Tuesday, October 02, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville set to host Sylvan Hills

Leader sportswriter

An old gridiron rivalry will be renewed Friday when Sylvan Hills makes the short drive to Jacksonville to take on the Red Devils at Jan Crow Stadium. It’s the first meeting between the two teams since they were in the old 6A East in 2007.

Both teams are coming off big wins last week as the Bears posted a comeback victory over Mills while the Red Devils won big over Little Rock McClellan during the second half of a 57-33 rout over the Crimson Lions.

Opening kickoff between the Bears and Red Devils is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Sylvan Hills (2-2, 1-1) was in danger of dropping its second straight league game after trailing Mills 19-7 late in the third quarter last week before scoring 21 unanswered points to take a 28-19 victory.

“They’ve got some speed, and they have good size,” Jacksonville coach Rick Russell said of the Bears. “They have two quarterbacks, with one being able to run maybe a little better than the other one, but they can both throw the ball. They’re very similar to us.

“I thought Mills was a good team, so for them to comeback and win in that game means they’ve got something going on.”

The Red Devils (3-2, 2-0) got a boost offensively last week with the return of starting quarterback Aaron Smith. The senior bruised his thigh against Maumelle and sat out the entire game against Helena West-Helena Central in week four.

He did not play in the first half against McClellan, but came out in the second half and led Jacksonville to five touchdowns to help engineer the late rout.

But if Sylvan Hills wants to stop the Red Devils in their tracks, they will have to contend with all-purpose senior Kevin Richardson. Richardson has blistering 4.3 speed, and can be utilized at quarterback, running back and receiver, as well as a returner on special teams.

“He’s outstanding,” Russell said. “He’s definitely a weapon. We knew he was going to be difference maker. He’s tough, and he’s also a great leader out there. It’s not just his playing, he’s also out there showing younger players the right way of doing things.”

Bears coach Jim Withrow is also aware of Richardson’s abilities, as well as the significance of Smith’s return. Withrow learned Monday morning of Smith returning to the lineup for Jacksonville, and seemed sarcastically enthused.

“That’s great; good for them,” Withrow said. “One thing about them is how athletic they are. You’ve also got the Richardson kid in there. They’re probably the best team we’ve faced so far.”

The Bears put up some of the best offensive numbers of the season against Mills with 100 passing yards for sophomore quarterback Tra Doss. Sophomore Marlen Clemmons rushed for 77 yards and also had 50 receiving yards, and senior Ashton Brown led the way on the ground with 19 carries for 118 yards.

Brown, a late transfer from North Little Rock, was one of the last players to make it on to the roster for the Bears. His late arrival meant most of the good equipment was already spoken for, and with the 5-6, 180-pound power running back developing into the offensive workhorse for Sylvan Hills, it has Withrow rethinking his gear situation.

“He got the worst equipment because of how late he showed up,” Withrow said. “I really didn’t notice it, but then I looked over at him on Friday, and he had this yellow foam stuff coming out of his shoulder pads. I thought maybe it’s time to look for him some better pads.’”