Bradley Stephens has had Friday nights when he surpassed 300 passing yards and others when he threw for as many as five TDs.
None of those efforts compared, though, to the game he put together in Ooltewah’s 42-20 win over Shelbyville in the first round of the playoffs.
Stephens completed 12 of 14 passes for 222 yards and a pair of TDs with no turnovers in the Owls’ 5A game Friday and earned Times Free Press Player of the Week honors for the effort.
“You throw for 350 yards and you’ve got six ‘picks,’ that’s not player of the week material. He did this week what you want your quarterback to do,” Ooltewah coach Shannon Williams said in the midst of preparations for his team’s Friday trip to unbeaten Powell.
Top-ranked in its quarter of the bracket, Powell bested Anderson County 54-12 last week.
“They are as advertised, what you’d expect in an undefeated team. They have an outstanding running back, and their quarterback throws well but he can run too,” Williams said.
He feels better about Ooltewah’s chances, though, after the Owls’ performance, especially that of the 6-foot-3, 180-pound Stephens.
“We played pretty well. Friday was the best football we played all year, and it came at the right time,” Williams said. “The last three weeks we have gotten better every week, and everything clicked Friday night.”
Stephens turned in a turnover-free night in addition to the touchdown passes.
“It was his most complete game of the year,” Williams said. “The last three [games], he’s done everything he needed to do. This past week there were times we needed to throw, and he converted a big third down early on and then he converted on a fourth-down play. He was efficient and effective. He was seeing the field and operating well.”
Stephens, a senior, has blossomed as the season progressed.
“He’s more comfortable. He has progressed with his knowledge of defenses. Early in the year it was ‘chuck and duck.’ The last five or six weeks we’ve been able to throw downfield. His reading defenses and our offensive line being able to protect have helped tremendously,” Williams said. “It has opened up the whole offense. The part we were missing was the downfield threat. We have several good receivers that give us a lot of flexibility and the whole crew has been playing pretty well. We have our whole playbook open now.”
Williams has discussed with Stephens how quickly he needs to get rid of the ball and Stephens’ awareness of timing has helped Ooltewah’s offense.
“He doesn’t hold the football. It’s out of his hands pretty quick. If what we’re looking for isn’t there he can pull it down and make things happen,” the coach said.
There aren’t many schools calling about Stephens but Williams expects that will come.
“We’re promoting him, and I think he’ll get some interest. He’ll have a pretty good highlight film.”
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...