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Staff File photo / Bradley Central's Aiden McClary (13) runs with the ball against Ooltewah at Bradley Central High School's Bear Stadium on Sept. 18, 2020 in Cleveland, Tenn.

Only two TSSAA prep football programs in the Chattanooga area have had six consecutive winning seasons — Bradley Central and Class 1A's South Pittsburg.

Damon Floyd's Bradley Central program has been the model of consistency for more than a half decade now in the state's largest public school classification. The Bears have a 48-22 record and have never lost more than four games since 2015.

"We have been fortunate to be in this situation," said Floyd, a former standout defensive back at the UT-Chattanooga who was hired to lead his high school alma mater in 2006.

"We have had a lot of great players come through here who have always bought in to the fact that we are a family. They take care of each other and play for one another. What it all boils down to is talent and each individual being disciplined and taking pride in doing their job."

The Bears and Cleveland are the only two area teams that compete in Region 2-6A, which has been dominated for two decades by Maryville. The Rebels have not lost to a region opponent in 20 years — an incredible 136 consecutive league wins on the way to claiming 13 state titles during that times.

Maryville has not lost to a Chattanooga-area foe in its last 47 meetings.

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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Cleveland head coach Marty Wheeler directs Destun Thomas (2). The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hosted a three-way scrimmage between them, Cleveland and Central on August 3, 2021.

But both Bradley Central and Cleveland could be closing the talent gap and both are expected to have successful seasons this fall.

Bradley senior quarterback Aiden McClary will look to take another step forward after a breakout junior season in which he filled in admirably when starter and Virginia signee Javin Burke was injured in the season opener. McClary scored 18 touchdowns and totaled 1,800 yards (1,532 passing) and will have a trustworthy and experience offensive line in front of him.

Gabe Campbell, Brayden Owens, Alex Dayton and Brody Morgan all started last season and will look to provide key blocks for sophomore running back Jackson Wilson who ran for nine scores and 400 yards last season backing up super star Javon Burke — a freshman at UTC — who set a program record with 2,257 total yards last season.

"Aiden is just the leader you want at quarterback," said Floyd, whose program has been blessed with star signal-callers over the past decade. "Jackson is physically as good as any running back we've ever had and I really like our offensive line coming back. We have some experience at those spots that we will have to lean on until our receivers can catch up. We will have a lot of freshmen and sophomores that will have to step up catching the ball."

Defensively the Bears look for breakout campaigns from senior defensive end Josh Helsdon, senior middle linebacker Isaiah Arnold and sophomore safety Marcus Goree Jr.

"Josh Helsdon is a home schooler who joined us last August and has really impressed this offseason," Floyd said of the 6-foot-4, 255-pounder who had six sacks last season. "Everyone is going to know his name around here and I think he will make for a heck of a college player. We expect big things from Isaiah who will have to lead our defense at middle linebacker and has a lot of great talent too.

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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Cleveland's Tetoe Boyd (44) fights for yardage. The Cleveland Blue Raiders visited the Ooltewah Owls in TSSAA football action on October 30, 2020.

"Our focus this year is again on being great teammates. You have to trust one another, work hard and respect each other. If we do that and play with effort every play, good things will happen. That's what we stress to these guys."

There is no shortage of talent in Bradley County in Region 2-6A as Cleveland brings back a wealth of experience and talent that should help its hopes of a break-through season.

The star aerial combination of junior Drew Lambert and senior Destun Thomas returns and is bound to produce fireworks. Thomas led the area with 1,252 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns on 66 catches last year (27.2 yards per catch). In five starts and six appearances Lambert shined, tossing 18 TDs.

Cleveland's offense looks to be even scarier considering it returns Tetoe Boyd who rushed for 1,437 yards two seasons ago. Boyd is a force on both sides of the ball and was a state champion wrestler at 182 pounds in February. The Blue Raiders have additional speed in the backfield with Brian Beard, Markel McKinnley and Mycah Jordan too.

Senior Tate O'Bryan could be in for a huge season after piling up nearly 400 receiving yards to go with 70 tackles (seven for loss) in 2020.

Offensive lineman Nick Nicodemus (6-6, 290) will be among the returning defensive starters, along with Jonathan Heralus and De'Swuan Boyd. Rodney Broadnax is a 6-foot-5, 210-pound newcomer who looks capable of making a big spalsh on both sides of the ball too.

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.

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Photo by Cade Deakin / Bradley's Josh Helsdon (42) runs into the end zone. The Cleveland Blue Raiders played the Bradley Central Bears in TSSAA football action on Friday Oct. 2, 2020.
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