ATHENS, Tenn. - McMinn County senior Aaron Kimpson was determined to play another game at home in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs. So he made his home Friday night in the Bradley Central backfield.
Kimpson finished with five sacks, numerous hurries and 12 tackles, and McMinn's Cherokees claimed their second consecutive District 5-AAA championship and third in four years with a 34-29 victory over the Bears.
McMinn, which scored 34 consecutive points, will enter the playoffs with a 9-1 record and a spotless 6-0 mark in the district, while Bradley is a probable wild card in 6A with a 6-4 overall record. Ooltewah's huge victory over Walker Valley on Friday gave the Owls the second seed and automatic slot in the 5A playoffs.
"We've worked all season to be in this moment," Kimpson said. "Bradley came out early on us, but we made some adjustments that really worked in our favor. This is my third district championship in four years, and I love it.
"No team in McMinn history has done this. Now we're just looking to make a run in the playoffs."
It wasn't easy, though. Bradley jumped out to a 21-point lead in the first half, with Cal Pickel catching two touchdown passes, including one from Dee Crisp. Logan Fetzner added a 4-yard score late in the first quarter.
"We never gave up," McMinn coach Bo Cagle said. "We kept fighting. Bradley outplayed us for most of the game until the third quarter, but we got the momentum and the ol' 'Mo' carried us for a quarter and a half."
The Bears went through an offensive drought in the second and third quarters. They had two first downs in four possessions, and their best drive in the third quarter ended in an 83-yard interception return for an Austin Fairbanks touchdown that gave the Cherokees the lead for good.
Kelvin Wells, who finished with 146 yards rushing, scored his second touchdown of the game with 1:22 remaining for the icer. Dre Sanders added 86 yards and McMinn's first touchdown, while quarterback Corbin Powers had 37 yards rushing and 36 passing with a score.
Bradley quarterback Bryce Copeland was 24-for-41 passing for 329 yards and two scores, becoming the all-time area leader in passing yards with 6,238. He threw a late touchdown pass to Crisp, who caught 16 passes for 168 yards. Baylor Terrell finished with five catches for 105 yards, and Pickel added three for 79.
"McMinn was able to stay in their base formation on defense. We couldn't block their front four," Bradley coach Damon Floyd said. "We couldn't tackle in the second half.
"This one hurts, but we have to get over it quick. We have a game next week, and we have to prepare and give it our best."