Tuesday, August 16, 2011

SPORTS >> Underclassmen and increasing depth helping Hillside football

Leader sports writer

Physical bodies and overactive minds have led to mixed results for the Sylvan Hills Bears halfway through fall football camp.

The Bears are abundant with young talent, and with the addition of a few late arrivals with the start of the school year on Monday, a core of potential depth is forming for head coach Jim Withrow and his staff.

“We had a really good scrimmage on Friday,” Withrow said. “It was physical, people getting to the football, we felt really good about it. I think we’ve come a long way. It’s about time to scrimmage somebody.”

The Bears will have one more intra-squad scrimmage on Friday before a benefit game at Fountain Lake on Monday.

Upperclassmen anchor the offensive and defensive lines up front, buy many of the skill positions feature sophomores and juniors. The talent is there, according to Withrow, though the lack of experience and maturity may lead to the Bears taking their lumps early.

“One of the problems we’ve got is that we’re so young,” Withrow said. “Part of being young is thinking too much. There’s been time they’ve thought too much. On the other hand, it seems like they’re picking itup. The team camps have really helped.”

Sylvan Hills, despite a down 3-7 showing last year, is considered by many to be a yearly contender in the top-heavy 5A-Southeast Conference. League foes such as White Hall, Monticello and Watson Chapel are loaded with talent every season, while other schools in the conference such as Crossett and North Pulaski struggle to fill out a roster in some cases.

The Bears’ early season opponents have changed in recent years. Gone are the huge 7A programs such as Cabot and North Little Rock from the non-conference schedule, but with 5A powerhouses such as Vilonia and Little Rock Christian Academy now on tap for the first two weeks, the level of competition has not diminished.

The Bears will conclude the non-conference portion of their schedule by hosting revamped 6A school Little Rock Parkview on Sept. 16.

“In the past, man, we played the big schools,” Withrow said. “And now, we’ve kind of added some good ones to it with Vilonia and Little Rock Christian and Parkview. But our problem is now, we’re so young. In the long run, I think it’s going to help us, because those are all well-coached teams.”

Junior quarterback J.D. Miller continues to impress Withrow early. Miller had a strong showing in the Friday scrimmage, as did the defensive secondary.

“They’ve really come around,” Withrow said. “And our defensive line has gotten a lot better.”

As far as who to watch for in the 5A Southeast this year, Withrow leans toward the usual suspects of Monticello, White Hall and Watson Chapel. But he also believes that the 2011 season will be a warm up for the following year, in which he projects the league to be one of the strongest in the state.

“I think we’re going to get better as we go along,” Withrow said. “And it’s all young guys – it’s not old guys. So, I’m pretty excited about that.”