CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Bradley Central coach Damon Floyd continually preached that his defense was given a bad reputation because of the Bears' ability to make big plays on offense, keeping the defense from resting too long.
On the team's biggest stage in recent memory, the offense made plays, but the defense stole the show.
The Bears limited Cleveland to 215 yards of total offense, while their own offense scored on three big plays in an 18-0 District 5-AAA victory nationally televised on ESPNU.
This was the second consecutive shutout for the Bears (7-2, 5-0), who blanked county rival Walker Valley 42-0 a week earlier. It's the first time since 1980 that Bradley has had back-to-back shutouts.
"It's a great feeling," defensive back Rue Goldston said. "Coach continued to stress to us to not let up. We respect teams and make it our goal to not let them score."
Goldston had the play of the night, hurdling a defender on a second-down play. He was penalized, however, for leading with his feet.
Cleveland (4-5, 2-3) bottled up Bradley on 33 plays, allowing only 66 yards, but the Bears' other three snaps gained 168 yards. They took a 6-0 lead 93 seconds into the contest on a 36-yard run by Justin Houston, and then Bryce Copeland took an option 77 yards for a score to open the second quarter.
Houston then took a swing pass 51 yards on the second play of the third quarter.
The Bears couldn't add any extra points, however, missing an extra point and a pair of two-point conversions.
"We definitely left some points on the field," Floyd said. "We made some mistakes, but we'll learn from them. Cleveland's a rival, and there's a lot of emotion in this game."
Floyd said he was more than pleased with the team's defensive effort.
"I couldn't have predicted that," he said. "We played hard. The guys have taken to heart all the things that were said, and it's good to see players play that way."
Cleveland quarterback Chad Voytik was bottled up all night, finishing with 73 yards passing and 24 yards rushing on 10 carries before going out of the game with an apparent concussion in the fourth quarter. Backup Austin Herink played the rest of the game and nearly led the Blue Raiders to a scoring drive in the final minutes, throwing for 61 yards, with a trio of completions to Shun Qualls.
"Bradley is a talented team," Cleveland coach E.K. Slaughter said. "They were well-coached and did a good job with some really talented athletes."
The Bears will face McMinn County (7-2, 5-0) for the district title next Friday, while Cleveland will travel to Rhea County for a game it needs to win to make the playoffs.