CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Just when you thought Bradley Central was out of Copelands ...
Bears coach Damon Floyd said quarterback Cole Copeland needs a little work with his checks at the line of scrimmage, but there's no doubting the sophomore's talent, which was vividly on display Friday in Bradley's season-opening 21-6 high school football victory over visiting Polk County.
The Copeland name has been a staple athletically at Bradley Central for years, most recently Cole's basketball- and volleyball-playing sister, Brooke, who signed a basketball scholarship with Florida. Older brother Bryce, now on the men's basketball team at Lee University, was the most recent to play quarterback for the Bears two seasons ago.
Now along comes Cole, who in the first half Friday was 10-of-13 passing for 180 yards with a touchdown pass and a touchdown run as the Bears led 21-0. He ended up 15-of-20 for 217 yards -- the touchdown an 88-yarder on a seam route by Tyler Carpenter -- but he was intercepted once in the first half and was sacked twice in the second half.
"For a sophomore quarterback, he obviously has a lot of ability," Floyd said. "He's still learning the game mentally."
Polk County coach Derrick Davis calls the defensive signals for his team, and the Bears were making it difficult on him.
"They were awful tough to defend," Davis said. "They put us in some binds. I made some bad calls, too. It was tough for us to match up against what they ran."
Meanwhile, the Wildcats' first-half offense consisted of 54 rushing yards -- 15 in the second quarter.
"For the most part we were reading our keys well on defense and trusting our teammates," Floyd said. "The second half we got a little sloppy. That's something we've got to improve on.
"The number one thing we've got to work on defensively is tackling."
The Wildcats' touchdown came with 6:20 to play, but they had scoring opportunities in the second and third quarters. Tristen Senn's interception and 40-yard return took the ball to the Bears' 14, but Bradley lineman Will Robbins recovered a fumbled snap on fourth-and-1 to kill that opportunity. Bradley's Daniel Clark intercepted a pass inside the 5 on a fourth-and-6 from the Bears' 20 in the second half.
"At the time you don't know how crucial those plays are going to be," Floyd said. "I was glad to see our kids keep fighting. We had some big plays, but they had field position on us all night.
Copeland completed passes to six receivers, with Carpenter's 102 yards leading the way. The Bears' Christian Hamilton ran six times for 62 yards and scored the first touchdown on a 41-yard run.
"They're just a better team than we are," Davis said. "On a positive note, when we got down 21-0 we could've just quit, but we didn't. I'm proud of them for that."
After a first half of work on defense, the Wildcats' Ben Norwood stepped in at fullback in the second half and ran eight times for 41 yards. He bulled in from the 1 for their touchdown.
"I can't brag enough about him," Davis said.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.