Saturday, October 24, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> McClellan too ‘Strong’ for Bears

Leader sports editor

An out-of-sync Sylvan Hills offense and a nearly unstoppable McClellan running game combined to hand the Bears their first loss of the season on Friday. McClellan tailback Pierre Strong carried 16 times for 309 yards and five touchdowns in leading the Crimson Lions to a 44-32 victory at Bill Blackwood Field.

“They have a lot of speed,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow.

“We had too many penalties and too much miscommunication. You just can’t do those things. Playing a good team you can’t do that. Very disappointed. We can still share a championship so we’ll rally them back up and get going.”

If The Bears win their last two games against Beebe and Pulaski Academy, it could still tie for the 5A-Central championship. If McClellan also wins out, it will create a three-way tie at the top of the standings.

Sylvan Hills battled back from a 30-12 deficit with 7:28 remaining in the third quarter, and pulled within 38-32 with a 1-yard touchdown run by Ty Compton with 5:09 remaining in the game.

The Bears got a golden opportunity for a game-winning drive when McClellan lost a high snap and Compton covered at the Sylvan Hills 36 with 4:08 left. But the Bears, who had scored touchdowns on their previous four possessions, couldn’t get a first down. Facing fourth and 5, Sylvan Hills was called for illegal procedure for the fifth time in the game. Quarterback Jordan Washington was then sacked for a 2-yard loss, giving McClellan the ball on the Bears’ 34.

Two plays later, Strong scored his fifth touchdown, and his fourth of at least 30 yards to seal the victory for the Lions with 1:09 left to play.

McClellan coach Maurice Moody was proud of the defensive stand his team made late in the fourth quarter.

“We set a goal to keep them to 20,” said Moody. “We couldn’t. A lot of that was them executing their offense. It wasn’t what we weren’t doing, it was what they were doing. But you have to remember; we have six sophomores starting on defense. And they stood up and made the stop when we had to have it.”

McClellan struck first on its second drive of the first half. The Bears had had it twice and punted each time. The Lions put together an 11-play drive the first time they had the ball, but turned it over on downs after coming up about an inch short on fourth and 3 at the Sylvan Hills 14.

On their second possession, the Lions struck big on an inside-out handoff to Strong who turned up field just outside the right hash mark and raced 62 yards for the first touchdown of the game. Ashley Long took the handoff for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 McClellan lead with 2:25 left in the first quarter.

The Bears went three and out and punted a third time, but the defense held and got the ball back on the 46-yard line.

Sylvan Hills’ fourth drive lasted just one play. Compton picked up 7 yards but fumbled fighting for a few more and the Lions picked it up.

The defense held again, but the Bears continued to struggle on offense, picking up one first down before punting from their own 26.

Again McClellan scored on a two-play drive after a bad punt set it up at the Sylvan Hills 47. After a 1-yard gain, Trent Lewis burst straight up the middle, untouched for 46 yards and the score.

The two-point conversion attempt was made more difficult with an illegal procedure penalty and failed from 8 yards out, leaving it 14-0 with 4:33 left in the half.

Sylvan Hills finally got on the board by taking advantage of the Lion defense blitzing the middle. After an initial loss of 3 yards, Washington pulled the handoff from Compton and kept around the left side for a 48-yard pickup.

After a chop block penalty put Sylvan Hills behind the chains, the Lions tried blitzing again, and again got burned.

Washington hit receiver Ryan Lumpkin streaking alone down the left sideline for a 33-yard touchdown pass with 3:28 left in the half. The extra point snap was dropped, leaving the score 14-6 going into halftime.

Strong also scored in the second half on runs of 46, 28 and 52 yards.

Sylvan Hills scored with 8:30 left in the third quarter on a 30-yard pass from Washington to Cameron Sharp that made it 22-12. Down 30-12, Brandon Bracely capped a 65-yard drive with an 8-yard run to make it 30-18 with 4:50 left in the third.

Bracely later caught a 5-yard pass to make it 30-25 with 11:56 left in the game.

Bracely led Sylvan Hills with 20 carries for 160 yards and one rushing touchdown. Washington had 21 carries for 138 yards, and completed 4 of 9 pass attempts for 85 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

Lewis added 17 carries for 133 yards for McClellan, who out-gained Sylvan Hills 384 to 364.

The Bears (7-1, 4-1) travel to Beebe next week. The Badgers beat J.A. Fair 42-6.