CLEVELAND, Tenn. - As if 193 total yards and all three of his team's touchdowns weren't enough damage inflicted upon intracounty rival Walker Valley on Friday night, Bradley Central sophomore running back Jackson Wilson took the opportunity to pour a little salt in the wound with his final statement.
"We're 16-1 against those boys," Wilson proclaimed.
It was a dominating effort on both sides of the ball, but the Bears' 24-10 win was far from easy. It started with their defense, which sacked Walker Valley quarterback Ryan Lay six times and held the Mustangs to 34 rushing yards on 33 carries. The Mustangs had 173 yards of total offense, with Lay scoring once but throwing a late pick to Marcus Goree, Jr. that sealed the win for the visitors.
"The offense put us in some bad positions," said Bears coach Damon Floyd, who celebrated his birthday Friday. "We did have way too many turnovers, and we can't do that and expect to win games. There was a lot of emotion in this game, it's a big rivalry game in a lot of respects. It was a fun atmosphere, and I'm really proud of our kids for handling some adversity and sticking it out and getting a win, because it was tough."
The offensive line paved the way for 185 rushing yards and protected hobbled senior quarterback Aiden McClary, who was relegated to the pocket due to a lower-body injury incurred last week against Brainerd. The only time the 6-foot-3, 185-pound senior hit the ground was after a 2-yard scramble in the second half.
But he didn't have to run much, because he had Wilson for that. The sophomore rushed for 177 yards and scored on runs of 18 and 78 yards in the second half, and he also had an 11-yard touchdown reception in the first half.
In total, 144 of his rushing yards came in the final 24 minutes.
"There wasn't much said at halftime," Wilson said. "We knew we had to come out, execute more and play harder."
That started on the opening kickoff of the second half, when freshman speedster J'Alan Terry had a 57-yard return to give the Bears possession at the Walker Valley 30. Three plays later, Wilson bounced off a tackle and found the end zone.
The Mustangs (1-1) responded with a 12-play, 58-yard drive that was punctuated with Lay's 1-yard run, but after a miscommunication on the ensuing kickoff led to the Mustangs recovering the kick at the Bradley 25, the defense stopped Walker Valley on four downs.
Three plays later, Wilson put the game away with the long run.
"Tonight just showed a lot of guts," Floyd said. "You've got to give a lot of credit to the offensive line; they showed us a lot of stuff and we handled it."
McClary passed for 109 yards. Most of that damage was done in the first half, with Taylor Duggan the primary recipient with 54 yards on six receptions - four going for first downs.