Saturday, October 12, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Bears get over on Devils

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears like to play fast, but they became a ball-control team on Friday night, hogging the football and getting away with a 25-16 victory over Jacksonville in a critical 5A-Central Conference matchup in Sherwood.

Sylvan Hills took the ball with 10:18 left in the game trailing 16-15, and put together its second seven-minute-plus drive of the second half, scoring with 2:58 remaining when place kicker Philip Wood booted a 27-yard field goal to put the Bears up 18-16.

“I thought they played well,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow of Jacksonville. “They’ve got some athletes and No. 5 is hard to tackle. We want to play fast, but they did a good job of keeping us in check. We weren’t able to break big runs and that’s mainly because they’re so fast on defense it’s hard to break big ones on them. So we just kept getting first downs and were able to get down the field. It wasn’t easy. Jacksonville is a good football team.”

Sylvan Hills (5-1, 3-0) was able to break one big play, seizing upon momentum gathered by a blocked punt by Marcus Long that set the Bears up with good field position. Starting from the Red Devils’ 43-yard line, fullback Tyler Davis rumbled 7 yards on first down. On second down, a jet sweep to tailback Marlon Clemmons beat everyone to the corner. Clemmons made one cut and raced down the right hash marks for a 36-yard touchdown run. Davis then ran in for two points, giving Sylvan Hills a 15-9 lead with 11:53 left in the game.

Jacksonville (2-4, 1-2) answered right back with the help of two huge pass plays from quarterback Reggie Barnes to wide receiver Robert Harris. Sophomore Robert Knowlin started at quarterback and ran the spread option until getting hurt on the first series of the second half. When Barnes stepped in, the offense reverted back to the passing attack it displayed at the beginning of the season, and Sylvan Hills was unable to adjust.

A handoff to Gause lost 4 yards on first down, but Barnes hit Harris for 44 yards on a seam route to set up first down at the Bears’ 41. The next pass was dropped and Barnes missed a wide-open Harris on what would have been a certain touchdown on second down.

Sylvan Hills pressure forced another incomplete pass, but on fourth and 10, Barnes threw into heavy traffic, but Harris came down with the ball for a 29-yard gain to the 12. Gause picked up 7 yards on the next play. Tack on two more for an automatic first down for a personal foul facemask, and all that was left was a quarterback keeper for a touchdown by Barnes.

The extra point made it 16-15, setting up Sylvan Hills’ 17-play drive that ended with the go-ahead field goal.

When Jacksonville got it back after falling behind with 2:58 remaining, it went backwards. The drive started with Jacksonville’s fourth false-start penalty. After an incomplete pass, Barnes was sacked by Haden Hawkins for a 4-yard loss. After another false start, Jacksonville needed 24 yards for a first down, but threw two incomplete passes to give the ball back to the Bears at the 19.

Davis lost 2 yards on the first play, but quarterback Tra Doss got loose for a 19-yard touchdown run that sealed the game with 1:21 remaining.

“We were trying to strip the ball,” said Jacksonville coach Rick Russell. “At that point we had to try to get the ball back so we were going for the ball instead of the tackle. Instead, he made a good play. He’s a strong runner and it didn’t work out for us.”

Jacksonville scored first on its second drive. The first drive went nine plays to the Sylvan Hills 26, but the next two lost 24 yards and Jacksonville had to punt.

On Sylvan Hills’ second play, Jacksonville cornerback Josh Alcorn made a big hit and knocked the ball loose from Clemmons’ grasp. Defensive end Titus O’Neal covered at the Bears’ 9-yard line and Jacksonville scored two plays later. The extra point was no good, leaving it 6-0 with 3:21 left in the first quarter.

Sylvan Hills then went on its first of three long drives, going 73 yards in 13 plays. The Bears converted one fourth down and three third downs on the drive, including Doss’ 8-yard keeper on third and 6 for the touchdown. Wood’s extra point made it 7-6 with 9:46 left in the first half.

Jacksonville took over at its own 30 and drove nine plays to the Sylvan Hills 28 before facing fourth and 12. Place kicker Jesper Wellshaupt nailed a 45-yard field goal with 5:03 left in the half to give the Red Devils a 9-7 lead.

Jacksonville’s defense then stopped Sylvan Hills. With 1:51 left in the half, Justin Abbott, Austin McCullough and O’Neal sacked Doss for a 9-yard loss, setting up fourth and 26. Jacksonville had two timeouts remaining, but elected not to use them. Taking over on their own 17 with 55 seconds to play, the Red Devils ran Gause for 6 yards, then took a delay penalty and let the clock run out. The Bears got the ball to start the second half.

“Starting backed up like that, we did not want to take a chance of something happening,” Russell said. “We wanted to get to halftime with the lead and trust our defense could stop them, and they did stop them.”

Sylvan Hills finished with 326 yards of offense to 196 for Jacksonville. Harris was the Red Devils’ yardage leader with three catches for 82 yards. Davis led Sylvan Hills with 20 carries for 98 yards. Clemmons had 12 carries for 96 while Doss had 15 carries for 73.

Sylvan Hills makes the long trip to Helena-West Helena next week while Jacksonville hosts North Pulaski.