Tuesday, October 22, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Injured Bears limp into homecoming

Leader sportswriter

There is no bye week in high-school football, at least not during the regular season.

The Sylvan Hills Bears could use one right about now with several of their premier players coming off injuries, but there is no such luxury this week as visiting Little Rock McClellan awaits for a 5A Central Conference meeting at Bill Blackwood Field on Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Sylvan Hills (5-2, 3-1) suffered its first league setback last week on the road against Helena-West Helena Central. The loss was especially tough considering seven starters did not finish the game after sustaining injuries. Most of those starters will return this week to face the Crimson Lions for homecoming, but head coach Jim Withrow is cautiously optimistic.

“I’m not one way or the other on it,” Withrow said of homecoming. “Each group is different on how they handle it. I would hope that we handle it in a mature fashion. We need to win this one right here for our fourth win, that will assure us a playoff spot. We definitely need to handle it with some maturity.”

Of all the injuries the Bears suffered on Friday, junior running back Tyler Davis’ broken collarbone was the only season-ending injury. Junior receiver Walker Meriwether is also questionable for this Friday, but everyone else is expected back.

The Lions (0-7, 0-4) have struggled throughout the 2013 season. They have been outscored 156-38 in the first month of their Central schedule, including last week’s 49-12 clubbing at the hands of league-leading Pulaski Academy.

Despite McClellan’s difficulties so far, Withrow is not taking this week’s opponent lightly.

“They’ve got a couple of offensive and defensive linemen who really get after it,” Withrow said. “Their backs can all run. When they get out in the open, they run really well. It’s one of those things where you need to get on them early, and definitely try to stay away from the big play. It looks like the big play is what will get you in trouble.

“That’s the thing about playing a 0-7 team, you never know what they’re going to give you. They don’t have anything to lose at this point, so they may give you all sorts of stuff.”

The shock of losing, along with the unusually high amount of injuries last week, shadowed the fact that there were still some strong individual performances for the Bears at HWHC, including receiver Nathan Thomas, who did a good job of both receiving and blocking. Sophomore Elijah Sowards and junior Marlon Clemmons also had good nights receiving, and on the defensive side, senior defensive end Daniel Molden had a sack and a caused fumble while senior defensive back Chris Daily had an interception.

“There were some bright spots in there too,” Withrow said. “We played a good football team. That was probably the best team we’ve played all year.”

The biggest scare for Sylvan Hills on the injury front last week was junior quarterback Tra Doss, who revisited a nagging ankle sprain when he rolled up on it during a play late in the game.

Doss appears to be OK, and at this point ready to go against McClellan.

“I guess he’s OK,” Withrow said. “We had a little meeting this morning, and he told me he was good to go. The thing about Doss is, he’s a warrior. I mean, he is a warrior from head to toe. We kind of pulled the reigns back on him running the other night, but I think if we would have asked him to do it, he would have done it anyway. He is a competitor all the way.”