River Ridge’s Brian Bradley and Creekview’s Isaac Hubert were the two most dominant defensive players in Cherokee County this season.
Both forced the opposition to adjust, the seniors proved their game-wrecking potential and, as a result, are the 2021 Cherokee County Defensive Players of the Year.
Bradley was already an exceptional player, but he backed that up with another outstanding year. The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder exceeded his tackle-for-loss goal this season with 15, including 7.5 sacks to.
Bradley took no time off in his preparation, as he began working right after the 2020 season ended.
“During the offseason, I got a trainer, and we have been working on pass-rush and run defense,” Bradley said. “We started in January and worked through the spring, summer and even during the season. We kept training so I could keep up my performance and shape.”
On the River Ridge defensive front, Bradley has become the rare blend of imposing pass-rusher and strong defender against the run. He put consistent pressure on every phase of an opposing offensive unit.
“The guy never takes a play off,” River Ridge coach Michael Collins said. “He is always 100 percent in games and practices. Physically, with his speed and first step, it is incredible. Once he put on the weight and got the numbers to where they are, he was pretty much an unblockable defensive player.”
Collins believes that Bradley will go down as one of the best defensive players in Cherokee County history.
Bradley’s presence was felt in every game the Knights played and, in many of them, he was the difference. Bradley and the defense saved River Ridge’s sixth win of the year in a hard-fought late-season battle with Sequoyah.
“It ended on a defensive stop,” Bradley said. “During that last drive, I had a sack, and then it led to an interception that sealed the game. It pushed us over the top because we felt like the defense had really accomplished something.”
Hubert also showed he was a force. Though his numbers were not necessarily eye-popping, opposing coaches often schemed solely around him.
Still, the junior linebacker finished with 16 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. He was also named the Region 7AAAAAA Player of the Year.
“We put in a lot of work,” Hubert said. “Coach Chip Martin, our defensive coordinator, started the season off with meetings to set the tone with all the defensive players. We call ourselves the dark side, and that unified us.”
Hubert said one of Creekview’s goals this season was to finish undefeated against Cherokee County teams. The Grizzlies accomplished that, starting it during the season’s first two weeks with a pair of blowout wins over Etowah and Woodstock.
“Those games were challenging, but we stuck together as a team,” Hubert said. “If the offense was not doing well, then the defense pulled through, and vice versa. We had a motto of ‘put the ball down and play.’ Whatever happens the play before, do not think about it. Put the ball down and move on.”
During his time at Creekview, Hubert improved dramatically, and it directly correlated with the Grizzlies’ success. He became a leader on a young team and said that just this year, he saw immense progress both from himself and his teammates.
“I started lifting weights in eighth grade with Creekview, and I got a lot stronger,” Hubert said. “The coaching has taught me a lot, and I feel like my skills have improved greatly because of them.”