ATHENS, Tenn. (WRCB) -- Damon Floyd wasn't surprised when he saw the TSSAA state playoff bracket Saturday morning.
Neither was Bo Cagle.
The two rival coaches had both heard it was highly likely their teams would meet in the first round of the Class 6A postseason. It just so happens that meeting comes just seven days after their last one.
A week after McMinn County rallied to beat Bradley Central for the District 5-AAA championship, the two long-time rivals will play a rematch with a lot more on the line in Channel 3's Friday Night Football Game of the Week.
"If our kids aren't ready to play this game, they're in the wrong sport," Floyd said. "Whenever you lose to someone, especially a rival, everyone always says they want another chance to play them. Now we're getting that chance.
"It's the postseason, so it's an honor to be here. Hopefully our kids will take advantage of it."
The Cherokees (9-1) wrapped up the No. 2 seed in their quadrant after last week's 34-29 win in Athens. The Bears (6-4) are the No. 7 seed as a wild card after finishing third in the district.
Neither team seems to mind the rematch, especially Bradley Central. The Bears bring in some extra motivation after blowing a 21-point lead in last week's loss.
"We just want to get out there and redeem ourselves," said Bradley Central receiver Dee Crisp. "We have to re-adjust and fix what we did wrong Friday, but it's the same thing. They're going to do what they do, and we know what it is.
"But we gave up a 21-0 lead last week, and it's time for us to come back and prove ourselves."
Bradley's dual-threat quarterback Bryce Copeland will try to extend his successful prep career by collecting just his second playoff win. The senior threw 329 yards and two scores in last week's loss to become the area's all-time career passing leader with 6,238 yards.
Receivers Dee Crisp and Cal Pickel, who each caught touchdown passes last week, along with Baylor Terrell have emerged as game-changers on the outside, and running back Logan Fetzner has proven he can help Copeland carry the rushing load.
That group was responsible for most of the early damage a week ago as the Cherokees' defense found itself down 21-0 in the second quarter.
"We definitely didn't play our best game last week," Cagle said. "That's our motivation and our goal this week and play our best game this time around. If we don't, we might have beat them last week, but this week they can end our season."
That's not to say McMinn County didn't play well on defense.
Senior Aaron Kimspon almost single-handedly thwarted Bradley's attack over the final two quarters, recording 12 tackles and five sacks while the Cherokees' offense found its groove with 34 unanswered points.
"We need to block No. 31, first and foremost," said Crisp of the Bears' offensive gameplan this week. "That kid is a beast. Props to him. He was in the backfield a lot."
Running backs Kelvin Wells and Dre Sanders did most of the heavy lifting for the McMinn offense, combining for 252 yards and three scores. The dynamic duo has been the bread-and-butter for the Cherokees all year, running behind an experienced and powerful offensive line.
Not one of them have ever said anything about getting more carries and touches or anything like that," Cagle said. "They're both incredibly unselfish and humble. They know a lot of their success comes from our offensive line, so they give credit there, as well.
"But they work well together as a great one-two punch because you can go either way with either one of them and know you're going to have success just because they're touching the ball."
The tandem isn't a traditional "Thunder and Lightning" backfield set up. Wells may be a bit faster and Sanders a tad stronger, but both are extremely balanced backs that truly enjoy sharing the success.
"No, there's no competition," said Sanders with a smile. "A lot of people ask us about that, thinking we go head-to-head. But no, we just like to go out there, do what we do, and come out with a 'W.'"
Both teams were ousted in the first round of the playoffs a year ago, with McMinn County's loss coming at home. Bradley last advanced to the second round in 2010, while the Cherokees won their first round games in both 2008 and 2009.
The winner advances to face either Cane Ridge (8-2) or Riverdale (7-3) in the second round. McMinn County would host either team, while Bradley Central will have to go on the road.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET in Athens. Paul Shahen and Mark Tipton will be on hand for live coverage on Week 11 of Channel 3's award-winning Friday Night Football starting at 11:10 p.m. ET.
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