Saturday, October 10, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Bears beat Red Devils in a junker

Leader sports editor

The officials for Friday night’s football game in Sherwood between Jacksonville and Sylvan Hills were donning pink penalty flags in recognition of breast cancer awareness month.

If anyone arrived at Black-wood Field not knowing that, they could not have left with the same lack of knowledge. Pink polyester littered the field constantly in the Bears’ 29-14 victory over the Red Devils. The officials called 37 penalties.

Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow likely spoke for everyone in attendance with his opening post-game statement.

“If I’d have paid $5 to get in here tonight, I’d want my money back,” said Withrow. “What did we have, five, six turnovers? The turnovers, the penalties, it was just bad. It was just bad.”

Sylvan Hills was flagged 17 times for 130 yards and committed six turnovers. Jacksonville was called for 20 penalties totaling 191 lost yards and had two turnovers.

With 10:34 left in the game, Jacksonville quarterback Rowdy Weathers connected with Stevie Eskridge for a 69-yard scoring strike, and Tyler Hooper’s extra point set the final margin.

On Sylvan Hills’ first play of the next drive, Eskridge intercepted a Jordan Washington pass at the Jacksonville 45 and returned it 25 yards to the Sylvan Hills 30. But two Jacksonville penalties, a flagrant and unnecessary illegal block by Avery Wells, and a personal foul after the play, pinned the Red Devils on their own 14-yard line instead of near the red zone.

Sylvan Hills was called for four 15-yard penalties that kept the drive alive for Jacksonville, but the Red Devils also had a 60-yard pass play called back for holding.

Weathers, who entered the game on the third snap of the second half after starting quarterback Brandon Hickingbotham left with a shoulder injury, was also knocked out of the game on the drive.

That left sophomore Har’Derrious Martin to step in. He ran for a pair of first downs, but fumbled on his third carry and Sylvan Hills’ Jonathan Hicks covered it at the Bears’ 36.

Sylvan Hills gave it right back when Brandon Bracely fumbled on the fourth play and Jacksonville’s Kendrick Rhynes covered it at the Red Devil 46.

But Sylvan Hills’ defensive line frequently found itself in the Red Devil backfield. Weathers came back into the game and hit Martin for a 21-yard gain on third and 15. An intentional grounding penalty made it second and 15. Jacksonville was then called for holding for a 15-yard loss.

Eskridge made a 15-yard catch on second and 30, but Jacksonville was called for an illegal block during the play, and Sylvan Hills was called for a personal foul after the play. It all left Jacksonville with second and 14, but back-to-back sacks set up fourth and 25. Weathers threw incomplete with 55 seconds left, leaving Sylvan Hills to kneel two times to seal the victory.

“I think the defense played pretty well tonight,” Withrow said. “If I’m looking for a positive I could say the defense played well.”

Sylvan Hills led 15-7 at halftime, and the defense came up big early in the third quarter. Jacksonville’s Robert Knowlin fumbled on the first play of the third quarter; his only carry of the game. Hicks picked it up and ran 20 yards for the score. Tito Mandoza’s extra point made it 22-7 with 11:44 left in the third quarter.

Three Red Devil drives ended in punts. The third drive included a 60-yard screen pass to Martin that went 40 yards, but was called back for holding. The two remaining Bear drives ended in turnovers to finish the third period.

On Sylvan Hills’ first play of the fourth, Bracely broke loose up the middle for a 52-yard touchdown run that made it 29-7 with 11:29 remaining in the game.

The first drive of the game set the tone for the rest of the night. The Bears and Red Devils were each called for three penalties on a drive that consisted of eight plays. It ended when Bracely was stopped after a 3-yard gain on fourth and 5, and Jacksonville took over on its own 33.

The Red Devils went backwards 8 yards and punted, setting up the first scoring drive of the game. Jacksonville again had the Bears stopped for a 1-yard loss on third and 1, but was called for a facemask that kept the drive alive. It set up first down at the Red Devil 21, and Washington hit Cameron Sharp on a seam route on the next play for a touchdown with 4:44 left in the first quarter.

Jacksonville turned it over on downs on its next drive when coach Barry Hickingbotham declined a penalty on third and 19 and accepting the result of a 12-yard scramble by Weathers. That left Jacksonville with fourth and 7 instead of third and 14, and the Devils lost 2 yards to give it over to the Bears on the 39.

During the drive, Jacksonville was called for defensive holding on an incomplete pass on fourth and 5, giving Sylvan Hills a first down at the Jacksonville 29. After three carries by Ty Compton, Washington kept up the middle for a 16-yard touchdown run with 9:57 remaining in the second quarter.

Rhynes blocked the first extra point try, but the officials reset the ball with no explanation. On the second try, holder Ryan Lumpkin kept it and ran to the left corner of the end zone for a two-point conversion that made it 15-0.

A Jacksonville punt followed and a Sylvan Hills turnover followed that.

The Red Devils then put together a 59-yard scoring drive, most of which was picked up on a 38-yard pass from Hickingbotham to Martin that set up first and goal on the 3.

Shawn Ellis did the rest on the next play and Hooper added the PAT to make the score 15-7 with 2:40 left until halftime.

Sylvan Hills (6-0, 3-0) finished with 365 total yards of offense and 235 net yards after penalties. Jacksonville (1-5, 1-2) had 249 total yards, and 58 net yards.