Tuesday, July 26, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Bears win Aim High

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears took home the first-place trophy in Jacksonville’s Aim High/Let it Fly 7-on-7 tournament last Friday. The Bears lost to Atkins in pool play and took the two seed into the bracket round. After a scare against Jacksonville in the semifinals, the Bears routed the team it had previously lost to, beating Atkins 34-7 in the championship game.

“For the most part I thought we played pretty good,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. “Offensively, I thought we did a really nice job almost the whole day.

Defense made a lot of good plays, forced quite a few turnovers. We just have a tendency to lapse in focus. We’ll just hit a stretch where we’re not moving and doing things like we’ve been taught. We’ve got to get better at maintaining focus and being more consistent.”

Withrow and the Sylvan Hills coaching staff entered two teams in the tournament. Sylvan Hills Blue was the varsity squad while SH-White was made up of mostly junior varsity players.

The Blue team had little trouble with Mills and its own JV teammates, but found itself in a close battle with the tournament hosts. Neither team’s offense produced much, but Bears’ quarterback Jordan Washington found receivers Jamar Lane and Jamar Porter open downfield for a pair of long touchdown passes.

Jacksonville managed one score and that was how it ended, with a 14-7 Sylvan Hills Blue victory.

The Bears met the Atkins Red Devils in the last game of pool play, and suffered a 24-14 defeat.

After pool play, teams took a break for lunch and a quarterbacks’ challenge before returning to the field for bracket play.

The Blue Bears faced their JV counterparts again in the first round and won handily, 28-7. That put them in a rematch with Jacksonville.

The second game against the Titans started like the first one, with neither team doing much offensively, but that changed dramatically in the final few minutes of the contest.

The two teams began trading quick touchdowns about halfway through. Washington hit Jordan Flippo in the back left corner of the end zone with 1:32 remaining to give the Bears a 28-21 lead, but Titan quarterback Rowdy Weathers completed three quick passes before hitting Jonathan Hall in the middle of the end zone just as time expired.

Jacksonville had the opportunity to take the seven points for the touchdown and go into overtime, but decided to go for two and either win or lose.

The Bears covered a rollout pass to the right well, and Weathers chose to go back across the field with his pass. But Washington was there for the game-winning interception on the only defensive snap he played the entire tournament.

“That was it,” Withrow said of Washington’s defensive plays. “I asked them (defensive coaches) if they wanted Jordan for this one, and they said yes. But really, that play goes to all the guys that covered that rollout. They didn’t leave anybody open and that forced their quarterback to go the other way. I’ll take Jordan Washington in a one-on-one jump ball against just about anybody.”

The exciting finish to beat a rival energized the Bears, and they carried that momentum into the championship game.

Sylvan Hills got the ball first and Washington hooked up with Lane for a 40-yard touchdown on the first play for a quick 7-0 lead. Safety Anthony Duncan then intercepted an Atkins pass on the Red Devils’ second play to make it 10-0 by 7-on-7 rules.

Another quick score, this time on the third play, a 30-yard pass to Jamar Porter, made it 17-0 Sylvan Hills.

Atkins finally put together a nice drive and finished it up with a short touchdown pass to make the score 17-7. Sylvan Hills scored twice more, once on a 25-yard pass to Lane and a 30-yard pass to Ryan Lumpkin.

Duncan then got his second interception on the last play of the game to set the final margin.

“I don’t know if the heat got to those guys or what,” Withrow said of Atkins. “They played really well the whole tournament, and just didn’t look the same. On the other hand, we played a lot better. We played with energy and focus the whole time and that’s what we need.”