Dalton High School senior fullback Hunter Cleary, after being arrested last Friday for selling marijuana-laced brownies at the school, is no longer a member of the football team, according to coach Matt Land.
"Hunter is no longer with the team," Land confirmed. "Because this is a discipline matter with the school, I cannot comment any further."
Cleary, 18, was charged and jailed at the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office on five counts, including the intent to sale marijuana and the possession of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school. He was charged also with possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and possession of alcohol by a minor.
He was released on $5,000 bond later that day.
Hixson coach Jason Fitzgerald had high praise for East Hamilton one week after his team lost 49-0 to the Hurricanes.
Fitzgerald, who coached Rhea County to several successful playoff seasons, said after watching them in person and again on tape that the Hurricanes remind him of a team he had faced in the playoffs several times.
"They're a lot like some of those Maryville teams we played," Fitzgerald said. "East Hamilton is as complete a football team as I've seen in a very long time.
"We've played three teams that are ranked in the state, but nobody we've seen compares to East Hamilton. They're very physical and it's hard to do anything with them on offense, defense and even their kicking game. They put every kickoff through the end zone and made us drive the length of the field. It's going to take a really loaded team to match them in the playoffs."
East Hamilton, ranked No. 4 in the state in Class 4A, has beaten its four District 6-AA opponents by at least 29 points each and is just one win from retaining its district title. The Hurricanes have outscored opponents 90-10 in the first quarters this season, and senior running back Logan Jackson surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in three years last week.
The Hurricanes are allowing fewer than 100 rushing yards per game, and last week Hixson (4-3) crossed midfield for the first time early in the fourth quarter, reaching the 49, but was sacked on the next play and never again crossed the 50.
"If they're only the fourth best team in 4A, I'd like to see the other three ahead of them," Fitzgerald said.
Bradley Central coach Damon Floyd knows the meaning of the word "healthy" only in a dictionary sense, because one look at his football team right now shows anything but that.
"We don't use that word around here," he said with a laugh Wednesday.
The Bears lost senior linebacker L.J. Goodridge to a season-ending injury in last week's 34-23 loss to Ooltewah. Tack that onto senior safety and leading tackler Alex Hopkins being lost for the year as well as linebacker Nate Mills, who has had some nagging injuries and won't play tonight against Walker Valley.
Floyd hopes to have defensive tackle D.J. King back after an injury six weeks ago against Soddy-Daisy.
Quarterback Bryce Copeland had the wind knocked out of him last week against the Owls but will be in action tonight. He will be needed as the Bears go through their October gauntlet of Ooltewah, Walker Valley, Cleveland and McMinn County, who are a combined 19-10 on the year.
"Bryce has done it before for us," Floyd said. "We've figured out that Bryce is kind of like [former Baylor quarterback] Jacob Huesman. He's going to have to run the ball. We're getting deep into the district now, and he's going to have to carry us."
After Hopkins' shoulder surgery, No. 34 Robert Bartolameolli approached Floyd and asked if he could wear Hopkins' No. 35 against Ooltewah to honor his classmate and good friend.
"I thought it was awesome," Floyd said. "You try to get them to play for each other, be like brothers and love each other. This is the kind of thing that emphasizes that, and hopefully it carries over with everybody."
At midweek Floyd said he was not sure if the gesture was a one-time thing but noted the new loss of No. 23 Goodridge.
"He may be wearing a different number this week," Floyd said of Bartolameolli.