Saturday, September 24, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Bear defense shuts down LR McClellan

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears won a huge conference opener Friday at Blackwood Field in Sherwood. Other than a few mishaps, the Bears dominated the defending state runner up McClellan Lions en route to a 41-20 win in an early but crucial 5A-Central matchup.

“That was the biggest win we’ve had in a while,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. “Last year, that was a game we wanted back really bad. So everybody wanted to play well in this one, and we really did. The defense was outstanding.”

The Bears scored two touchdowns over a two-minute span late in the second quarter to take a 28-12 lead into halftime, and continued to dominate defensively in the second half to preserve the victory.

McClellan converted a fourth and 2 to keep a scoring drive alive midway through the second period. Two plays later Caleb Hendrix went 46 yards on a misdirection play for a touchdown that made it 14-12 with 6:12 left in the half.

But Sylvan stole all the momentum from that point.

After taking over on the 33 and converting one first down, quarterback Jordan Washington hit Payton Terry with a deep pass inside the Lion 20. A penalty after the catch moved it back to the 31, but it was still good enough for a first down.

A facemask penalty at the end of a Washington run moved it to the Lion 13, and tailback Deon Youngblood did the rest on a direct snap. Mendoza made it 21-12 with 3:26 left in the second quarter.

Sylvan Hills then recovered a pooch kickoff at the McClellan 40 to keep possession of the ball. Facing fourth and 7, Washington hit Youngblood inside the Lion 10-yard line.

On third and goal, McClellan was called for pass interference in the end zone, giving Sylvan Hills a fresh set of downs at the 4, and Washington scored on a keeper up the middle for a 28-12 lead that it took into the locker room.

That momentum carried into the third quarter. Washington converted a third and long with a 12-yard run to midfield, then hit Jamar Porter inside the 10-yard line.

After another Washington run to the 1, Youngblood takes another direct snap for the score. The extra point failed, leaving Sylvan Hills with a 24-12 lead with 9:19 left in the third quarter.

After failed drives by both teams, McClellan scored on its second possession of the half when quarterback Davion Childs hit Pierre Strong with a 39-yard touchdown pass. Strong also converted for two points to make the score 34-20 with 58 seconds to go in the third.

McClellan then thought it had a fumble recovery on the ensuing possession, but roughing the passer was called, giving the Bears the ball back and a first down on their own 38.

Two plays later on third and 5, Washington hit Ryan Lumpkin with a short pass. Lumpkin shook a defender and got to the McClellan 27. Another first down moved it to the 13, and McClellan was called for pass interference on first down.

A series of penalties ended up moving the Bears back to the 13, but Washington converted on fourth and goal from the 2 and Mendoza’s kick set the final margin with 6:50 to play.

“I really think we dominated every phase of the game,” Withrow said. “You know, I expected us to win because I knew how much we wanted it. I don’t know if I expected us to win like we did. Again I have to look at the defense. They’re just better. The players have gotten better. They’re bigger, faster. I think our plan is better. We attack more. The kids are more aggressive. They’re just doing a lights out job right now.”

Things didn’t begin well for the Bears. McClellan ran the game’s opening kickoff back for a touchdown and took a 6-0 lead after Sylvan Hills stopped the two-point conversion attempt.

The two teams traded punts and the Bears started their second drive at their own 32. The Lions were called for pass interference on third and long, keeping the Bears’ drive alive, and setting up a go-ahead touchdown.

Two more plays set up another third and long, this time Washington kept for a 15-yard gain to the McClellan 35. On the very next play, he kept again on a delayed quarterback sneak up the middle for a 35-yard touchdown run.

Tito Mendoza’s extra point made it 7-6 Sylvan Hills with 3:52 left in the first quarter.

Sylvan Hills got another stop and got the ball back on their own 21 after a Lion punt.

The Bears converted four more third and longs on the drive, one a 7-yard pass to Jamar Lane on third and 6. Later on third and 4, Deon Youngblood took a direct snap 12 yards to the Lion 43.

On third and 10, Washington kept for 12 yards to the 31, and then 13 more to the 18 on the next play.

Another Washington run got it to the 11-yard line. A false start penalty moved the ball back, but Washington kept again and made to the 2-yard line to set up first and goal.

A sixth-straight Washington keeper pushed it into the end zone with 8:45 left in the second quarter and a 14-6 Sylvan Hills lead.

Washington finished going 13 of 28 for 200 yards passing. He also carried the ball 28 times for 144 yards and four touchdowns.