The Bradley Central trio each had that not-sure-what-just-happened look, but it wasn't going to diminish their smiles. Coach Damon Floyd, quarterback Brett Standifer and wideout Cal Pickel were as shocked Friday night as the large crowd at Hixson High School.
Despite getting outrushed 275-15 yards and being pushed up and down the field for most of the evening, the Bears won 14-13 in a game that fits only under the category of bizarre.
"The bottom line is we got away with one tonight," Floyd said. "It doesn't feel like a win, but it feels good walking away knowing we won."
At the mercy of Hixson's talented tailback tandem of Hixson's Isaiah Robinson and Kendrick Bradley, the Bears put together one very meaningful drive to pull victory from the jaws of a very shocked Wildcats victory party.
Trailing 13-7 after Hixson failed to capitalize with two missed field-goal tries and two fumbles, the Bears (2-1) went 80 yards on 12 plays with Standifer tossing a perfect 12-yard touchdown toss to Pickel with 4:22 left in the game. Luke White's PAT put Bradley up 14-13 and gave Hixson one more opportunity to shoot itself in the foot.
Standifer missed on his first six passes of the final half but caught fire on the go-ahead drive, hitting on 6-of-7.
"I'm proud of our guys," he said after going 13-for-22 for 161 yards. "We had a lot of things not go well tonight, but the defense stepped up when it had to. I just kept telling them, 'Give us one more chance,' and they did."
Pickel was one of six Bradley receivers to drop a pass, but when it counted most he was money. Pickel caught four of his five catches, totaling 56 yards, in the key drive.
"We just kept fighting. You have to get over drops and adversity and take advantage of things when you get the opportunity," Pickel said. "We kept running those short sideline patterns, and on the TD we knew he would bite and he did. Brett made a great throw."
Hixson (2-2) got two TD runs from Bradley (8 and 1 yard) and teamed with Robinson for 263 rushing yards. Robinson had 139 on 18 carries and Bradley added 124 on 21.
After falling behind, the Wildcats got the ball to inside Bradley's 15, but a holding penalty cost them dearly. It was one of nine penalties for 95 yards for Hixson. Bradley's Dalton Cooley all but ended it with a fourth-down sack of Gill Brown with 52 seconds left.
"We have to play a full game at some point, but I am proud of the kids," Floyd said. "They found a way to win and Hixson is a great football team. Those two backs are as good as any you will see."
Hixson will travel to Howard next week, while Bradley hosts Walker Valley.