Friday, August 09, 2013

SPORTS STORY>>Bears making fast start

Leader sportswriter

Numbers and experience are both in Sylvan Hills’ favor as the Bears enjoyed a solid first week of fall football practice. The group went from 6 am to 11 am all week, making for longer sessions compared to several other local teams. A total of 64 players, including 16 seniors, took to the practice field behind Sylvan Hills High School this week.

“I like what we’re doing, and I like our effort,” Bears coach Jim Withrow said. “We’ve retained a lot, and that’s good. We played all those sophomores and juniors, and we’re a little farther along than what we would be normally. The kids are doing well; they’ve done what we’ve asked of them. For the most part, we’ve come back in pretty good shape. When you’re doing stuff all summer, that’s kind of what happens.”

The only major obstacle for Withrow and the coaching staff this week has been the implementation of a new rule by the Arkansas Activities Association that states players cannot make full contact during the first week of fall football prac tice. The previous rule was three days with helmets only and no contact before full pads and contact on the fourth day. Pads are still permitted on the fourth day, but not contact.

“I’m trying to figure out who made that rule,” Withrow said. “We’ve hit all summer at team camp, so we’re going to take three days with T-shirt and shorts, I kind of get that, but then we’re going to put on shoulder pads and a helmet, and stand around and look at each other. I haven’t figured that out yet. I don’t really understand it, but whatever they want to do, we’ll go by the rules. I’m still trying to figure out who made that up. It obviously was someone who has never coached football.”

Junior quarterback Trajan Doss has performed well over the summer and has been given more responsibility from the coaches as one of seven returning offensive starters. Junior linebacker Kylan Wade has also had a good summer, while defensive ends Matt Thompson and Daniel Molden have also played well during the first week of fall. Withrow said junior Marlen Clemmons has played great during 7-on-7 days and team camps on both sides of the ball.

There is plenty of depth developing at most skill spots, but even with the improved numbers, finding an adequate number of linemen is still proving to be a task.

“We’re trying to develop some younger ones,” Withrow said. “We have five we like, and we’re trying to get to seven to help us out. That’s the one thing I’m very concerned about. I’m also concerned about pass defense, obviously, but we’re getting better every day at pass defense the more we play.

“The problem we’re having with linemen is that we’re simply short of them. If we get a lineman hurt, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”