Wednesday, October 22, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Toughest stretch in front of Bears

Leader sports editor

After cruising through most of the bottom half of the conference, the undefeated Sylvan Hills Bears embark on a three-game stretch against three of the 5A Central’s top four teams. At 7 p.m. this Friday, the Bears will travel to McClellan to take on the 4-3, 3-1, Lions. In its first four conference games, Sylvan Hills has averaged 48.5 points per game and a 36.5-point average margin of victory - 28-22 win over Jacksonville being the only remotely competitive game of the four.

Those four teams sported a combined 4-24 record. McClellan presents a different challenge and head Bear Jim Withrow fully understands that.

“Honest to goodness, to us they look a lot like Helena, who always gives you fits,” said Withrow. “They’re big. They’ve got some guys that can run. Their running back is quick as a cat and they’ve got that huge fullback, and together they make a tough one-two punch.”

The Crimson Lions have shown an increase in its usage of the Dead T offense as the season has progressed, though they still run multiple offenses. Withrow believes the Lions will present the biggest challenge his defense has faced since week two against Hot Springs Lakeside, a game the Bears won 48-35.

“They get in the T and they try to jam it down your throat,” said Withrow. “I don’t think they’re a true T team. They try to do multiple things and that’s one thing I’m glad about. This is our toughest test in conference so far, and that’s what we’ve talked about to them all year. Our last three are against the potential playoff teams, and it’s good because we need to be tested going into the playoffs.”

Withrow was pleased with his team’s execution in last week’s 56-6 win over North Pulaski, especially after what he thought was a subpar performance for his squad the week before at Jacksonville.

Quarterback Tra Doss played hurt the entire game and Withrow believes that made a big difference, but was still glad to see his team get back to executing like it had before.

“What people don’t realize is that Tra didn’t practice all week before Jacksonville,” Withrow said. “He practiced one series on Thursday and that was it. Last week he got in there and played really well.”

The Bears are in great shape in the injury department as well. Everyone is expected to be healthy and ready to go on Friday.

“We played everybody on our roster last Friday night,” Withrow said. “We’re as good as we can be – knock on wood. This Friday we’ll start with who we wanted to start with the whole year. This time of year though you just hold your breath, because if you want to make a run, you have to stay healthy.”