Tuesday, August 03, 2010

SPORTS>>Heat on as football begins

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills has gone through a lot of personnel changes since the spring. But those changes have managed to balance out the Bears’ numbers at the start of August practice Monday morning.

The Bears went through spring practice in mid-May with a turnout in the low 50s, but some of those players later became academically ineligible. They have been replaced with move-ins and returnees who missed last season to keep the roster in the low 50s by the start of practice.

“We’ve got some who aren’t with us that I don’t think understand the importance of education,” Bears coach Jim Withrow said.

“It’s not been hammered home to them somewhere along the way. The ones we’ve got are all pretty good students, so that’s what we’ll go with.”

Sylvan Hills will return to a slightly altered 5A-Southeast Conference, where it grabbed the fourth and final playoff berth last year before ending its season with a first-round lost to Greenwood. It marked the third straight year Sylvan Hills reached the postseason.

Watson Chapel has joined the league from its former home in the 6A-South and West Helena joins from the 5A-East. Beebe has taken West Helena’s place in the East while Little Rock McClellan has moved on to the 7A/6A-South.

Two major areas of rebuilding for Withrow and the Bears are the offensive backfield and linebackers. There are plenty of solid quarterback candidates led by senior Michael Maddox, and the Bears have tailback Trey Bone and running back Marcus Willis.

But replacing all-state linebacker Michael Robinson, linebacker Juliean Broner and defensive end Nick Brewer will be a larger task, according to Withrow.

“I don’t want to use the same guys playing offense to turn around and play defense,” Withrow said. “Because they won’t last.

Linebacker is where we are really in a bind, because we lost all four of those guys last year. They were all-conference or all-state guys.

“To replace those guys, there’s obviously going to be a drop off.”

Jamar Daniels and J.D. Miller are competing with Maddox at quarterback. Miller is a cousin to former Sylvan Hills quarterback and Arkansas Razorbacks walk-on Hunter Miller.

“They’ve all three done a pretty good job,” Withrow said. “J.D. struggled a little bit in the spring, but he’s come back in and done a pretty good job.”

Though this year’s seniors have not seen a lot of varsity playing time, Withrow said the group of around 15 should provide good examples for the underclassmen.

“I like what I’m getting out of the seniors we’ve got,” Withrow said. “They’ve shown good leadership; they’ve been here all summer. We’ve got a good group of them.”

Monday was the first day for the team to get out and feel the full effects of the triple-digit August temperatures.

“I guess the last few years, it’s been kind of cool,” Withrow said. “So, now it’s all of a sudden hot, that’s the way it ought to be. I don’t know, we’ll drag through the first few days. Once we get used to it, we’ll be okay.”