Wednesday, October 25, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Postseason on the line in Patriots, Bears game

By RAY BENTONLeader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears are in a must-win situation as they prepare for their Thursday night game at War Memorial Stadium against Little Rock Parkview. The matchup is even more drama-filled than that, however, as it is also nearly a must-win game for Parkview.

Sylvan Hills is 2-3 in conference play with two to go. Parkview is 3-2 and needs the win to guarantee a spot in the playoffs. Pulaski Academy, Little Rock Christian and McClellan have already locked up playoff spots. Parkview could lose this week and then beat McClellan to still have a chance to get in.

If Sylvan Hills loses tomorrow, its playoff hopes are dashed.

“It’s big,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. “We know what we have to do to give ourselves a chance. We need to win; really we need to win by 13. We don’t want to get into the triangle situation with McClellan because our score with them unless we have those 13 points over Parkview. It’s all still up in the air. I think even Beebe might have an outside shot if we win and they beat us and some other things happen. So right now we’re focusing on whatwe need to do on Thursday.”

The Bears have been focusing on this Thursday for a couple of weeks. They had the good fortune of playing 0-8 J.A. Fair last week, which afforded the Bears the opportunity to spend much of last week’s preparation on this week’s game.

“You could say we might’ve practiced a few things with Parkview in mind last week,” Withrow said. “We knew going in that we needed to get a jump on preparing for them, number one because it’s such an important game, and number two because we knew it would be a short week. It’s one we know we have to win just to give us a chance (at the playoffs).”

The game was moved to Thursday because Parkview shares War Memorial Stadium as its home field with Catholic High, and both teams had home games scheduled this week.

Sylvan Hills took care of Fair last week, using a five-touchdown blitz over the last nine minutes of the second quarter to invoke the mercy rule by halftime.

Parkview’s performance, while a loss, was perhaps more impressive. The Patriots lost 43-40 to PA on a last-second field goal after two fourth-down penalties against Parkview made it a chip shot attempt.

PA beat Sylvan Hills 49-21, but Withrow isn’t concerned with the disparate margins of common opponents.

“These matchups are interesting in this conference,” Withrow said. “Christian was a bad matchup for Parkview because they play so fast. PA doesn’t play as fast and Parkview has the kind of team that can give them problems. They have the defensive line and linebackers to get pressure, and that’s what you have to do to PA. You can’t let them sit back. I don’t care how many defensive backs you use. If you let them have time they’re going to pick you apart. And then they have those running backs and that power running game that can keep the ball away from them. It was a good matchup.

“I’m looking at our game with Christian compared to theirs. If we don’t fumble in overtime, we win that game and this league is in a race for the ages. You’d have PA out front and all the rest of us 3-2. But we let that one get away, so we’re in this one we have to pull out.”

LRCA beat Parkview 55-26. Sylvan Hills fumbled before crossing the goal line for what would have been the game-tying touchdown in overtime against the Warriors. The extra point, which SH has not missed all year, would have been the game-winner in that matchup.

With different matchups creating wildly different results among teams that are all comparable, assessing the matchup of tomorrow’s game isn’t easy, even for the head Bear.

“It’ll be interesting,” Withrow said. “I think one thing for sure, if we can contain their running game, we’re good. “Offensively we can’t put ourselves in bad situations. We can’t go second and 12. We need second and 6. And we have to hold onto the ball. The fumbles have killed us. In every game we’ve lost, we’ve turned the ball over multiple times. So that can’t be a factor in this game. We have to eliminate the turnovers.”

Parkview features five new players that transferred to from North Little Rock after former NLRHS coach Brad Bolding took the head job for the Patriots. A lot of their scheme centers around senior Trevon Hadley, who plays the entire game.

Hadley, 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, plays linebacker on offense and fullback on defense. He also plays special teams.

“That guy never leaves the field,” Withrow said. “He is impressive. He’s not the big playmaker on offense, but he’s the guy that paves the way. And he is a force on defense.”

Sylvan Hills has about 100 players and will have an advantage in depth, but that hasn’t been a big detriment for Parkview this year.

“You have to give them credit,” Withrow said. “Watching film, I counted about seven going both ways. You have seven going both ways and you’re still in the hunt in week 9, you’re doing something right. My hats off to coach Bolding for having those guys in shape and ready, because this is tough, tough conference.”