Tuesday, August 22, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Eliminating turnovers is first task for Hillside

Leader sports editor

It would be easy to look at Sylvan Hills’ jamboree with Arkadelphia and Greenbrier on Monday in Sherwood and see only the mistakes, because there were plenty of them, but there was also plenty to be excited about, if those mistakes get corrected.

Each team played one half of football against the other two. Overall, it was Arkadelphia’s night. The Badgers beat Sylvan Hills 14-7 in the opening half of the game, and then beat Greenbrier 21-0.

The Bears came back to play two quarters against Greenbrier and pulled off a 20-14 win, despite four turnovers.

“We’ve got to hang onto the ball,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. “Offensively that was the thing. I felt pretty good about how well we executed and moved the ball, but we need to hang onto it. We fumbled five times, lost it three, threw an interception, and scored 20 points – in a half. Now what’s the state of high school football today? Remember 10 years ago, if you turned it over three or four times in a half, you got beat by 21 at least.”

Greenbrier trailed 13-7 and had just turned the ball over on downs when Sylvan Hills committed its final turnover of the night; a fumbled snap with 1:10 left that gave the Panthers possession at the Bears’ 46-yard line. On third down and 12, Greenbrier hit a deep touchdown pass for the score to go up 13-7 with 34 seconds to go.

Sylvan Hills took over on its own 30, and quarterback Ryan Lumpkin hit receiver Darius Waddell for 57 yards to the Panther 23 on the first play of the drive.

Lumpkin then scrambled for 9 yards, and then found Nathaniel Floyd in the end zone for a 14-yard, game-winning touchdown pass with six seconds left.

“That’s just where we’re at in this sport,” Withrow said. “Two touchdowns in 34 seconds. We took the ball with 34 seconds left and nobody missed a beat. Lumpkin throws a fastball. Floyd makes a great catch. We’re pretty confident in what we’re able to do if we don’t give it up.”

Sylvan Hills’ first possession against Greenbrier was pretty good also. Deon Youngblood carried for 15 and 13 yards on the first two plays. A late-hit penalty was tacked onto the second run, putting the ball on the Panther 27-yard line. Another Youngblood carry went for 11 more yards before Payton Terry shook two defenders on a wide receiver screen and scored.

Greenbrier answered right back when it busted a run up the middle for 50 yards and a 7-6 lead.

Sylvan Hills next two possessions all ended in turnovers, and a long touchdown run by Youngblood was called back for holding. But the defense held Greenbrier each time.

After taking over on the SH 31, Lumpkin hit Waddell for 48 yards to the Greenbrier 11. Three plays later, Daelyn Fairrow punched it from the 2-yard line and Tito Mendoza’s extra point gave the home team a 13-7 lead.

The next two possessions also ended in turnovers, setting up the wild final 34 seconds.

Waddell (6-0, 170) is a college prospect at safety, but the loss of two starting receivers during preseason has forced his move to offense. Withrow was impressed.

“Darius did a great job on offense,” Withrow said. “Unfortunately we’re going to have to use him on both sides. Payton Terry, too, is going to have play some defense for us. That’s just where we’re at right now.”

There were no turnovers against Arkadelphia, but a fumble and a few penalties halted drives for the Bears. The touchdown came after a 29-yard completion from Lumpkin to Terry on third and 5 moved the ball to the Badger 21. From there, Fairrow made a first-down catch to the 8, Youngblood ran it to the 1-yard line and Ty Compton punched it into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7 with 8:21 left in the second quarter.

Sylvan Hills had Arkadelphia going backwards and facing third and 13 when it hit a 34-yard pass to the Bear 29. A quick snap on the next play caught Sylvan Hills still scrambling into position, and a screen pass went to the 6-yard line, setting up a touchdown with 4:52 left that set the final margin.

“Our defense got better as it went along,” Withrow said. “Teams are a lot farther along at this point than they ever have been in the past, but it’s still a scrimmage. You don’t get too worked up about a scrimmage one way or the other. You just take it for what it is and get back to work.”