Saturday, November 11, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Bears get bounced early by Nettleton

Leader sports editor

NETTLETON – For the fifth year in a row, Sylvan Hills has lost in the first round of the playoffs, and Friday’s 35-33 loss at Nettleton was almost as heartbreaking as last year’s 36-35 loss at home to Watson Chapel.

This time the Bears were a four seed looking to upset 5A-East champion and top-seeded Nettleton.

Sylvan Hills trailed 35-26 late in fourth quarter, but still had an opportunity to win. Facing third and 12 yards to go, Sylvan Hills quarterback Ryan Lumpkin found receiver Peyton Terry deep in the back of the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown pass with 3:01 remaining in the game. Tito Mendoza’s extra point made it 35-33.

The Bears tried an onside kick and didn’t recover, but the defense stepped up and gave the offense the ball back with 1:22 left in the game. Darius Waddell set the Bears up nicely by returning the kick 30 yards to midfield. But after one incomplete pass, Lumpkin went deep again. This time it was intercepted with less than a minute to play.

Sylvan Hills had only one timeout left and wasn’t able to stop the clock enough to get the ball back. Nettleton lined up in victory formation for the final two plays and ran out the clock.

The key drive of the game was Nettleton’s final scoring drive of the first half. The Raiders led 14-13 when they began a drive at their own 28-yard line. Nettleton was called for holding on first down and the Bears got a sack for another 6-yard loss to set up second and 26 from the 6-yard line. After a short gain on a screen pass, the Bears were called for a personal foul that turned third and about 20 into first down.

Sylvan Hills stopped Nettleton again and then blocked the punt, but a Bear ran onto the field just before the snap, drawing an illegal substitution penalty that erased the blocked punt and gave Nettleton a first down. This time the Raiders took advantage of the mistake, and scored three plays later for a 21-13 lead going into halftime.

Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow left the field at halftime making known to the officials his disapproval of their performance in the first half.

Sylvan Hills (6-5) got the ball to start the second half, but had to punt after one first down. The calls kept going Nettleton’s way in the third quarter. The punt return was fumbled, but the runner was ruled down. Another illegal substitution penalty on the Bears later in the drive gave Nettleton another first down at the Sylvan Hills 16-yard line. Two plays later the Raider’s led 28-13 with 8:55 to go in the third quarter.

Things started to look bleak for the Bears when they were stopped short on fourth down at the Raider 30, but they didn’t quit.

Defensive end Syphrus Givens got a sack on third down and forced a punt on fourth and 15. The Bears drove inside the Nettleton 30 when disaster almost struck again.

Nettleton intercepted a Lumpkin third-down pass and returned it about 5 yards when the defender was hit and fumbled. The Bears recovered, and since there had been a change of possession, got first down at the Nettleton 34.

A penalty and two incomplete passes made it third and 15, but Lumpkin found Waddell in the end zone for the score. The extra point made it 28-20 with 2:27 left in the third quarter.

The Sylvan Hills defense stepped up two more times to force punts. The offense came up empty after a blocked field goal at the end of the first possession. After the second consecutive stop, the Bears drove 66 yards in just 18 seconds to pull within two points.

Ty Compton ran for 7 yards on first down, and Lumpkin hit Devante White for 57 yards to the 2-yard line on second down. Compton then kept for the score, but a two-point conversion roll out pass was incomplete, leaving the Raiders up 28-26 with 5:01 remaining.

Nettleton (10-1) scored its last touchdown with 3:21 left.

Both teams went down the field with ease to start the game, but Sylvan Hills missed the tying PAT that left Nettleton with a 7-6 lead with 5:38 to go in the first quarter.

The Bears then got a defensive stop before grabbing their only brief lead of the game on the subsequent drive.

It was a seven-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a jet sweep for 15 yards and a touchdown by Deon Youngblood that put Sylvan Hills up 13-7 with 2:56 left in the first period.

But Nettleton answered with a 63-yard drive that took just 2:40 and the Raiders never trailed again.