Tuesday, June 03, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Bears scrimmage for school

Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills Bears just missed the rain at their annual Blue/White spring football scrimmage Friday afternoon at Bill Blackwood Field in Sherwood, and head coach Jim Withrow said his players were excited to get to showcase their play in front of their fellow students, who were let out of classes early to watch the scrimmage.

“We let the kids out and we scrimmaged in front of the school, and it was something they all looked forward to,” said Withrow. “Being that way, sometimes you can get a little too excited and make a few mistakes here or there. But, you know, for the most part it was a pretty good deal.”

The Blue and White teams were split evenly between varsity and junior varsity players in order to make for a more competitive scrimmage.

As Withrow said, because of the level of excitement his players had by playing in front of their fellow students yet again, along with the mix of varsity and JV players on each team, it led to some miscues early on both sides of the ball. But as the scrimmage progressed, the teams were able to get in a groove and made some solid plays on both offense and defense.

Sylvan Hills’ top offensive weapons are back from last year’s 7-4 playoff team. Senior quarterback Tra Doss showed in the scrimmage why he was an All-State player at the position a year ago, and fellow seniors Marlon Clemons, the team’s top running back, and wide receiver Nathan Thomas produced as usual – all for the White team.

“Our older guys, Tra Doss, Marlon Clemons, Nathan Thomas, those guys all made several good plays,” Withrow said. “You could just tell those guys are three-year starters and understand what they’re doing.”

Doss, like he did many times his junior season, threw a touchdown and ran for another on a short-yard play. Clemons scored on a 40-yard run, and Doss’ TD pass was a 35-yarder to Thomas.

When asked whether or not those three seniors have shown much improvement from last year, whether it be getting stronger in the weight room, getting faster or just having a better grasp of the playbook and taking what the defense gives them, Withrow said without any hesitation that they’ve done all three.

“All three,” Withrow said, “all three. They have a better understanding of what we’re trying to do, but one thing for sure is they’re all faster and stronger. They’ve done a lot of good work in the offseason.”

Withrow said the teams’ defensive play wasn’t bad, and showed some bright spots at times throughout the scrimmage. As far as individual efforts he was pleased with, Withrow said linebackers Joe Craft and Tyler Reeves and strong safety Hunter Phillips all played well on defense.

“All three of those guys did a really good job,” Withrow said. The head Bear added that the scrimmage itself, although it had its chaotic moments, turned out to be a pretty good experience for everyone involved.

“It went pretty good,” Withrow said. “We tried to split the teams up fairly even, and when you split ’em all up it gets a little chaotic, but as a whole, I thought the kids did a pretty good job. There are some things we saw that we need to build on, but there was a lot of good positive stuff, too.”

The Bears finished the spring football period with 67 players on their roster, and Withrow said they’ll have a busy summer with summer workouts, 7-on-7 meets as well as team camps – which begins next week.

“We’ve got five or six guys that are headed to individual combines,” Withrow said. “Next week we’ve got a camp at Ouachita Baptist and the next day we’ll go to (Pulaski) Robinson for a 7-on-7 tournament.”

In July, the Bears are scheduled to participate in 7-on-7 meets at Benton and Malvern, as well as two additional team camps, which will also help some of the team’s later additions that recently came from baseball and track, along with the players that are currently recovering from injuries, get more accustomed with the team’s offense and defense.