Kaleb Martin, Boo Carter star in Bradley Central debuts as Bears beat McMinn County

Staff photo by Patrick MacCoon / Bradley Central's Marcus Goree Jr. (8) helps bring down the McMinn County ball carrier on Friday night.

ATHENS, Tenn. — Bradley Central senior Kaleb Martin could not help but crack a huge smile late Friday night after the Bears opened their 2023 football season.

The dual-threat quarterback had just thrown five touchdown passes in a 41-21 victory at McMinn County, with Martin leading the Bears to touchdowns on their first four possessions and a different player scoring on each one of those drives.

Martin showed full command of the offense, competing 18 of 26 passes for 270 yards, and he used his legs to extend big plays while also rushing for 24 yards on five carries.

"We had a really good scheme and knew what we wanted to do coming in," Martin said. "We studied their defense a lot and had long days at practice. We just had to come out here and execute.

"I can't even remember the last time I threw five touchdowns. Maybe my freshman year? But I am getting back in the groove of things in a new offense. I have a lot of key players."

(READ MORE: Final scores and photos from Friday night's Chattanooga-area prep football games)

Martin stood tall in the pocket and closed the impressive victory with a 44-yard touchdown strike down the right sideline to Boo Carter, a fellow senior newcomer. Carter, who's committed to the University of Tennessee, finished with six catches for 142 yards and three touchdowns, which included a highlight-reel 34-yard run after the catch as he cut in from the left sideline and sped to the end zone.

Jarrius Rogers was also stellar in the first half at receiver, making a great leaping catch over a defender on the Bears' fourth possession of the game to help set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Jackson Wilson. That gave Bradley Central a 27-0 road lead with 3:34 left before halftime.

"I really feel like K12 (Martin) did become a complete quarterback tonight," said Carter, who also had a 40-yard touchdown catch on a seam route. "He got everybody open and everyone the ball. We have the ballplayers to be something special. Everyone can score. We just have to keep producing. This team has a chance to take over."

Bradley Central's run defense was dominant for the majority of the first half as AJ Williams and Tito Williams helped stuff McMinn County's wing-T attack. However, the Cherokees closed the first half with a score and then took advantage of a turnover to start the second with another touchdown run on a quarterback sneak.

McMinn County senior Ethan Faulkner had the longest play of the game as he took the ball around left end for a 69-yard touchdown to pull his team within 34-21 at the end of the third quarter.

"We played pretty good defensively, but we came out of halftime a little too laid back because we were up," Carter said. "We had to pick up the energy at the end."

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com.