By todd traub
Leader sports editor
Sylvan Hills shut out North Pulaski in the second half and took a 16-8, penalty-plagued victory in a 5A-Southeast Conference game at Sylvan Hills on Friday.
Sylvan Hills’ only second-half points came on a 23-yard field goal by Kevin Wang, who missed a 39-yarder low later in the half, while the Bears committed close to 70 penalty yards.
“That was as ugly as ugly is,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said. “But a win, is a win, is a win.”
Ugly or not, Sylvan is still poised to post a late-season rally and reach the playoffs for the fourth time in Withrow’s four seasons.
“I am proud of the guys because they hung in there and they made plays when they had to make plays,” Withrow said.
The Bears (3-4, 2-2) have struggled with injury problems this year but North Pulaski (0-7, 0-4) has struggled just to score points.
The Falcons’ 8-7, first-half lead, which came on Shyheim Barron’s one-yard run in the second quarter, was their first of the season and the Falcons finished with their second highest point total of the year.
“We lost by penalties and selfishness,” North Pulaski coach Terrod Hatcher said. “That’s what happens. We’ve got to play better. We’ve got to be more apt to play for our team than ourselves and that’s when we’ll win.”
Hatcher was especially displeased with a stretch early in the fourth quarter when North Pulaski, having reached the Sylvan Hills 35, went backwards on a holding penalty followed by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty followed by Michael Maddox’s interception of Kari Watson.
Sylvan Hills drove to the North Pulaski 19, lost three yards and then suffered Wang’s missed field goal.
But the Bears’ drive ate more than five minutes off the clock to give North Pulaski possession with 4:35 left, and another penalty marred drive ended in a low punt.
Sylvan Hills got the ball at the North Pulaski 20, but suffered a false start penalty of its own before turning it over on downs, and the game ended with North Pulaski on the march but out of timeouts.
“If we want to get in the playoffs we’ve got to step it up,” Withrow said. “We can do it. In my heart of hearts I know we can do it, but we’ve got to bring a lot better than that.”
North Pulaski has had injury issues as well. Barron, who started the season at quarterback, was back in action with a cast on his broken thumb and played a slotback roll while North Pulaski rotated Austin Allen, Derrick Hart and Watson at quarterback.
“Each quarterback has a different quality,” Hatcher said. “We knew which one had certain qualities and we just rotated them like that.”
Anthony Featherstone blocked North Pulaski’s first punt of the game and Jaleel Henson recovered at the 16 to set up Sylvan Hills’ first score. The Bears took a 7-0 lead when Trey Bone went around left end on a three-yard carry and Wang kicked the extra point with 35.8 seconds left in the first quarter.