By DAVE MORRISON
ESPN Radio 102.3 The Ticket
LINDSIDE – James Monroe’s Colton Bradley is a guy who everybody can get behind.
The classic unsung hero, a guy whose sheer worth goes beyond the statistical package you can see following a game.
You want to know who really appreciates the efforts of a player like Bradley?
His coaches and his teammates do.
You hear it daily. He’s a kid who puts team first, a player who just wants to win, a guy who maximizes his opportunities.
“I wish they all were like him,” coach John Mustain said. “He’s attentive, he understands things and then he goes out there and plays his tail off. He doesn’t say a whole lot but his play says a lot.”
The next opportunity comes Friday when the Class AA No. 3 Mavericks (4-0) hosts No. 6 Nicholas County (4-0).
He is, frankly, an unheralded player on a team that boasts stars like Evan Beasley, Grant Mohler and Trip Shiflett, all key returning players from last season and Devin Johnson, who is second on the team in rushing and has five fumble recoveries.
Bradley is the player who doesn’t get a lot of opportunities on offense, but when he does, he makes them count. Try two kickoff returns for 93 yards and a touchdown, two punt returns for 45 yards and a touchdown. He also has one reception for 56 yards.
“I just try to lead by example,” Bradley said. “When I get the ball I try to capitalize on it. I just want to win. That’s all I want to do. I want to see my team win and see them be happy. I have the most unbelievable teammates you can have.”
Defensively, he probably isn’t the star either, not on a team where linebackers Shiflett (50 tackles) and Mohler (30 tackles), a duo that has combined for 17 tackles for a loss, are the heavy hitters.
“We’ve got Trip Shiflett, one of the best linebackers in the state, the best on the team,” Bradley said. “We’ve got the one-two punch of Evan and Grant. Grant is a horse and Evan is a complete athlete on the field. And Devin, he’s been really putting it out there and showing what he can do. Every time he touches the ball he makes something happen.”
Yet Bradley, again, makes the most of his opportunities. His statistics are outstanding.
Bradley has four interceptions, two fumble recoveries (he leads the area with six takeaways) 10 tackles and a defensive touchdown, one of three the Mavericks have this season.
The reason for his success?
“Coaching and knowing my teammates have my back,” Bradley said. “I know I can take a chance and make a play.”
A lot has been made of Nicholas County’s defense, and with good reason. The Grizzlies have not given up a point through four games. James Monroe’s defense is nearly as dominant, giving up 18 points in four games and it has caused 17 turnovers.
“We practice that, practice getting turnovers and hopefully those numbers keep going up,” Bradley said. “We’re making plays and we’re doing everything to get the ball back in our hands with the offense and do what it does best, and that’s score.”
The Mavericks are averaging 42 points per game so far on the season.
Bradley has his two touchdowns on special team, both last week in a 55-0 victory against Wyoming East.
“The blocking was tremendous out there,“ Bradley said. “I just picked a hole, they provided it and I went.”
Bradley’s dad Jimmy was an outstanding player on a Peterstown state championship team, who played a defensive end position at about 145 pounds.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” Mustain said. “I’d like to have either one of those guys on my team. Jimmy’s the same way now. If he says he’s going to do something, he gets it done.”
So far for the Mavericks, they’ve been getting it done all season long. And the unheralded Bradley has been a big part of that success.