CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Blue Raiders quarterback Austin Herink didn’t mince words after Friday’s one-point win over District 5-AAA and crosstown rival Bradley Central.
“This is something I’ve been looking forward to since I was five years old,” the senior signal caller said. “It’s what we worked all offseason for. They beat us last year and that kept us out of the playoffs, so this game was definitely circled on our schedule.”
As if that’s ever not the case for Cleveland and Bradley Central.
The Blue Raiders (5-3, 3-1 5-AAA), who faced a two-score deficit at the break, blew the Bears away in the third quarter, reeling off 21-unanswered points to take their first lead of the game. And while Bradley somehow managed a late fourth-quarter score, pulling to within a point, Cleveland senior Jonathan Terero broke through the Bears’ front line on ensuing play, blocking the potential game-tying PAT and securing the 21-20 win for his team.
“It was just block right; it’s the only one we’ve got so it was an easy call,” Cleveland coach Ron Crawford said. “We just timed it up good, and a senior just stepped up and made a great play.”
“Cleveland came out more inspired after halftime than we did, that’s the bottom line,” Bradley Central coach Damon Floyd said. “We let up and you can’t do that against a good team. It falls on me; I’ve got to have them ready and I didn’t do my job.”
As usual, Herink was a big part of his team’s offensive production, accounting for 159 yards and two scores, but junior running backs T.J. Parker and Raekwon Bell were also instrumental in the Blue Raiders’ second-half surge.
Parker ran for a game-high 133 yards — 107 of which came in the final two quarters, including a third-quarter score — while Bell finished with 75 yards on 18 carries.
“Normally it’s throwing; we have to win by me throwing and the receivers catching,” Herink said. “Tonight it was just the opposite. That takes a lot of pressure off.”
Herink got in on the ground game too, though, piling up 75 yards on 15 carries, and the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder was responsible for Cleveland’s first points of the contest, scoring from five yards out on a quarterback keeper.
“Tonight’s probably the first time I ran the ball more than I threw it,” Herink said. “I don’t know if that’s accurate, but it feels like it.”
The Bears (4-2, 1-2), who’ve lost two straight by a combined three points, couldn’t have asked for a better start to the game, driving 64 yards on 12 plays before taking an early 7-0 lead on quarterback Brett Standifer’s 9-yard touchdown pass to senior Cal Pickel.
Bradley added its second score of the contest with under a minute to play in the first half, capping another long drive with senior running back Logan Fetzner’s 1-yard run.
Things quickly changed in the second half, though.
The Bears’ first two drives of the second half quickly fizzled, and when it appeared Bradley’s offense had finally gotten back in gear, Standifer was picked off in the red zone. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s offense was clicking on all cylinders, scoring on its first three possessions of the third quarter.
“We went to the locker room and Coach Crawford told us to keep our heads up,” Bunyon said. “He told us we made mistakes, but we could fix them if we kept on pushing. We had a good week of practice, and our O-line executed and got some push in the second half.”
Standifer finished with 248 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 23-of-37 passing, while junior Daniel Clark hauled in eight receptions for 108 yards. Neither were in on Bradley’s biggest play of the night, though. Well, Standifer was, but only to lateral the ball to teammate Dee Crisp, who fired a 46-yard strike to senior Cal Pickel for the potential game-tying touchdown with 1:53 to play.
“Our kids never quit,” Floyd said. “They’re going to fight until the end. Our kids made some plays, and that’s what you expect in a game like this — two good teams going at it. We just came up short.”
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
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