Coach: Damon Floyd (24-28 here and career)
Returning starters (O/D/K): 7/7/1
Remember these names: Quarterback Bryce Copeland (Jr., 5-11, 165) threw for 1,838 yards and 19 touchdowns last year, and all-state receiver James Stovall (Sr., 6-3, 185) had 1,085 yards and nine touchdowns receiving. Versatile back Justin Houston (Sr., 5-9, 160) had over 1,000 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns. The offensive line is headed by NCAA Division I prospects Patrick Benson (Sr., 6-4, 305) and Austin Sanders (Jr., 6-5, 300), while Rue Goldston (Sr., 5-9, 155) leads the defense.
Will be a memorable year if: The Bears can win 10 games and/or a district championship. They haven't accomplished either feat since 1980. Advancing deeper in the playoffs is a requirement, too. Building a program requires taking steps and doing better than the year before, so anything less than the playoff quarterfinals would be considered a disappointment with the team they have coming back from a year ago.
Aug. 19 Polk
Aug. 26 Baylor
Sept. 2 Soddy-Daisy*
Sept. 9 at East Hamilton
Sept. 23 at Blackman
Sept. 30 at Rhea County*
Oct. 7 at Ooltewah*
Oct. 13 Walker Valley*
Oct. 21 at Cleveland*
Oct. 28 McMinn County*
* District 5-AAA game
Rue Goldston was ready to leave Bradley Central after his first few days as a freshman. With family bloodlines tied to crosstown rival Cleveland High, he already was unhappy about his parents' decision to send him to Bradley.
Three years later, Goldston is happy with their decision to make him stay, and the Bradley coaches are even happier. He could be the most important piece of a Bears team that is expected to do big things in 2011.
The 5-foot-9, 155-pounder was named District 5-AAA defensive back of the year in 2010 with four interceptions and 15 deflections. With the loss of all-state defensive end Tucker Bolton, head coach and defensive coordinator Damon Floyd is stacking a lot more responsibilities on Goldston's plate.
Floyd expects to play Goldston at linebacker at times and possibly even on the line of scrimmage, in addition to getting him some carries as a running back in the Bears' high-powered offense.
With heady junior quarterback Bryce Copeland, versatile tailback/receiver Justin Houston and all-state wide receiver James Stovall, the Bears should have no problems scoring after averaging over 28 points per contest last season, but the defense struggled at times and relied on Bolton to make plays. A year's added experience and seven returning starters should help.
"Who replaces Tucker Bolton? The answer is nobody," Floyd said. "You can't. We're going to need guys in other positions to be leaders, and a combination of guys to step up. I feel Rue is the best defensive player we have, and we need him to be our emotional leader and make plays every game and every situation."
Goldston, who despite his small frame bench-presses 315 pounds and is the team's strongest player pound-for-pound, admitted that the idea of playing out of his natural position was hard to consider at first.
"I was disappointed at first because I want to defend my title [of best DB]," Goldston said. "I'm not selfish, though; I want to do whatever's going to be best for the team."
Like the other Bradley seniors, Goldston wants to continue the process of getting the program back to top status in the district. The Bears haven't won 10 games or a district title since 1980, when Floyd was 3 years old.
"It feels good, but I knew we had the potential if we put our mindset to it," Goldston said. "Nobody can be selfish, though. We all have to go out and do our job for the team, because at the end of the night that's what's going to make us successful."
In week three of the 2009 season, the Bears celebrated when an extra-point kick sailed wide, giving them an improbable 27-26 victory over crosstown rival Cleveland - their first over the Blue Raiders since 1988.
It was at that point that the culture of the program changed. Since Floyd's arrival in 2006, the Bears had been able to compete in tough games but had not got over the hump. The fact that not only were they able to secure a big win, but to do it against a team they hadn't defeated since the first George Bush was president provided an added measure of accomplishment.