A 77-yard return of the opening kickoff set up the first of five touchdowns and a field goal the two teams combined for in the first 17 minutes, but Coach E.K. Slaughter’s ninth-ranked squad finished with a pair of scores in the final two minutes of the contest for a commanding 33-15 victory.
“This was tremendous. There’s not a bigger rivalry in southeast Tennessee,” the Blue Raider coach said after his second experience in the crosstown battle. “McCallie-Baylor and Cleveland-Bradley are the biggest games anywhere around.”
“The crowd (which was estimated at near 9,000) was great, the intensity tremendous. It was a hard fought game that came down to the end,” added Slaughter, whose team carried little honey packets to remind them of how hungry the Bears would be to win. “Our defense stepped up big in the second half and put us in position to win but what our offense did with that drive in the fourth quarter was unbelievable.”
“We made a couple of crucial mistakes at critical times and they (Cleveland) made the plays,” Bradley coach Damon Floyd assessed. “We gave them all we had and it wasn’t enough.”
The loss drops the 14th-ranked Bears to 2-1 on the season and 0-1 in District 5-AAA play, while Cleveland improves to 2-0 with a district win under its belt.
Bradley Central, which lost starters Alex Hopkins (separated shoulder) and Rue Goldston (dislocated elbow) in heated battle, must now prepare for East Ridge (1-1) to come calling Friday night. “We don’t know how long those guys will be out but we have to pick ourselves up and get ready for the next game,” Floyd remarked. “There’s still a lot of games to play.”
The Blue Raiders will journey to Morristown-East on Friday. The Hurricanes are 1-2 on the year after a 34-9 victory over South Doyle this week.
Cleveland newcomer Jamarcus Mobley opened Friday’s game at Bear Stadium by returning the opening kickoff to the Bradley 17.
After the fleet-footed senior gained 12 yards on the next two plays, classmate B.J. Davis did the honors from four yards out to put the Blue Raiders on the board with just 90 seconds having ticked off the game clock.
Undaunted, the host squad answered with a 12-play scoring drive, but had to settle for a 31-yard field goal off the foot of freshman Clayton Steels.
The Bears had marched to the Raider 5, but a five-yard penalty and a three-yard loss, when Barrett Thompson trapped a Bradley ball carrier in the backfield, forced them to settle for the three points.
After the Raiders completed just 2-of-6 pass attempts, including a failed fake punt, on the ensuing possession, Bradley needed just five plays to cover 60 yards and take a 9-7 lead with a 14-yard burst by senior fullback Dewaun Massengill with 1:42 to go in the opening frame.
With the aid of a couple of Bear penalties, including a late hit on a third down that kept the drive alive, Cleveland marched 75 yards in nine plays to retake the advantage on a 37-yard sprint by Mobley just 71 seconds into the second frame.
The lead was short lived as Bradley’s James Stovall returned the ensuing kick 27 yards then hooked up with sophomore quarterback Bryce Copeland for a 61-yard touchdown pass just 17 seconds after the Cleveland score.
In the offensive show that was expected from these two teams, the Blue Raiders answered with a 68-yard, seven-play drive that culminated with a 29-yard pass from junior Chad Voytik to Davis. Junior Anthony Vallejo split the uprights for the third time for the final point of the opening half with 6:55 on the clock.
With Cleveland up 21-15, the defenses didn’t surrender another point for the next 29 minutes.
After the intermission, the Blue Raiders controlled the tempo of the game, allowing Bradley just 18 offensive plays, forcing a trio of punts and picking off an interception.
Forcing the Bears to go three-and-out while having to punt once themselves in between, the Raiders took their first big chunk out of the clock late in the third quarter with a 12-play drive that ended when Goldston picked off a Voytik pass in the Red Zone.
The Bears picked up one first down but then had to punt again, this one a coffin-corner shot from Chandler Bennett that pinned the Raiders at their own 7.
The “character drive,” as Slaughter called it, chewed up most of the final frame as Cleveland appeared to be stopped twice on what turned out to be a 16-play scoring drive.
The first time came on a fourth-and-1 from their own 16, when “hard count” got the Bears to jump offside to keep the drive alive.
The second time, Cleveland needed 21 yards on a third down play and got 25 when Voytik split the seam with a bullet to Jeremy Simpson to move the chains.
Two plays later Mobley, who like Simpson transferred to CHS from Soddy-Daisy during the summer, broke free on a 27-yard gallop that Bennett made a touchdown saving tackle on.
After Mobley was stopped for a two-yard loss by Massengill, Voytik and Simpson hooked up again to 26 yards to move into the Red Zone.
Mobley took care of things from there, carrying the ball three of the next four plays before finding paydirt from 2 yards out with 1:59 left on the game clock.
Now down two scores with time running out, Bradley went to the air but Raider linebacker Juan Bobe snagged the second aerial and returned it to the Bear 10.
Mobley capped off a 23-carry, 156-yard performance when he went off tackle on the next play for his second touchdown in 39 seconds.
The two teams combined for 676 yards off offense, 317 of which came through the air.
Voytik completed 15-of-27 passes for 209 yards, plus rushed nine times for 34 more.
Davis pulled down four passes for 104 yards, while Simpson snagged five for 79.
“Our offensive line did a great job opening holes for us to run through and gave us time to throw,” Slaughter praised. “Bradley has a tough defense and we knew our line was going to have to come through for us to win.”
Junior speedster Justin Houston topped the Bear effort with 93 yards on 14 carries, plus he caught four passes for 19 more.
Stovall had a half dozen receptions for 91 yards, while Massengill gained 50 yards on nine rushes. Goldston had a 22-yard run to go with his interception.
“We fought hard until the very end but they were the better team tonight,” Floyd lamented.
Cleveland 7 14 0 12 — 33
Bradley Central 9 6 0 0 — 15
C — B.J. Davis 4-yd run (Anthony Vallejo kick), 10:30
BC — Clayton Steele 31-yd field goal, 5:22
BC — Dewaun Massengill 14-yd run (kick failed), 1:42
C — Jamarcus Mobley 37-yd run (Vallejo kick), 10:49
BC — James Stovall from Bryce Copeland 61-yd pass (kick failed), 10:32
C— Davis from Chad Voytik 29-yd pass (Vallegjo kick), 6:55
C — Mobley 2-yd run (kick failed), 1:59
C — Mobley 10-yd run (kick failed), 1:20
First downs 17 12
Rushes-Yards 34-185 27-174
Passing 209 108
Total Yards 394 282
Comp-Att-Int 15-27-1 11-19-1
Punts-Avg. 2-33.0 4-44.0
Fumbles-Lost 3-0 1-0
Penalties-Yards 7-50 8-60
Rushing: Jamarcus Mobley 23-156 2 TDs, Chad Voytik 9-34, B.J. Davis 2- -9 TD (C); Justin Houston 14-9, Dewaun Massengill 9-50 TD, Rue Goldston 1-22, Bryce Copeland 3-9 (BC).
Passing: Voytik 15-27-1 209 TD, Anthony Vallejo 0-1-0 (C); Copeland 11-19-1 108 TD (BC).
Receiving: Davis 4-104 TD, Jeremy Simpson 5-79, Brandon Strickland 2-10, Mobley 3-11 (C); James Stovall 6-91 TD, Houston 4-19, Caleb Cain 1- -2 (BC).
Records: Cleveland 2-0, 1-0 District 5-AAA; Bradley Central 2-1, 0-1 District 5-AAA.