Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

SPORTS>>Sylvan Hills looks across county for new coach

Leader sportswriter

After 20 seasons under Ron Sebastian, Sylvan Hills will have a new head Bear on the sidelines starting in September. Jim Withrow will take the helm as head football coach this fall, bringing seven years of experience as head coach at Mills University Studies.

Withrow grew up in the Fayetteville area, graduating from Fayetteville High School and attending college at the University of Arkansas. He got his first coaching experience during his tenure at the U of A as a coach on the Fayetteville Jr. High team in the early 90’s. After seven years as head Comet, Withrow said it was simply time for a new challenge professionally. “I was ready for a change in my professional life,” Withrow said. “Sylvan Hills has a lot of community backing, and it just seemed like a good opportunity for me. It was just time for a change.”

Withrow made the move to Mills after a couple of seasons at Blytheville, but says he is eager to roll up his sleeves and see what he can accomplish in the always tough 6A-East Conference.“Up and down, it is by far the tougher conference in 6A,” Withrow said. “You have West Memphis and Jonesboro, Jacksonville, so it’s going to be a challenge. I like the way they re-did the conferences, it really seemed to balance things out to where a lot of these schools have a chance to compete.”

Winthrow led the Comets to a 6-5 record during the 2006 season, earning them a trip to the playoffs. They were put out by Morrilton in the first round of post season play by Morrilton in a 17-14 heartbreaker. Sylvan Hills has not been to the playoffs since the ’04 season, when they were defeated in the first round by Benton?? after winning the AAAAA Conference championship with a regular season record of 8-2. The school’s tradition for football was another attraction to Hillside for Winthrow.

“They expect to go out and win,” Winthrow said. “They went to the championship game just a few years ago, whereas when I came to Mills, they had lost 23 in a row. That’s quite a bit of difference in tradition right there. I like having the challenge, and the attitude of the program.Monday was the first day for Winthrow to observe his future team in the workout room. While he says it is too early to tell what he has to work with athletically, he says he was definitely impressed with the personalities of the kids.

“I like the kids’ good attitudes,” Winthrow said. “They were ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir’, they seem really coach able. It’s kind of hit and miss right now; I have to come from teaching at Mills during the day, so I haven’t had a great look at what they can do athletically. I know the other coaches have said we have some ninth graders who are really good athletes, and I haven’t seen them yet.” Winthrow will get the chance to see what the Bears can do in the coming weeks, when spring football practice begins in mid-March.