CLEVELAND, Tenn. — As a Cleveland pass fluttered in his direction, Bradley Central linebacker Knox Watson had one prevailing thought Friday night.
"I hope I don't drop this," he said. "I knew if I did, I'd be able to hear everyone groan."
He didn't drop it. He caught it and raced 31 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, and the Bears earned their seventh straight win in the series of intracounty rivals with a 28-14 victory over the host Blue Raiders at Benny Monroe Stadium.
Watson was part of a stalwart defensive effort that limited the home team to seven first-half points despite Cleveland linebacker Tate O'Bryan having three sacks to force fumbles that were recovered by the Blue Raiders in Bradley Central territory. Aside from a Tetoe Boyd touchdown after the first of the three turnovers, the Bears kept Cleveland out of the end zone after those mistakes.
It proved to be the difference as the Bears trailed just 14-7 at halftime, getting a touchdown from workhorse running back Jackson Wilson before giving up a touchdown pass by quarterback Drew Lambert to O'Bryan just before the end of the second quarter.
Wilson, in fact, was the Bradley offense at that point, rushing for 177 of his 219 yards in the first half and breaking some long runs that helped the Bears move from deep in their own territory. He got some help in the second half from freshman J'Alan Terry, who rushed for 42 of his 58 yards in the final 24 minutes and scored his first high school touchdown.
But Friday's success was about Bradley's defense, which was credited with five sacks. Watson's touchdown was the first of two interceptions returned for scores; Landon Price grabbed one a couple of possessions later and raced 60 yards.
"We had worked all week to prepare for this game," said Watson, who had 13 total tackles. "This is a big rivalry game for us, so we had confidence going in throughout the week. We just practiced hard and got through it and got the win."
After gaining 193 yards of offense in the first half, the Blue Raiders were held to 90 in the second. A second-half sack of Lambert knocked him out with a lower body injury, and the Bears got to sophomore backup L.J. Adams three times as well. After rushing for 60 yards in the first half, Boyd was held to 8 in the second.
"Everybody saw the game," Bradley coach Damon Floyd said. "We just bowed our back. It was unbelievable, and that's all on the kids, that's not coaching. We put ourselves in bad situations, but they just kept fighting and battling, and when you do that, sometimes good things happen.
"We can't continue to do this — we did it last week, too — but I'm really just happy that we overcame adversity."
Cleveland's Destun Thomas had 53 yards on eight catches, and D.J. Adams had 67 yards of total offense — 42 rushing and 25 receiving.