What a way to start the holiday weekend! The 36th meeting between Bradley Central and Cleveland High on the gridiron less than 24 hours before the Tennessee Vols kick off a new season at Neyland Stadium.
Walker Valley and Polk County also return to the field tonight with road trips to Rhea County and McMinn Central, respectively.
The gates at the 6,800-seat Bear Stadium will open at 5 this evening as an overflow crowd is expected for the annual battle between the archrivals.
“The Bradley-Cleveland game is what high school football is all about,” Bear head coach Damon Floyd stated earlier this week.
Ranked ninth in the Class 5A Associated Press poll, the Blue Raiders are coming off an impressive 47-6 whipping of McMinn Central in their season opener last Friday.
Bradley enters the game 2-0 with victories over a pair of 2009 TSSAA playoff teams and a No. 14 ranking in the Class 6A state poll.
When the two local teams met last year at Benny Monroe Stadium, the Bears snapped a 12-game losing streak to the “Boys in Blue” with a 27-26 victory.
Cleveland claimed the victory the last time they played at Bear Stadium with a 38-14 victory to open the 2008 season.
Both teams feature strong defenses this season and explosive offenses that can score on the ground and through the air.
Walker Valley (1-1) is coming off an exciting 28-27 win over Brainerd last week at The Corral and hopes to keep the momentum going against a Golden Eagle squad that has struggled in their first two games.
Rhea County dropped its opener 48-15 to top-ranked Knox Catholic before falling to Wilson Central 16-12 last Friday.
The Mustangs shocked the Eagles 28-20 last season and will be looking to do the same at the 7:30 kickoff.
The other District 5-AAA tussle tonight has Soddy-Daisy (1-1) hopping across the river to take on seventh-ranked Ooltewah (2-0). McMinn County (1-1) has a bye week.
Despite a 26-16 season-opening loss to Bradley Central, Polk County is ranked sixth in the Class 3A poll and travels to Englewood to square off against its archrival.
The Chargers are 0-2 out the gate and scored just one touchdown while surrendering 83 points to McMinn County and Cleveland.
Sequoyah (1-1) will invade Decatur to tangle with Meigs County (0-2) in the other District 5-AA contest this evening, while Sweetwater (1-1) has the night off.
The Wildcats are taking the field for the first time since the death of “Coach” Jim Bell, who had helped with the Big Red program for the past decade.
The Vols open the Derek Dooley era as UT-Martin comes across the state for a 6 p.m. kickoff Saturday evening, plus UT-Chattanooga will entertain third-ranked Appalachian State at 3 tomorrow afternoon in Finley Stadium.
Without a doubt “It’s football time in Tennessee” and the pigskin fanatics will get their fill this Labor Day weekend as we say goodbye to summer.