Friday, November 03, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Bears stay alive with big half

Leader sports editor

A lot of things pertaining to the playoffs were possible before kickoff on Thursday, but the Bears knew they were in the driver’s seat if they won. The first half went exactly how they didn’t want it to, but the Sylvan Hills football team utterly dominated the second half to beat the Beebe Badgers 47-21 and earn a spot in the 5A state playoffs.

“Let me tell you something,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow began. “John Shannon (Beebe’s head coach) does an amazing job. He’s got something like nine guys sitting over there in jeans, and he’s got these guys playing week 10 for a shot at the playoffs. That’s coaching. You can talk about the teams with all the prospects and D-1 and all that. That ain’t coaching. That’s getting people on the bus. We knew we were in for a tough game. I just commend Beebe for outplaying us in the first half. We made some adjustments and didn’t get frustrated, and we got the job done.”

Beebe’s offense worked to perfection in the first half. The Badgers had three possessions and scored three touchdowns to take a 21-14 lead into the locker room at halftime. Time of possession was remarkable. Beebe held the ball for 19:01 of the first half while Sylvan Hills had it just 4:59.

But it all changed in the second half. The Bears needed a quick-strike offense to stay close in the first half, but they put together a long sustained drive to start the second. Starting from its own 29-yard line, Sylvan Hills gained 71 yards in 13 plays. Facing fourth and 3 from the Beebe 18 and having one of the best place kickers in the state in Tito Mendoza, Sylvan Hills opted to go for it. Running back Ty Compton took the read-option handoff and plowed forward for 13 yards for the first down.

Deon Youngblood got the rest on the very next play and Mendoza’s extra point tied the game with 6:41 to play in the third quarter.

For the third time in four Beebe possessions, a Sylvan Hills penalty started the Badgers with first and 5. But for the first time in the game, the Badgers couldn’t get a first down. Runs by Taylor Boyce, Kahlil Anthony and Connor Bieker gained just two total yards and set up fourth and 3.

The Badgers went to the spread formation, which worked like a charm in the first half. Quarterback C.J. Cauldwell kept on the read option and appeared to have a hole up the middle, but Compton closed it in a hurry and stopped Cauldwell about a foot short of the first-down marker.

“You got to give it to Ty Compton,” Withrow said. “He stepped up big on both sides for us tonight.”

Compton turned right around and carried twice for 21 yards on offense before Youngblood broke loose for a 27-yard touchdown run. A flubbed deep snap thwarted the extra point, leaving the score 27-21 with 3:03 left in the third.

Beebe’s next drive started with a 22-yard pass from Cauldwell to Boyce, and the Badgers got another first down on a 7-yard run by Boyce on fourth and 5. But one second and 7, Sylvan Hills’ Cole Miller got into Beebe’s backfield and tackled Boyce for a 5-yard loss.

The Badgers were forced to the air and threw incomplete twice to turn it over on downs again.

Sylvan Hills (6-4, 4-3) got back to first-half form. On the very next play, Lumpkin threw deep to Payton Terry, who went up over the defender for the catch, then broke the tackle to scamper in for a 63-yard touchdown play. The extra point made it 34-21 with 10:55 left in the game.

Beebe got one first down on its next possession, but senior Bear Lucas Parham blew up the drive after that. Lucas got into the backfield got a handful of Boyce’s jersey as the halfback took the handoff, and dragged him down for a 5-yard loss on first down.

Cauldwell kept for a 7-yard gain on second down, but Lucas sacked Cauldwell for a 9-yard loss to force fourth and 17. Beebe (4-6, 2-5) tried the guard-around play, but it only gained 5 yards and Sylvan Hills took over again.

Needing just 34 yards, the Bears got it in five plays, 32 of it by Youngblood and the score 41-21 with 6:46 remaining.

Beebe’s next drive ended with an interception by Division 1 prospect Darius Waddell at the Sylvan Hills 42. Youngblood and Compton traded carries until Compton finished it off with a 9-yard run. Boyce blocked the extra point to set the final score with 3:32 to play.

Waddell got his second interception of the game and sixth in the last three on Beebe’s final drive, and the Bears ran out the clock.

“He’s got an offer from Eastern Illinois and he visited Baylor last weekend,” Withrow said of Waddell. “The big schools weren’t looking at him last year because of his pass coverage. But he’s always been a heck of a run defender. Now he’s getting a better drop in his pass coverage and he’s starting to look the part. He’s got the ability.”

The Badgers had three possessions and scored three touchdowns. They opened the game with a 70-yard drive that took 15 plays and seven minutes off the clock. They converted twice on third down, and after failing on another, converted the fourth-down attempt.

Anthony got the last 4 yards to give Beebe the lead with five minutes left in the first quarter. The Badgers attempted an onside kick and Sylvan Hills started on the Beebe 49. Youngblood got 11 yards and then Compton got 38 for game-tying touchdown just 26 seconds after the Beebe score.

The Badgers then 65 yards in 14 plays and burned another six minutes off the clock before Cauldwell hit Boyce with a 14-yard touchdown pass on fourth and 10. Another onside kick attempt failed, and Sylvan Hills again took quick advantage of the short field to tie the game with 7:16 left in the second quarter.

This time it took the Badgers 13 plays to go 65 yards. The key play was a 21-yard keeper by Cauldwell on third and 13 that set up first and goal at the 2. Anthony got his second touchdown and Jaime Rodriguez added his third extra point to send the Badgers into halftime with the 21-14 lead.

The Thursday night games started with four teams vying for the final two playoffs spots from the 5A-Central. With Sylvan Hills win and McClellan’s 26-24 win over Parkview, McClellan will get the three seed and Sylvan Hills will be the four. Pulaski Academy and Little Rock Christian Academy are the one and two seeds respectively.

Youngblood led the Bears with 23 carries for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Compton had 14 carries for 145 and two touchdowns, and added 12 tackles to lead the defense.

Sylvan Hills 444 total yards to 286 for Beebe, even though the Badgers out-gained the Bears 195-156 in the first half. Cauldwell led the Badgers with 11 carries for 74 yards.