Wednesday, September 25, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Bears, Warriors meet in opener

Leader sportswriter

The first week of 5A Central Conference play will feature a matchup between two of the most-improved teams in the league when Little Rock Christian Academy visits Bill Blackwood Field to face the Sylvan Hills Bears for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday.

The Warriors (2-1) got back on track last week with a 43-29 victory over Central Arkansas Christian after losing 28-31 to White Hall two weeks ago. The Bears (2-1) suffered their first loss at the hands of Newport 30-13 last week.

The two teams have both defeated Hot Springs Lakeside this year. Christian downed the Rams 39-35 in the season opener, while Sylvan Hills handed them a second loss the following week 45-41. The Bears got off to a successful start this season with a revenge victory over Vilonia, a team which had defeated them three straight times in season openers prior to the 2013 season.

Little Rock Christian is now under the direction of Jeff Weaver, who had a successful four-year stint at Mena prior to taking the reins of the Warrior program.

“They look like they’re getting better every single week,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said. “We know it’s going to be a tough road ahead. They’re really well coached. They’ve got a quarterback who can run it, and can throw pretty well. Everybody’s running to the football – that’s one thing you can see with their defense, all 11 shirts are running to the football. They’re physical, and can get after it.”

The injury situation looks better for Sylvan Hills coming out of the weekend. Junior Marlon Clemmons has recovered from a minor rib injury he sustained at Newport on Friday, while test results for sophomore receiver Elijah Sowards were still pending as of Monday afternoon. The initial concern for Sowards was a torn ACL, but a doctor’s examination raised questions as to the exact condition.

Friday’s loss at Newport, although a setback, is not a bitter pill for Withrow, as long as his team is able to grow from it.

“You hope the guys get a taste of it and not like it very much,” Withrow said. “Hopefully, we can get better from it and move on. All of it comes down to having the right frame of mind. Things didn’t go right Friday, so are we going to bounce back? Are we going to do things right? Or are we going to do whatever. And that’s one thing I like about our team. I like our character.”

The Bears had their most challenging offensive performance to date against Newport, which resulted in just 240 yards of total offense. Junior running back Tyler Davis came close to breaking the 100-yard barrier with 93 rushing yards, while classmates Marlon Clemmons and Tra Doss scored Sylvan Hills’ only touchdowns.

“Just on the whole, it wasn’t great,” Withrow said. “I thought Haden Hawkins played real well up front. That’s one of the things that we’ve harped on is people getting better up front, and I think our guys are. We blew a couple of assignments on both sides of the ball. For the most part, we’ve just got to play better.”