21-42
*District 5-AAA opponent