Tuesday, September 07, 2010

SPORTS>>Sylvan Hills puts focus on miscues

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills and Little Rock Christian Academy are two teams ready to forget about opening week.

The Bears opened their season with a 42-14 loss to Vilonia in a game that saw Jim Withrow’s team make multiple mistakes, some of them while trying to accomplish the most basic fundamentals.

The Warriors fared even worse, taking a 48-6 beating at the hands of Pulaski Oak Grove.

But one team will feel at least a little better when the Bears and Warriors face each other at Warrior Field in Little Rock on Friday.

“We both ran into really good football teams,” Withrow said. “They’ve got a bunch of guys that didn’t play a lot last year. I think we’re two very similar teams.”

The adage that one player can make a difference is especially true for Little Rock Christian after the Warriors lost running back Michael Dyer to graduation.

Dyer, now at Auburn, broke the state career rushing record with 8,907 yards and was one of the most heavily recruited players in Arkansas. He also helped the Warriors reach the second round of the 5A state playoffs.

The Warriors appear to be searching for an identity with Dyer gone.

“I think there’s some truth to it,” Withrow said. “When you lose a player of his caliber, there’s going to be some growing pains.

They knew that day was coming, and they have a good coaching staff, so whatever niche they may have, I’m sure they will to find it.”

Dyer had the highest profile in a class of high-profile Warriors players last year. The group included tight end Dakota Mosely, who also went to Auburn, and quarterback Jesse Stone, who is at Arkansas Tech.

In all, second-year coach Justin Kramer had to replace nine offensive starters and eight on defense.

The Bears and Warriors are similar from an experience standpoint, but both teams differ in their philosophies.

“I think they’re going to want to get in there and pass it a lot; we’re going to run it quite a bit,” Withrow said. “We like our offensive line, but they have solid route runners, and that can pose some problems for us, especially with some of their formations. I think it’s going to come down to turnovers.”

Vilonia scored on every first-half drive last week as they opened the Arkansas High School Kickoff Classic. But the Bears showed improvement in the second half with a goal-line stand and two forced turnovers.

But it was penalties that hurt Sylvan Hills as much as anything. The Bears were flagged 10 times for 74 yards, which included three penalties on a single punt attempt.

“A lot of that was correctable stuff, so that’s encouraging,” Withrow said. “I think we talked about it, went over it, and the kids understood.

“A lot of it was nerves. Hopefully we get that stuff corrected and move on. Watching a lot of tape has helped us see it.”

Withrow said the running game will be a staple of the Bears’ offense, but he was also pleased with the passing game in last week’s opener and the potential for receivers Nate Clark and Anthony Featherstone to become difference makers. Withrow also hopes that difference-making ability will transfer to the other side of the ball for the two-way players.

“We’ve got athletes back there,” Withrow said. “Whether they make plays or not, I don’t know. The thing is, a lot of those offensive playmakers back there, they need to make plays on the defensive side also. We’re getting better at defending the pass; we just need to get a lot better.

“It could go either way. If we keep them in front of us and make them go on long drives, that will be to our benefit. If we start giving up big plays, we could be in trouble.”