Wednesday, November 05, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Bears to play for a Central crown at PA

Leader sports editor

After starting the season with eight-straight victories, Sylvan Hills finds itself in a precarious position going into week 10 of the regular season. At 7 p.m. Friday, the Bears travel to top-ranked Pulaski Academy on the heels of a shocking upset loss at home to Beebe last week. Sylvan Hills is still playing for a 5A-Central co-championship, but may have to beat PA by at least 10 points just to avoid getting the three seed in the state playoffs.

“We’ve really got no one to blame but ourselves,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. “But we can still play well and compete. That’s what we have to do. I’ll be honest with you, I thought last year this team had a chance to beat them, and I think this team has a legitimate chance to beat them. We just have to regroup and play.”

Just as Sylvan Hills’ eight-game winning streak was snapped last week, the Bears have a chance to snap the Bruins’ streak at eight games. Pulaski Academy lost 48-42 at Highland Park, Texas, in its first game this season. Since then, the Bruins have beaten eight-straight opponents by at least 29 points. They are averaging 54.8 points per game in the eight wins and are scoring most of that in the first half of games.

Going up against an offense like PA’s is, one aspect, a relief for Withrow.

“I don’t think it’s any easier to defend, but at least it’s something we’ve seen,” Withrow said, comparing PA’s spread attack to Beebe’s rarely-used Dead-T. “Their thing is they just want to put as much pressure on you as they can. You know going in you’re going to have to score some points. There’s a lot of reads where they take what you give them. We’ve not seen that nearly like we’re going to Friday. Then they sprinkle in all the trick plays and the onside kicks. The thing is, if you’re sound in what you’re doing, you give yourself a chance.”

Special teams was a key factor in the Bears’ loss last week. Both teams scored six touchdowns. The difference in the final score was that Beebe made five extra points while Sylvan Hills converted just one. It is, however, not something Withrow is concerned about going into this week’s game.

“It’s never been an issue,” Withrow said. “We were nine for nine against Mills. We’ve scored a lot of touchdowns and only missed one or two extra points all year. Different things happened on different kicks, but we’re putting it behind us. That’s what we have to do this week. If you make a mistake, leave it there and go to the next play.”

The Bears hurt themselves early in last week’s game with turnovers on their first two possessions. That’s something Withrow says can’t happen this week.

“One thing we’ve learned about ourselves is that we need as many possessions as we can get,” Withrow said. “And we can’t give them up when we get them. So we have to make the most of our possessions on offense, and on defense, don’t give up anything cheap. We have to make them work for it.”

How he plans to make PA work for its points involves no gimmicks, like some other teams have tried.

“We’re just going to do what we do,” Withrow said. “It’s a little bit like defending Cabot or Beebe, in that everybody’s trying 25 different things to stop them. One team we saw on film was rushing two and dropping nine back. But if it’s not what you’ve done all year, you’re not going to be as effective at it. We just have to play smart and we’ll have a chance.”