published Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Dynamite Dozen: James Stovall leaping to glory

Bradley's James Stovall has been nominated as one of the Times Free Press's Dynamite Dozen area football players for 2011.
Bradley's James Stovall has been nominated as one of the Times Free Press's Dynamite Dozen area football players for 2011.
Photo by Dan Henry.

JAMES STOVALL


No. 5

* School: Bradley Central

* Height: 6-foot-2

* Weight: 185 pounds

* College interest: Wofford, UTC, Eastern Kentucky, Tennessee

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- At the age of 7, James Stovall started playing piano, and he claims still to be talented on the keys despite never having taken official lessons.

Bradley Central football coach Damon Floyd has another use for Stovall's hands that better suits the Bears.

Stovall was a Class 6A all-state selection in 2010, when he caught 76 passes for 1,085 yards and nine touchdowns, helping the Bears to their first postseason appearance since 2001. He's No. 5 on the 2011 Times Free Press Dynamite Dozen list.

In the season-ending loss to Oak Ridge in the second round of the playoffs, Stovall set a state-playoff record with 19 catches totaling 181 yards, but he had a late touchdown reception wiped off when it was ruled a teammate pulled him into the end zone -- a 5-yard penalty on a little-known rule.

"I had never heard that rule before," Stovall said.

The Bears had spent the previous 10 seasons as underdogs, for the most part, winning only nine games the five seasons before Floyd became coach. They equaled that total in 2011, and with all of their skill-position players returning, they expect as much -- if not more -- in 2011.

The role of the hunted is something new to both the program and the 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior receiver.

"We just have to be focused on what we do. We're not used to being picked to win the district by the media," he said. "Coach Floyd told us that we're the target this year. How are we going to respond?"

The Bears found themselves in an unfamiliar position in that Oak Ridge game last November, leading at halftime in a playoff against a highly regarded program.

"At halftime I felt we were in control," Stovall said. "I thought that the only way we could lose was if we did it mentally, but we did that. When Oak Ridge started to come back, we started thinking we were going to lose instead of figuring out how we were going to win.

"This year, no matter the game, we just have to approach things down by down. Once you start thinking ahead, it causes problems, but you should be fine if you take things one play at a time."

Stovall's jump from a virtual unknown to a high-production player in one season came primarily from confidence -- both on his part and that of the Bradley coaching staff, particularly offensive coordinator Keith Freeman.

"There was a big jump from my sophomore year to my junior year. I think the coaches started believing in me more," Stovall said. "I always thought I was a good player, but I needed them to believe in me. When they did, it gave me a spark."

Stovall's recruiting options have primarily been narrowed down to Memphis, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Eastern Kentucky. He has offers from the latter two as well as from Wofford College, but Tennessee has invited him to visit on multiple occasions.

Questions have arisen about his 40-yard time (his best is 4.58), but his 43-inch vertical jump and superior ball skills have piqued the interest of Volunteers offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.

"I really like these schools," Stovall said. "I would love to get an offer from UTK, but if I don't I have to make the most of what I've got. I've still got some pretty good options."

Which include -- if all else fails -- the piano.

Dynamite Dozen: James Stovall
James Stovall, a wide receiver from Bradley Central High School, is a 2011 Times Free Press Dynamite Dozen selection.
Dynamite Dozen
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