SPORTS>>Bears staying busy through summer
There will be little time off for the Sylvan Hills football team this summer. The Bears went to a scrimmage camp on Wednesday, and took part in a 7-0n-7 tournament at Pulaski Robinson on Thursday.
First-year coach Jim Withrow says the progress displayed by his new team has been impressive, but hopes the stringent summer program will garner even more results.
“I was real happy with our kids’ energy today,” Withrow said. “Whenever our backs were against the wall, they stepped up their game and showed a lot of pride. They responded really well to pressure. I’ve been saying that we have been taking baby steps since the spring, but we took a few big steps this week.”
Senior quarterback Hunter Miller has adapted to Withrow’s style well, leading the offense out of the spread for impressive yardage in both the scrimmages and 7-on-7 games. The senior also has good company directly beneath him on the depth chart, with underclassmen Casey Cerrato and Jordan Spears showing big improvements under center as well. While some coaches might be tempted to maximize a deep bench with a co-starter situation, Withrow says Miller has the nod regardless.
“I don’t like doing that unless it is absolutely necessary,” Withrow said. “I was in a situation at Mills one time that I had to do that, and it’s not comfortable. Casey and Jordan have both done an excellent job, but putting Hunter on the sidelines is like taking a new Porsche and smashing it up. We’re going to turn the keys over to Hunter and see what he can do.”
The Wednesday camp consisted of a morning walk-through practice before a two-hour scrimmage that afternoon. Three different huddles prepared plays against various defenses, with each unit running a play against a defense before rotating to another defense for three plays.
The skill-position offense has shown improvement not only at quarterback, but in the backfield as well. Starting tailback Lawrence Hodges performed well in the Wednesday scrimmages, and Deonte Davis, Mark Turpin and Jacob Clark all had promising performances downfield during Thursday’s 7-on-7 games.
Davis caught close to 50 passes during the Bears’ semifinal performance in the tournament, with Turpin and Clark following closely behind with a number of solid grabs.
The Bears only went 1-2 in pool play, but came alive in the brackets to defeat Lakeside and Jacksonville before falling to a much fresher Robinson team in the semis. They will continue 7-on-7 play beginning July 9 in a PCSSD school district county league.
Five players will attend a Razorback football camp next week while the rest of the team takes a short break, then they will all gather in the weight room the following Monday to prepare for the rest of the summer.
They will lift three times a week in preparation for the league, and the 7-on-7 play will take them into official practice starting in August. The head Bear says the effort and productivity from his team is beginning to make the wait for September an impatient one.
“I’m excited,” Withrow said. “This is a different situation for me, and I am pretty anxious to get started. Seeing all the improvement from this team is really promising, and that seems to make the anticipation even stronger.”