Tuesday, October 20, 2009

SPORTS >> Skill players’ return gives Bears a boost

Sylvan Hills receiver Ahmad Scott had three receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown against North Pulaski.

Leader sportswriter

Things are finally coming together for Sylvan Hills just as the Bears face their toughest challenge to date.

That challenge is a road game at unbeaten Monticello this Friday.

The Bears (2-5) are coming closer to full recovery after a laundry list of injuries has hampered them most of the season. They improved their 5A-Southeast Conference record to 2-2 with a 27-0 victory over North Pulaski last week to stay alive in the fight for a playoff seed, and the Bears are tied for fourth with Mills.

Skill players Ahmad Scott, Juliean Broner and Devonte Britt have all seen limited playing time since the start of the conference schedule because of various injuries, but they were all factors last week against the Falcons.

“We’re starting to get some people back,” Bears coach Jim Withrow said. “We look more healthy than we have in a while. We’ll go down there and give it our best shot. We feel good about the position we’re in right now. For everything we’ve done wrong this year, we’ve still given ourselves a chance to have a position in the playoffs.

“It definitely looks better for us now than it did two weeks ago.”

Sylvan Hills dropped its first five games before making it into the victory column in Week 6 with a 3-0 victory over Crossett in a game featuring missed chances by both squads. The Bears had a season-high point total at North Pulaski last week, and could have scored more had they not lost the ball four times.

“It was the best we’ve been all year,” Withrow said. “But we should have scored about 50 points instead of 27. We would get close and then turn the ball over. You can’t do that and win. We want to emphasize taking care of the ball more. When you get in the red zone, you have to hold on to it.”

Monticello (7-0, 4-0) got through its biggest test last week when it held off White Hall 12-6. That victory gave the Billies sole possession of first place in the Southeast as the only unbeaten team remaining.

Fifth-year Monticello coach Van Paschal experimented with the pass-oriented spread offense last season but abandoned it after losing two straight to start the year.

The Billies’ return to their traditional, double-wing offense netted them the 5A-Southeast crown last season and got them to the state semifinals, where they lost to eventual runner up West Helena.

Senior Brishen Matthews will lead a dangerous corps of running backs for the Billies, who have protection from a dominating line led by senior center Taylor Smith (5-11, 240).

“It’s going to be tough,” Withrow said. “Their skill guys are really good. The thing about them is that they’re not just good athletes being athletes, they are being smart and making good decisions on every play.

“We’ll try to put together a plan to try and slow them down a little bit. I don’t know that you can totally slow them down.”

Although bad luck resulted in a disastrous first half of the year, Withrow said his team’s confidence was not altogether tarnished.

“I think we have confidence right now,” he said.

“We’ve executed better, but the kids didn’t really lose a lot of confidence even though we had some bad weeks. It hurt, but they also understood all the bad breaks that happened to us.”