Saturday, October 26, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Bears regroup, roll in second

Leader sportswriter

A great offensive performance covered a defensive showing that was spotty at times as Sylvan Hills downed Little Rock McClellan for a 49-22 homecoming victory at Bill Blackwood Field on Friday.

Bears junior quarterback Tra Doss ran roughshod over the Lions’ defense with four rushing touchdowns, and two more through the air for good measure as the offense put the home team in position for a mercy rule late in the third quarter, but McClellan fought back with its third big play of the game to keep Sylvan Hills honest until the final horn.

Doss’ performance was aided by stellar rushing nights by junior tailback Marlon Clemmons and senior Kylan Wade, who was subbing on offense for injured running back Tyler Davis.

“We’ve got some guys dinged up,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said. “We’ve got to make more plays on defense. Coach (Chad) Collins, each week, he’s giving us a chance to win, and that’s what you want. As long as you’ve got a chance to win, that’s all we’re worried about. We’ve got to be better on third and long and fourth and long, especially next week. In order to get our offense on the field, we’ve got to convert.”

With the win, the Bears move on to a week-nine showdown against unbeaten Pulaski Academy for a chance at winning a share of the 5A Central Conference championship.

Doss gave Sylvan Hills (6-2, 4-1) a 42-14 lead when he found Chace Pieper on a 16-yard touchdown pass with 1:21 remaining in the third quarter, but McClellan (0-8, 0-5) put itself in position to score on the ensuing kickoff with a big return to the Bears’ 22-yard line. Ezekiel Baldwin punched it in from three yards out to make it 42-22 before Doss found success for the Bears in the passing game again, this time to junior receiver Nathan Thomas for a 31-yard touchdown pass for the game’s final score.

Doss put up big numbers all the way around for the Bears with 14 rushes for 130 yards and four touchdowns, and also went 8 for 13 passing for 140 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Clemmons carried 20 times for 119 yards, while Wade, who normally focuses on defense, carried 18 times for 162 yards and a touchdown.

“That’s the thing about him is he’s so athletic,” Withrow said of Wade. “He’s got great hands, he runs the ball well, plays well on defense, he’s a dang good player. He does a lot of good things. What we were planning on doing was doing it by committee, but it seemed like he was fine as he went along, and if he’s fine, we don’t have to rotate as much.”

Sylvan Hills took a two-score lead to start the second half with a seven-play, 62-yard drive that proceeded mostly off the rushing of Wade. Wade had two rushes of 19 yards each, and then bulled his way for a 5-yard gain to give the Bears a third and 2 at the McClellan 8-yard line. Doss took it from there with an 8-yard touchdown run at the 9:20 mark of the third quarter. Philip Wood’s extra-point kick was successful to give the Bears a 21-6 lead.

That margin was short lived, as McClellan fired back with a 63-yard touchdown run by Baldwin with 8:53 remaining in the third. Chris Nelson converted the two-point conversion try on a quarterback keep to close the gap back to 21-14, but the Bears put up two more scores in less than two minutes to take control.

Doss turned a hat trick on the following drive with a 3-yard touchdown run, and Garrett Barham set the Bears up with great field position when he recovered a fumble on the kickoff to give Sylvan Hills first down at the McClellan 36-yard line.

It only took Doss one play to score, this time on a quarterback draw for 36 yards to put the Bears up 35-14 with 7:10 left to play in the third.

“He’s a sight,” Withrow said of Doss. “He’s just solid in everything he does. He doesn’t get too worked up about anything. We threw a lot this week, and we’ll have to throw a lot next week. They’ll put them all up there in the box. If he can throw a few balls, and we can catch a few along the way, we’ll be fine.”

The Lions turned a shaky opening possession into a score after a run for a loss by Deon Johnson and a holding call backed them up to a second-and-26 situation at their own 13-yard line, but the following play went all the way when Nelson found Johnson open in the middle on a screen pass. Nelson turned upfield and avoided the SH linebacker corps and secondary for an 87-yard touchdown run at the 10:11 mark of the first quarter. McClellan’s two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, leaving the score 6-0.

The Bears responded with a six-play, 58-yard drive that took less than two minutes off the clock. Clemmons got things started with runs of 12 yards, 5 yards and 7 yards to take the ball all the way to the McClellan 33-yard line. Doss moved the chains again when he called his own number for a 17-yard run, and Wade finished off the drive with a 16-yard touchdown run with 8:36 remaining in the opening period. Wood’s extra-point kick was wide right to leave the score tied, 6-6.

The remainder of the quarter amounted to stalled drives for both teams, until the Bears mounted their next scoring drive to start the second quarter. Doss found Thomas for a 39-yard pass play that took the ball down to the Lion 21, and Wade advanced it into the red zone with a 16-yard run that set Sylvan Hills up with a first and goal at the 5-yard line. Doss finished the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run with 10:58 left to play in the half. Doss also ran in the two-point conversion run to give the Bears a 14-6 halftime lead.

The Bears had 563 yards of total offense while McClellan had 248 yards, led by Baldwin’s nine carries for 86 yards and a touchdown. Thomas led all receivers for Sylvan Hills with five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.