Saturday, October 08, 2011

SPORTS>>Bears turn certain defeat into last-second victory

Leader sportswriter

It was a brutally ugly game with a strange ending, but victory was nonetheless sweet for Sylvan Hills as the Bears scored in the final five seconds of play to overtake winless Crossett 13-12 at Bill Blackwood Field on Friday.

Junior quarterback J.D. Miller connected with senior receiver Anthony Featherstone for a six-yard touchdown pass with five seconds left on the clock to give the Bears their only lead of the game. The miracle drive capped a game riddled with penalties and turnovers for both sides.

The Bears (3-3, 2-1) were out of timeouts and without the ball inside two minutes as the Eagles (0-6, 0-3) kept the ball on the ground trying to protect a 12-7 lead. But Sylvan Hills finally caught a break when Eagles running back Orlando Robinson put the ball on the turf and sophomore cornerback Garrett Barham recovered for the Bears at his own 24-yard line with 1:07 left to play.

The Bears had been inconsistent on offense all night and kept the ball mostly on the ground. But Miller, who had just gotten clearance to throw the football from his doctor earlier Friday afternoon, went 5 for 7 on the final drive for all 76 of the required yards.

Featherstone was the recipient of three of those passes, including the one that mattered most.

“We just keep playing,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said. “We have a bunch of kids with character – they’re good kids. Some of them may not be great football players, but we’ve got enough talent, Featherstone and some of those other ones, that make great plays. I’ve never been a part of anything like that.”

Featherstone was the Bears’ lifeblood on defense most of the night with a pair of key interceptions that ended significant threats from the Crossett offense, including the Eagles’ opening drive that made its way to the Sylvan Hills’ 33.

“Anthony’s a college guy; there’s no doubt about it,” Withrow said of Featherstone. “He’s a college guy, and he makes plays. That was an unbelievable catch at the end.”

Miller managed the clock well for the Bears down the stretch with a spike following a first down pass to Featherstone that set Sylvan Hills up at the Crossett 28-yard line with 32 seconds to go, and the Bears got further assistance from an unlikely source in the Eagles’ coaching staff, which called two timeouts in the final 22 seconds.

One of those timeouts followed a pass to Jalen West that gave the Bears a first down at the Crossett 12-yard line in the middle of the field with 17 seconds remaining.

“Victory is still sweet,” Withrow said. “We got a break. They turned the ball over. If you play hard, breaks will come your way. We haven’t had any breaks – but we finally got one. I’m proud of the kids for sticking with it, because it paid off.”

The Eagles scored first on a 31-yard run by Robinson with 2:34 left in the first quarter, and Crossett doubled their lead with 10:28 left to play in the first half on a 47-yard pass play from quarterback River Johnson to Jarron Boston. But faulty special teams play for the Eagles that included a missed extra-point attempt following the first score and an incomplete two-point conversion pass following the next touchdown ultimately led to their demise.

Sylvan Hills also cut it close on its score to end the first half when Jaleel Henson punched it in from a yard out with 26 seconds remaining. The drive, as was the case with just about every other possession for each team, was halted, backed up, advanced and backed up again with yellow markers.

But the biggest for Sylvan Hills came on a pass-interference call on a long attempt from Miller to Featherstone that gave the Bears a first down at the Crossett 15-yard line. They caught another break when the Eagles were called offsides on the next play. Demarcus Willis got the ball next to the goal with a seven-yard run followed by a two-yard run before Henson finished it.

Though it was no big deal at the time, sophomore kicker Philip Wood then successfully converted the point-after kick, which eventually became the point that made the difference.

Miller was 9 for 12 passing for 113 yards and a touchdown. Henson led the ground attack for Sylvan Hills with 16 carries for 71 yards. The Bears had 268 yards offense.

For Crossett, Johnson was 12 for 18 passing for 198 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. The Eagles finished with 266 total yards.

The Bears will make the brief trip up Highway 107 next week to play another winless team in North Pulaski while Crossett will travel to Mills.