CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Bradley Central played a nearly perfect second half to defeat visiting Bearden 35-14 Friday night in the TSSAA Class 6A quarterfinals.
The "nearly perfect" part, though, may be damaging to the undefeated and top-ranked Bears' championship hopes as senior quarterback Kaleb Martin was injured on a run in the fourth quarter. Martin, who accounted for 236 yards and three touchdowns, was unable to put much weight on his left leg and did not return.
"We are hoping it's a bruise," Bradley coach Damon Floyd said. "He got hit in the knee by a helmet, so we'll have to see."
Bradley will host three-time reigning state champion Murfreesboro Oakland (11-2) in next week's semifinal round.
Martin, who has committed to Miami-Ohio, engineered three consecutive second-half drives as the Bears — 13-0 for the first time since their championship season in 1976 — broke open a game that was 14-14 at halftime.
After getting touchdown runs of 14 and 8 yards in the first half, Martin scored on another 8-yard run to cap a 10-play, 75-yard drive to open the third quarter. He and Boo Carter alternated runs on the next drive, Martin getting 14 yards and Tennessee-committed Carter adding 12 yards two plays later to the 36. Martin then ripped off 14 yards and Carter 16, leading to Carter's 4-yard run for a 28-14 lead.
The game plan was decidedly different from the last meeting between the two teams, a 46-14 Bradley triumph three weeks ago in which Martin passed for 316 yards. The Bears did their damage on the ground Friday with 386 yards on 48 carries.
In addition to Martin's 140 yards, Carter added 139 with two touchdowns on 12 carries, with J'alan Terry adding 47 yards and Jackson Wilson, who did not play in the second half, getting 42 yards on five carries.
"They were keeping two safeties high, so we had to take what they were giving us, and we did a good job in the run game tonight," Floyd said. "The line played great, and I think we wore them down a bit."
It was the Bears, though, who were on their heels early as the Bulldogs (9-4) took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards on 11 plays, all but two on the ground. Torrian Riggins scored on a 27-yard burst off left tackle on fourth-and-1.
After Bradley tied it on Martin's first touchdown, the Bears again marched down the field, going 64 yards in 12 plays, with Riggins doing most of the damage before Jayzon Thompson scored on a 3-yard run.
"I was worried at the half, to be honest," Floyd said of the slow start. "I think we came out and thought it would be like the last game, but the coaches knew better. I am proud of the guys for coming out in the second half and taking care of business.
"Bearden did some things differently offensively from the first game, and it took us a little time to figure out what they were doing in the run game."
It didn't help that the Bears lost a fumble at the Bearden 1-yard line and later missed a short field-goal attempt as the half ended. The bad mojo didn't last long as Bradley outgained Bearden 267 yards to 45.
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