Bradley Central quarterback Cole Copeland escapes Riverdale's Seth Black (76) and runs for short yardageat Finley Stadium Thursday night.
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Cleveland's James McRee (32) keeps his feet planted as Bradley Central's Cole Copeland (10) shoots a first half jump shot Monday night at Bradley.

Cole Copeland

› Freshman: 9.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg

› Sophomore: 14.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg

› Junior: 21.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg

› Freshman: 49.8 ypg, 0 TDs passing; 14.3 ypg, 0 TDs rushing

› Sophomore: 210.6 ypg, 18 TDs passing; 82.2 ypg, 12 TDs rushing

› Junior: 226 ypg, 26 TDs passing; 78.5 ypg, 14 TDs rushing


CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Cole Copeland is living up to his family history at Bradley Central High School.

Maybe he is even exceeding the athletic accomplishments of his uncles, father, mother, older brother Bryce, who is playing for Lee University, and his sister Brooke, who is playing for Florida.

Copeland, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound star with some blond chin stubble, is such an athlete that he's tried every sport the TSSAA offers at some point in his life. He hasn't played them all for the Bears, but he's given everything a try — everything from golf and tennis to baseball and bowling — at some point in his life.

"Golf? I'm terrible, and I'm not patient enough," he said. "Tennis? I had a bad experience and it was embarrassing. Soccer? I could be a goalie. Wrestling? I could do that.

"Baseball? I used to pitch but gave that up in sixth grade. Track? I could do the shortest distances possible like the 100 or 200. Cheerleading? I like girl cheerleaders, but I couldn't do it myself."

Growing up with such an athletic and competitive family has honed Copeland into a sharp quarterback and skilled basketball forward, making him one of the best dual-sport high school athletes in the greater Chattanooga area.

"He wants to win and refuses to lose," said teammate Bradley McCurdy, who has been playing basketball with Copeland since elementary school. "If a ball gets loose, it's going to be his ball."

Copeland, a junior, also has a knack for making big plays in clutch situations. In Monday night's game against rival Cleveland that lasted through four overtimes, he sank two shots to force extra stanzas and swished the winning shot with two defenders trying to stick a hand in his face.

"He has a don't-quit attitude like, 'You're going to have to beat me, because I'm not stepping down,'" Bears basketball coach Chuck Clark said. "That's something he inherited from his family. Bryce, his dad (Brian) and his uncles (Chad and Brent) all had it, too."

The Bradley Central student section spilled onto the court following the two-point victory Monday night. Copeland had three classmates draped around his neck as he tried to make his way to the locker room for the postgame speech from Clark.

"That was really neat," Copeland said. "Tyler Carpenter, one of my receivers, was the first one out, and he tried to tackle me."

Copeland finished Monday's game with a career-high 38 points and 25 rebounds. For his career, he has 1,173 points including 102 3-point baskets.

During the fall, he earned state Mr. Football semifinalist honors after throwing for 2,489 yards with 26 touchdowns while also rushing for 864 yards and 14 touchdowns. Against Dobyns-Bennett, Copeland threw for 459 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns.

"Both Monday and that game against Dobyns-Bennett were pretty good," he said. "I don't know if I could say that one's better than the other."

So he has options for his college career. He could play football or basketball.

Which does he prefer?

"Whichever is in season," Copeland said. "I'll take the best opportunity. This summer I'm going to split my time, play some summer basketball and do some one-day football camps."

Clark, the basketball guy, has been taking phone calls from coaches in the Sun Belt Conference as well as leagues with more notoriety inquiring about Copeland. Clark said that with a solid summer of improvement Copeland could land any number of scholarship offers.

Football coach Damon Floyd said the same thing about Copeland's potential for strapping on a helmet during his college days.

"His options are really wide open, because a lot of schools at different levels are still interested in him," Floyd said. "Marshall, Memphis, Tennessee Tech, Austin Peay, Virginia Tech — a lot of schools want to see him in person."

Copeland's sister, Brooke, is averaging six minutes per game for the Gators, and Bryce has started 11 games for the Flames this year.

Athletic success runs in the family. So do whippings — on and off the court and fields.

"My brother picked on me a little bit," Copeland said. "My mom (Kim Collins, who played at East Ridge and Cleveland) however, she is tough. She didn't baby us at all. She was the one spanking me most of the time.

"There's a wooden spoon that I'm still scared of."

Even with such a star — Copeland ranks in the top three in area scoring and rebounding according to stats provided to the Times Free Press — the Bears don't rely on him to do all of the scoring. When opposing teams try to play a box-and-one or a triangle-and-two defense to slow Copeland, he turns into a screen machine allowing his teammates to get open and score instead of him or McCurdy.

"If I focus on getting Cole the ball all the time, what is the other coach going to do?" Clark said. "Focus on him too.

"We stress team first, and all of the other stuff works itself out."

It's worked out well enough for the Bears to earn a 19-5 overall record and a perfect 10-0 record in District 5-AAA with two games remaining. They've already clinched the top seed in the district tournament. Copeland is a key reason.

"He passes the ball, he's team-oriented and he knows that if he hits the open guy we'll hit him when he's open," McCurdy said. "We all benefit from that."

Clark, now in his third year as head coach of the Bears, has benefited from Copeland's skills on the court. He also remembers Copeland when he was a cub running around the Cleveland area and dribbling with both hands.

"I used to keep an eye on him and Bryce because I'd go to games to get to know the kids before they arrived here," Clark sad. "I'll give him a slap on the rear every now and then to say, 'Good job.' But I'm not going to hug him. He's normally all sweaty."

Contact David Uchiyama at or 423-757-6484. Follow him at