Tuesday, September 17, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Bears, ’Hounds highlight speed

Leader sportswriter

It is a third-week nonconference game, but the fact that Sylvan Hills and Newport each enter Friday night’s showdown at Greyhound Stadium with the momentum of two wins gives the game a playoff feel. Both teams feature great speed and plenty of playmakers on offense, which also sets up the possibility of a thrilling shootout.

The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff time, and the conclusion will hand one of these talented teams its first loss of the season.

The Bears (2-0) survived a late-game comeback from Hot Springs Lakeside last week in a 45-41 victory after downing Vilonia 31-16 in the season opener. The Greyhounds (2-0) have been even more convincing with a 28-7 win over Nettleton in week one and a 42-7 spanking of Bald Knob last week.

The game will undoubtedly serve as a great conference primer for both teams, as Sylvan Hills prepares to head into its 5A Central Conference schedule next week, while the Grey-hounds prime for the equally competitive 4A–2 Conference.

The Greyhounds have numerous weapons, but none more threatening than sophomore running back Carl Turner. Turner was a varsity starter last season as a freshman, and got the state’s attention with over 1,700 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.

“They’ve got a good running back that ran for over 1,500 yards last year,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said. “And they have a really tall receiver who is really good. Defensively, they blitz a lot from different spots, with a lot of man coverage. This will be a good trip for us. It’s a long ride to face a good team, and we think there will be a good crowd there, so it will be a good experience.”

Newport is also effective in the passing game with junior quarterback Gunnar Bullard, who threw for over 1,300 yards with 21 touchdowns and three interceptions as a sophomore. Bullard is also somewhat of a dual threat with over 400 rushing yards last season. Senior receivers Greg Smith and 6-foot-4 Ashante Shell provide Bullard with capable targets on the field.

The Bears have also shown great balance to start the 2013 season, and the passing game continues to improve on a daily basis. Junior quarterback Trajan Doss is a true dual threat, and sophomore Elijah Sowards (6-0, 211) is emerging as the team’s leading receiver with seven receptions, including one for a touchdown, last week against Lakeside. Junior DeAngelo Bell has also proved to be a reliable option for Doss in the passing game. Sylvan Hills finished with 454 yards of offense in the victory over HSL.

“Tra’s done a good job, and the guys up front have done a good job giving him protection,” Withrow said. “Sowards, Bell, all those guys stay late and put in extra work at practice.”

Junior Marlon Clemmons has developed into an ironman for the Bears. Clemmons had five pass break ups on the defensive side last week, and was equally impressive on the offensive side with over 100 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards.

The Rams scored twice late last week in the fourth quarter against Sylvan Hills, making a game that at one point looked out of reach into a nail-biter at the end.

“It was a long game,” Withrow said. “They did a good job of working the clock and using the run game. The defense made a lot of plays, there were just so many plays in that game. They’re a good Spread team.

“There are things we could do different, and will. We can work those things out.”