Wednesday, September 01, 2010

SPORTS>>Vilonia tops error-prone Sylvan Hills in the Rock

Leader sportswriter

It was the kind of game that can age a team in a hurry.

The Vilonia Eagles opened the season with a 42-14 victory over the youthful Sylvan Hills Bears in the Arkansas High School Kickoff Classic at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium on Monday.

Vilonia scored on every first-half possession, including a touchdown in the final minute as it took a 29-14 lead. Then the Eagles tacked on a 17-yard touchdown run by quarterback Drew Knowles, the game’s most valuable player, and a 55-yard scoring pass from Knowles to Michael Atkinson for the final margin.

“The kids sure have worked hard and I’m proud of them,” Vilonia coach Jim Stanley said. “And it’s a great honor for them to come here and play where the Razorbacks play. It’s a lot of fun for us.”

Sylvan Hills, breaking in newcomers like quarterback Michael Maddox and a new linebacker corps, showed its inexperience with 10 penalties for 74 yards, including flags for encroachment and a personal foul on Vilonia’s next to last scoring possession.

“Inexperience, bam, that gets you right there,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said.

Tempers also flared on the last play, as some pushing and shoving delayed the postgame handshake until coaches and officials could get players separated.

“I think they’re upset, which is good,” Withrow said of the Bears. “But we’ve got to learn how to control ourselves too.”

It wasn’t all bad for Sylvan Hills. The Bears stayed with the Eagles in the first half and turned in a goal-line stop in the second half while recovering two fumbles.

“I think we’re going to get better,” Withrow said. “I think we’re athletic in some areas. I think our offensive line did a good job. I think if we get better up front. I think we’ve got a chance to be pretty successful.”

Sylvan Hills’ inexperience showed during a first-quarter sequence when, with Vilonia leading 14-6, the Bears were forced to punt four consecutive times, two because of illegal formations and shifts and once because of another illegal formation that was offset by an illegal block by Vilonia.

“That is just rookies,” Withrow said. “Call it coaching or call it whatever. That’s just inexperience.”

Sylvan Hills also couldn’t get properly lined up during the stretch and had to burnits final timeout of the half with 1:42 to go in the 41-minute first period. However, when Maddox finally got the punt off, the Eagles’ Zac Mitchell dropped the ball and Sylvan Hills recovered.

“That is the best, the absolute best, we’ve protected and punted in four weeks,” Withrow said. “I didn’t think we’d get four off.

We kept punting and punting.”

That possession ended in another punt that pinned Vilonia at its 2, but the Eagles drove 98 yards and went ahead 21-6 when Knowles dashed through the left side on a 25-yard run with 8:13 left in the half.

Sylvan Hills responded with an 80-yard scoring drive that ended with Trey Bone’s two-yard run to pull the Bears within 21-14 with 1:46 to go.

Vilonia drove to the Sylvan Hills 4 and, facing fourth down with the final minute running off the clock, Trey Lewis got loose for a 19-yard scoring run with 32 seconds left. The two-point conversion following a Bears penalty on the extra-point attempt made it 29-14 at halftime.

“If we would have just gone in at the half at 21-14 we got the ball to start the second half,” Withrow said. “It was playing the way we wanted it to play. If we were in it at halftime, we’ve got a chance.”

Vilonia’s first two touchdowns came on David Crume’s four-yard run and a 27-yard run by Sax.

Sylvan Hills scored on Nate Clark’s two-yard run to pull within 7-6 but the snap on the extra-point attempt was low and Maddox’s pass attempt was incomplete.

Knowles completed just the one touchdown pass in five attempts but rushed for 143 yards and two more scores to earn MVP honors. Maddox was 5 of 10 for 46 yards and Clark led the Bears with 98 rushing yards.

“I thought we fought, I thought our offensive line opened some holes up and we had some yards,” Withrow said. “We had some opportunities, we just couldn’t cash in on a very, very good football team I thought.”