October 27, 2009 10:40:00 AM
VERNON, Ala. -- Don''t let Michael Bradford fool you.
He might not be the biggest or fastest player. He probably also isn''t the best passing quarterback.
But Bradford enjoys proving people wrong.
The Lamar County High School senior quarterback did that again Friday night against Winston County.
Against a team that was ranked higher in the state polls (No. 8 to No. 5), Bradford rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another to help lead Lamar County to a 21-0 victory.
The win helped the Bulldogs clinch the Class 2A, Region 7 championship.
For his accomplishments, Bradford is The Commercial Dispatch Prep Player of the Week.
"No matter what happens, nothing ever really rattles him," Lamar County coach Ken Adams said. "In our offense, the key is having someone at quarterback who can run the football and who can do these things but who can let the offense run through him. He doesn''t need to be the offense, and we''re able to do that this year. A lot of that is because of Michael because he gets us in the right spots and in the right reads."
Bradford rushed for 147 yards on 18 carries and was 3-of-6 passing for 27 yards. He scored on runs of 51 and 58 yards and connected with Marquis Plant on a 28-yard touchdown pass to help the Bulldogs (9-0, 7-0 region) stay in line to record just the third undefeated regular season in school history (1986, ''92).
"I just tried to make sure I didn''t try to do too much and stay within what we were doing," Bradford said. "Everything else just came together as the game went along."
More importantly, the victory helped Lamar County lock up the No. 1 seed and earn the right to play host to Red Bay in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs on Nov. 6.
Bradford, who is 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, has been leading the Bulldogs for the past two years. He learned and played running back as a sophomore while Brad Barnes played quarterback.
Last year, Bradford rushed for 1,138 yards and 13 touchdowns (not including final playoff game). He and Keith Myles, who rushed for 1,260 yards and 18 touchdowns (not including final playoff game), were the primary weapons on a team that finished 10-2 and lost to Tanner 14-7 in the second round of the Class 2A playoffs.
This year, Bradford has 589 yards and 13 touchdowns on 102 carries. He has completed 26 of 50 passes for 373 yards and seven touchdowns.
The bigger statistic is the Bulldogs are the top scoring team in the state of Alabama in Class 2A (366 points).
"Brad Barnes was a great leader and the guys believed in him, and Michael has been the same way since he stepped under center," Adams said.
Bradley said the Bulldogs don''t holler and scream because he wants them to remain focused. He said Bradford helps keep his teammates in the right frame of mind by working hard and letting his actions do the talking.
On Friday, Bradford handed the ball off to fullback Lance Bobbitt on a option read. Bobbitt gained 3 or 4 yards to pick up the first down. The coaches questioned Bradford about his choice because they thought he could have made a bigger gain if he had pulled the ball and took off.
But Bradford responded by pointing to the first down marker and saying that the Bulldogs did what they had to do to get a new set of downs.
Adams said that play shows how much Bradford has matured and how well he knows the situation and does what is best for the team.
"Last year, he would sometimes try to pull it and run it or pitch and it would be a bad play and we wouldn''t pick up the first down," Adams said. "That typifies Michael. He remembers those things and works on correcting the mistakes that he made."
Bradford credits his offensive line, Bobbitt, and the Bulldogs'' other weapons, like running back Eric Hudson, who have helped make his job easier. He said the confidence everyone has ("We all have each other''s backs") helps the Bulldogs believe that they will eventually have success using their Notre Dame Box formation offense.
He said there have been times this season when he has been more of a vocal leader, but he said he prefers to be a lead-by-example kind of guy.
That''s fine with Adams and the rest of the Bulldogs because Bradford finds way to put his team in position to be successful.
"The offense we run is suited for me," Bradford said. "The past few years I have been trying to work on my arm because it really wasn''t there the first year I was playing. I know the offense good. When I get old enough, I am going to be one of those older guys who is coaching the Pee Wee teams running this offense."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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