Wednesday, November 01, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Bears, Badgers battle for fourth

By RAY BENTONLeader sports editor

When the Beebe Badgers and Sylvan Hills Bears meet on Blackwood Field in Sherwood on Thursday, a playoff spot will be on the line for both teams. Because of the jumble from third place to sixth place in the 5A-Central standings, a win doesn’t necessarily guarantee either team a spot in the playoffs, but at the same time, a loss doesn’t necessarily knock Sylvan Hills out either.

No matter the outcome of the game, a lot still depends on the outcome of Parkview’s matchup with McClellan.

The Badgers must win to have any chance at playing next week, and that’s all Beebe coach John Shannon is focusing on.

“All we can do is try to beat Sylvan Hills by 13,” said Shannon. “We can’t worry about what Parkview does. We have to take care of our business and then see where it lands us. That’s enough for us to worry about because beating Sylvan Hills by 13 points, that’s no easy task.”

Pulaski Academy is 6-0 and Little Rock Christian Academy is5-1, and they have the top two seeds locked up. McClellan is 4-2 and currently alone in third place. Parkview and Sylvan Hills are 3-3 while Beebe is 2-4.

Beebe has already lost to McClellan and Parkview by more than 13, which are the maximum points to be gained from a single game for tiebreaker purposes. So Beebe has to beat Sylvan Hills by at least 13, and Parkview must beat McClellan to force a three-way tie for fourth place between Parkview, Beebe and Sylvan Hills.

Since each team would be 1-1 against the other two, a perfect triangle scenario is in play. The first tiebreaker step is point spread, but if Beebe wins by 13, the tie is still in effect. The next step is a coin toss, and winning that would be the Badgers’ way into the playoffs.

Sylvan Hills could win, but if Parkview beats McClellan, that’s three teams at 4-3 vying for the remaining two playoff positions. So the points would come into play again. McClellan beat Sylvan Hills by more than 13, and Sylvan Hills beat Parkview by more than 13. So Parkview would have to beat McClellan by more than 13 to force the perfect triangle that could possibly knock the Bears out.

“I think it’s going to be a tough chore,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. “They may have some players out, but John proved years ago they can plug and play. I remember a few years ago, they lost three quarterbacks, stuck a linebacker in there and made the playoffs. It looks like they’re starting to figure their lineup out, and I’m expecting it to be tough.”

Beebe has had 10 players miss games with injuries this season, and will be without at least eight, and possibly nine, for the regular-season finale. Among those nine are six starters.

“We might have one back on defense that’s day to day,” Shannon said. “But we’ll be without at least five that were starters. But I feel like we’ve kind of solidified the offensive line. We had some injuries there and now I feel pretty comfortable with who is filling those roles. They’ve played pretty good the last few weeks. (Tyler) Boyce (halfback) and Kahlil (Anthony) (fullback) have both had good games the last couple weeks. Kahlil had been hurt, and it really helps to have them both back there so teams can’t concentrate on one guy.

“So we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing, maybe hope for some turnovers and get a win. I’ve said all year long, if you can just get in from this conference, you have a chance to make a run because this league is so tough.”

Withrow agrees with that assessment about the 5A-Central.

“I think that’s true because we’re all going to be battle tested,” Withrow said. “I think this game will be the same game we’ve played against them for years. It will be hard-nosed and physical. They’re going to come out fired up with a chance to make the playoffs, so we’re going to have to be ready.

“The main thing we have to do is take care of the ball. If you turn it over or have a bad series, you could be in trouble because it’s so hard to get it back. They make you play fundamental football, and they’ll beat you if you don’t.”