published Saturday, October 29th, 2011

McMinn tops Bears for district title

Bradley Central's Bryce Copeland (10) runs into the endzone dragging McMinn County's Austin Fairbanks(44) with him during the first half of play Friday evening. The touchdown was revoked due to a flag on the play.
Bradley Central's Bryce Copeland (10) runs into the endzone dragging McMinn County's Austin Fairbanks(44) with him during the first half of play Friday evening. The touchdown was revoked due to a flag on the play.
Photo by Dan Henry.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Before the season, McMinn County football coach Bo Cagle said he wanted the regular-season finale against rival Bradley Central to mean something. With the teams sporting identical records and the District 5-AAA championship on the line, he had his wish.

Friday night, his Cherokees finished the job.

McMinn scored 34 consecutive points and benefited from some sloppy play by the Bears in claiming their second district title in three seasons with a 48-36 win on senior night at Bear Stadium.

The Cherokees finish the regular season 8-2, with a 6-0 mark in the district, while the Bears end with a 7-3 mark. The two claim the district's two automatic bids to the playoffs and will find out their postseason openers today.

Patrick Lindsey finished with 165 yards rushing, while Dre Sanders added 93. Quarterback Nathan Simbeck had 148 yards passing.

Simbeck provided maybe the biggest hit of the game, however, to his own team. With the Cherokees comfortably ahead in the fourth quarter, Simbeck recovered a fumble off a bad snap. While on the ground, he kicked a Bradley player in the groin, resulting in an ejection, meaning he'll have to miss the next two games.

Freshman Corbin Powers finished the game and is expected to start next week.

"I was just stupid," Simbeck said afterward. "The best thing I can do now is try to help our freshman quarterback out and teach him to protect the ball."

Simbeck and Cagle both said the Cherokees will appeal.

"He made a bad mistake and he knows he did, but all we can do is get Corbin ready to play," Cagle said.

"There's no sense in getting mad at [Nathan]. There's nobody on that sideline that feels as bad as he does now."

Bradley took a 16-10 lead into halftime, as Justin Houston racked up 141 yards in the first 24 minutes, including a 72-yard score.

In the third quarter, however, the Bears turned the ball over twice and had a punt snap sail over the head of Clayton Steels, resulting in a 28-yard loss. The Cherokees ran 15 third-quarter plays, all in Bradley territory, and scored 17 points, then added a 2-yard run by Dre Sanders to go ahead 34-16 with 11:20 to go in the third.

Lindsay then had a nice 39-yard run, reversing fields and breaking a few tackles to stretch the lead to 41-16.

The Bears did rally, with quarterback Bryce Copeland throwing a touchdown pass to Dee Crisp and running for another, but after an onside kick failed, McMinn burned the clock out for the victory.

"I thought we played well tonight," Cagle said. "Bradley didn't play quite as well as they'd normally play; they gave us opportunities and we took advantage of them tonight."

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