Wednesday, September 06, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Keeping ball a focus for Bears

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears have their home opener this Friday against Hot Springs Lakeside. The Rams have changed focus offensively from a primarily passing offense to more of a power running scheme, but the Sylvan Hills coaching staff is focusing heavily on fixing the problems that arose in their Week 1 drubbing by Catholic High.

The Bears addressed turnovers after committing four in one half in its scrimmage with Greenbrier on Aug. 21, but they committed four more in the 44-7 loss on Friday. Catholic returned one of its two interceptions for a touchdown, and also had a 99-yard kickoff returned for a touchdown by Samy Johnson.

“It was about as bad as I’ve ever had a team play,” said Sylvan Hills head coach Jim Withrow. “I really didn’t get too upset about it. When you go back and look, it’s all correctable stuff. I hate to say we weren’t ready, but we just didn’t play very well. It wasn’t good. I know that.”

Lakeside also lost its first game, falling 40-21 to Joe T. Robinson on Aug. 28, also at War Memorial Stadium. That game was full of chippy play, personal fouls and ejections.

Withrow isn’t sure it was indicative of the team his squad will face on Blackwood Field this Friday.

“Here’s what I could tell,” Withrow said. “Their running backs are very good. The offensive line looks like it’s very good. In the past they’ve thrown it around, but it looks like they’re more power run now. Defensively they come hard. They have six in the box and there’s always and stunt and a blitz on. We really struggled with it in the first half last year. Came back in the second half and then had to block a field goal at the end to win it. It’s going to be tough. We need to play a whole lot better than we did last week.”

Despite the poor outing in game one, Withrow is optimistic about this team’s potential.

“Even in that one, when it was 24-7, I felt like if we score here, we’re going to win the game,” Withrow said. “But we turned it over. I never really felt like we were out of it until late. We helped them down the field with penalties and missed tackles on their first drive. Then we go down and score. Then we kick it right to the guy we said all week we weren’t going to kick it to. So in a game that’s going to be a knockdown, dragout, we basically spot them 14 points.
“But I’ll be honest with you. I think in a couple weeks, we’re going to be a lot better football team than we were that night. It’s a great group of kids that work hard and listen and learn. They’re not going to keep making the same mistakes.”