published Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Hixson's 1,000-yard runners credit teamwork

Throughout Hixson High School's long football history, Wildcats coaches never had a running back combination to match Kedrick Bradley and Isaiah Robinson.

Earlier this season those seniors became the school's first 1,000-yard rushing duo, and they'll be focal points tonight when Hixson hosts Knoxville Catholic in a Tennessee Class 4A playoff quarterfinal.

"It's historical," Bradley said. "When the season started, what the team wanted was to be historical."

As history goes, Hixson, at 9-3, already has matched the program's best win total -- 9-1 in 1998 and 9-2 in 1957. A win tonight would be another all-time best for the 2013 Wildcats.

As for the dual rushing performance, some immediately will recall the Bullocks twins, Josh and Daniel, who went from Hixson to Nebraska and became NFL defensive backs. However, according to current Hixson coach Jason Fitzgerald's research, one was hurt toward the end of their junior year and the other missed part of their senior season, which makes this team's accomplishment even more meaningful.

"It's a huge deal, not only for our running backs, but it also says a lot about our offensive line," Fitzgerald said. "From week two or three on, everybody knew what we were going to do and we were still able to do it. That says a lot about those guys up front."

It's a matter of matching and blending talents.

"It comes down to the offensive line," Robinson replied when asked what made him and Bradley click. "We have the ability, but if they don't block it isn't going to happen. Sometimes they might miss a block and we have to make something from nothing, but sometimes they block well and we miss the hole. It's teamwork."

Both backs were delighted to share credit not just with their offensive mates but the defensive guys as well.

"Offense? We do what we do, but we rely heavily on the defense," Robinson offered.

"We both have a thousand because of the O-line. It's all on the O-line. They want it," added Bradley, who doubles as a linebacker. "They want the thousand as much as we do. It's a compliment to them."

However, even with the blocking of Jacob Bird, Drew Weaver, Ryan Turner, Garrett Wheeler and Charles Franklin, Robinson and Bradley complement each other.

"Don't tell him, but I'm the better blocker," Robinson said with a mischievous smile.

"He's a cut-up and Bradley is the more serious of the two," Fitzgerald, "and when Bradley gets more yardage, Isaiah will be the first to point out how good his blocking is."

Bradley was quick to counter.

"He might think he's better looking, but I'm the one that gets the girls," he said, grinning openly.

It's the kind of banter that has fueled each other and teammates.

"This team is very close. Most of us have been playing together since the eighth grade," Bradley said. "We've been through some struggle to get to the quarterfinals, and that has brought us together.

"Some guys come from rich neighborhoods and some from poor neighborhoods, but it's all guys out there giving their all for each other on Friday nights. When you strap on that black-and-gold, the only name on the back of the jersey is Hixson."

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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