Saturday, September 20, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills plows over Greyhounds

Leader sports editor

What was supposed to be a battle of high-scoring offenses turned into a one-sided rout Friday at Blackwood Field in Sherwood. The Sylvan Hills Bears crushed the Newport Greyhounds 48-9 in their home opener that featured the largest non-playoff crowd in school history.

The community of Sherwood turned out in droves to see the first game on the new field turf surface that was completed last week. It was a much-needed upgrade that was paid for almost entirely through private donations from community members.

The overflow crowd was in for a treat.

“This was a big night for Sylvan Hills,” said Bears’ coach Jim Withrow. “It was a big night for our community and a big night for Pulaski County Special School District. Anyone who thought we can’t turn this thing around here, I think we proved them wrong tonight.”

Sylvan Hills scored on every drive in the first half except for the last one, when it took over on downs on its own 34 and threw an interception on the Newport 34.

But it was the defense that showed drastic improvement from the first two games, holding the potent Greyhound offense to just one touchdown, and constantly showing up in the Newport backfield when the Hounds were forced to resort to the passing game.

“I think our defense is just getting better and better,” Withrow said. “That defensive line was outstanding tonight. Tyler Davis gets hurt in the summer, so Fred (Williams) comes in, winds up playing tailback and is playing well. Tyler comes back. We wanted to play him and we needed a defensive end. He had played there some before and winds up sewing that position up. Sometimes bad things become a blessing in disguise.

“He’s helped, Tyler Reeves has come in and played really well. The guys in the secondary, Brandon Bracely, James freaking Waller, (DeAngelo) Bell, they just haven’t been beaten deep. We made every play we needed to make. We bent but didn’t break. It was an excellent performance by those guys.”

The Bears got a stop and forced a Newport punt on the first drive of the game. The offense took over at its own 36 and needed just seven plays to score. Senior tailback Marlon Clemons went 12 yards on second and 10 and quarterback Trajan Doss kept for 16 more on the next play. Three plays later from the Newport 18-yard line, tailback Fred Williams went up the middle for the score with 7:52 left in the first quarter.

Newport answered right back, scoring on an eight-play, 77-yard drive, but the Bears scored the next 40 points of the game to make it a blowout.

Starting on its own 26, Sylvan Hills went that distance in just six plays, and was aided by a pass interference penalty that the Newport faithful did not agree with.

That put the ball at the 34-yard line, and the Bears needed just two more plays to score. Doss kept on the option for 11 yards, and then kept on the quarterback draw for the final 15. The extra point made it 14-7 with 2:06 left in the first quarter.

The Sylvan Hills defense got the ball back when it held Greyhound tailback Ben Collier to a 2-yard gain on fourth and 4.

The offense took over on the Newport 47 and Clemons went 20 yards on second and 4 to the Greyhound 21. Three plays later, Doss went under center for the only time in the half on fourth and 1, and the Sylvan Hills offensive line pushed forward for a 5-yard gain and first and goal at the 7-yard line.

Two plays later, Doss kept on the draw play again for another touchdown with 10:07 left in the half.

Newport then went on a 13-play drive to the Sylvan Hills 13-yard line, but on fourth and 1, Davis sacked quarterback Gunnar Bullard for a 2-yard loss to give the ball back to the Sylvan Hills offense.

Doss kept on the option and went 35 yards to the Newport 49 on the first play of the drive. Two more plays gained 8 yards, setting up third and 2.

Newport jumped off sides to give the Bears a first down, then jumped again to make it first and 5. Doss went to the end zone on the next play, where receiver Cameron Dews was mauled as he tried to haul in the pass. The flag gave the Bears first down at the 16, and Williams got 12 of it on the next play. He got the final four on the next snap and Christian Bachen’s extra point made it 28-7 with 2:34 left in the first half.

The Bears’ defense forced another stop after Newport had driven into Bear territory. On third and 10, Hagen Jones sacked Bullard for a 13-yard loss to set up fourth and 23 and forcing a punt that only traveled 23 yards.

But Doss made his only mistake of the half after driving to the Newport 47. Dews was running wide open between the hash marks and a lofted pass would have been a sure touchdown, but Doss threw a bullet right to linebacker De’Andre Elston to thwart the drive.

The Bears scored on the fourth play of the second half. After two Clemons carries gained 49 yards, Williams went the last 9 to make it 35-7.

Newport gained just seven yards before punting on the ensuing drive, and the Bears scored quickly again.

Doss hit Clemons for a 30-yard gain, then found Dews for another 23 before punching it in from 1 yard out. Zac Brown’s extra point attempt was no good, meaning the mercy rule would have to wait, but it didn’t have to wait long.

The Greyhounds fumbled it away on their second play of the next drive, and Sylvan Hills scored again in seven plays to make it 48-7 with 4:11 left in the third quarter.

Newport got a safety with seconds remaining in the game to set the final margin.

Sylvan Hills piled up 405 total yards to just 208 for Newport, who only had 94 total yards in the final three quarters combined.

Clemons led Sylvan Hills in rushing with 106 yards on eight carries. Williams had 16 carries for 93 yards and three touchdowns.

Doss ran 10 times for 98 yards, and completed 4 of 7 pass attempts for 91 yards and one interception.

Sylvan Hills will open conference play in the 5A-Central next week at home against Mills University Studies. The Comets are 1-2 and lost 56-25 to Star City on Friday.