CLEVELAND, Tenn. (WRCB) -- One of the state's longest-running football rivalries renews in the next Friday Night Football Game of the Week when McMinn County comes calling on Bradley Central in a District 5-AAA showdown.
The Cherokees have won three straight in the series after wins in back-to-back weeks last season. The two teams played for the district title in the final week of the regular season (34-29 McMinn) before returning to Athens for a rematch in the opening round of the Class 6A playoffs (42-22 McMinn).
Bradley Central (4-3, 1-2 in 5-AAA) is coming off back-to-back losses, but is still in the hunt for a playoff spot. The Bears' trio of losses have come by a combined five points in a season-opening road loss at Polk County (29-27) and district losses to Ooltewah (28-26) and Cleveland (21-20).
Last week's setback to the arch rival Blue Raiders was especially frustrating. The Bears rallied to score a touchdown in the final minute after blowing a 14-point halftime lead, but had their game-tying extra point attempt blocked in the final minute.
Quarterback Brett Standifer mans the controls of an impressive air attack that features play-making wideouts Cal Pickel and Dee Crisp. The Bears' ground game is also a threat with running back Logan Fetzner finally breaking through with his first touchdown of the season last week.
On the other side, Bo Cagle's rebuilding Cherokees (2-5, 1-2 in 5-AAA) are growing each week. After blowout losses to McCallie and Cleveland early in the season, McMinn has had tighter battles against Alcoa (35-14 loss), Oak Ridge (28-19 loss) and East Hamilton (24-12 loss), as well as a lopsided win over Soddy-Daisy (42-7).
Junior quarterback Corbin Powers (1,224 total yards, 11 total TD's) has continued to grow as a dual threat in his second year as the starter, utilizing veteran wideouts Matt Derrickson and Clay Bennett. The senior duo has combined to catch 51 passes for 440 yards and four touchdowns in the first seven games.
On the ground, opponents have keyed on senior running back Dre Sanders (344 rushing yards, 4 total TD's) after a breakout 2012 season, forcing the Cherokees to shake up the offense. Sophomore tailback D.J. Kimspon exploded with a 122-yard performance on 18 carries in last week's 24-12 loss at East Hamilton, emerging as a reliable counterpart to help Sanders shoulder the load.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET at Bear Stadium. Paul Shahen and Mark Tipton will be live in Cleveland with full coverage for Week 8 of Friday Night Football starting at 11:10 p.m. ET.
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