SPORTS >>Sylvan Hills gets lead, holds off Marion rally
By JASON KING
The Patriots found their genuine taste of Miller to be decidedly bitter Friday night during Sylvan Hills’ 28-18 win over Marion at Bill Blackwood Field. Bears senior quarterback Hunter Miller stunned the Patriots defense with 190 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in the first half, which would turn out to be badly needed for Sylvan Hills in a completely unproductive second half.
A 15-yard touchdown run by junior fullback Lawrence Hodges with 6:19 left in the third quarter would be the end of the road for the Bears’ offense, but the defense held its ground. Hodges’ TD scamper put Sylvan Hills up by three scores at 28-10, but the Patriots would not fade without a fight.
Marion senior Justin Blackwood pulled the Patriots to within two scores just before the end of the third quarter with a six-yard touchdown run, with a two-point conversion added by Bubba Cooper that made the score 28-18. Sylvan Hills’ main objective for the final period would be clock management, but a plethora of penalties made that task unproductive most of the time.
The Bears avoided the penalty bug for the most part in the first half, but the third and fourth quarters were loaded with flags against the Bears; eight for 50 yards to be exact.
The Patriots had their final shot with 3:23 left in the game, but two big defensive plays by SH junior defensive back Devin Scott, along with a big stop by sophomore Juliean Broner would give the ball back to the Bears with less than a minute remaining. It was a big win for the Bears, but coach Jim Withrow was not anticipating having to fight the Patriots to the bitter end.
“You got to put them away,” Withrow said. “We really didn’t do that. Going down the stretch, we better do that or it’s going to cost us. But I’ll tell you; a win is a win is a win. That’s the bottom line, and we did that. I would like for us to take care of the ball a little better and play with a little more intensity than what we did tonight.”
Withrow said his quarterback’s services in the first half were a big part of the win.
“He did a good job of reading what he had,” Withrow said. “Our offensive coaches did a good job up there in the booth seeing things. It was a team effort; we came off the ball pretty hard, and tried to take what we could get.”
Miller proved unstoppable against the Pats’ defense in the opening 12 minutes. The SH quarterback took the second play from scrimmage 28 yards to move the ball into Marion territory at the 41-yard line. He followed that with a nine-yard draw play before running it in two plays later with another 28-yard run, this time cutting from the middle of the field to the left side for the score with 9:26 left in the first quarter. Stephan Kettle’s extra-point attempt was successful for an early 7-0 Bears lead.
Miller would strike again before the end of the opening period with a 32-yard touchdown run with 6:25 left in the first quarter. The drive was set up by a fumble by Marion’s Deoppolis Smith that was recovered by SH defender Clint Thornton at the Sylvan Hills’ 44-yard line.
The Bears had a chance to put Marion away before the first quarter even ended, when the Patriots fumbled the ensuing kickoff into the hands of Bears special teams player Brandon Davis. This gave Sylvan Hills a first down at the Marion 43-yard line. Miller and company drove into the Patriots’ red zone with two running plays by Hodges for seven yards, followed by three keeps for Miller for a total of 20 yards. This set up the Bears with a first down at the Marion 16-yard line, but Miller would prove himself human on the following play.
Miller dropped back to throw on first down, but was scrambled out of the pocket by the Marion defensive line. He rolled right with open field in front of him, but delivered up the middle with a pass into heavy coverage. Patriots senior Jordan English came down with the ball to end the Bears’ threat of three straight scoring drives.
The Patriots would hold on to the ball from that point on, and began to move the ball on the heels of junior running back Smith. Smith had five carries for a total of 41 yards during what would become Marion’s first scoring drive of the night.
The second quarter began for the Patriots with a second and 14 at the Sylvan Hills’ 20-yard line, but a two-yard run for Smith and an incomplete pass by Sophomore QB Jonathon Milikin left them with fourth and eight at the 18. Marion decided for a field goal, and senior kicker Jerry Patton delivered on a 35-yard field goal that just stayed inside the left goal post for three points, making the score 14-3 with 11:14 left in the first half.
Sylvan Hills’ drive after Patton’s FG would stall out at the Patriots’ 40-yard line, and a swing gate play by the Bears on fourth and 13 fooled no one. The unusual formation that lines seven players up to the left and two to the right, with Miller in the shotgun and Broner in motion worked for a first down earlier in the year against North Little Rock, which was apparently on the films scouted by Marion. The give from Miller to Broner went nowhere, and the Patriots took over on downs at their own 38-yard line.
They would not settle for three this time. Smith broke loose on a 55-yard touchdown run with 5:27 left in the first half. Patton added the extra-point to make it 14-10, and the Bears found themselves in a dogfight at that point.
Marion kept Miller somewhat reigned in during the second quarter, but not enough to prevent another score before halftime. The Bears drove from their own 19-yard line on the next drive in 10 plays, capped off by an 18-yard sprint from Miller down the right side for his third rushing touchdown of the night with 46 seconds left in the half. The score was set up by a 15-yard pass to Shaw one play earlier that took the ball from the Marion 34 to the 18-yard line. Kettle’s extra-point was good, and the Bears took a 21-10 lead into the locker room.
Kettle’s extra-point boots were money in the bank on Friday, but his kickoffs in the second half would be a little less spectacular. The sophomore place kicker had three attempts at the opening kickoff before keeping it inbounds to set the Patriots up with great field position at their own 45-yard line.
The SH defense did its job on the next Marion drive, holding the Patriots to eight yards on four plays. Senior fullback Cooper got the call on fourth and two, but he would be met at the line by Jacob Clark and Casey Cerrato, and the ball would go back to the Bears on downs.
The Patriots’ defensive line filled gaps nicely in the second half, but it only took one play for the Bears to squash those efforts. On second and five at the Marion 15, the SH line opened a huge hole in the middle of the line, and Hodges took the give from Miller nearly untouched into the end zone. Kettle’s PAT made the score 28-10 with 6:19 left in the third quarter.
Miller led the Bears with 26 carries for 191 yards and three touchdowns. He added 40 more yards in the first half with 3 of 7 pass attempts for 40 yards and one interception. Hodges carried 16 times for 70 yards and one touchdown, and Broner added 51 yards on seven rushes with one fumble turnover. The Bears ended the night with 252 total yards of offense. For Marion, Smith had 20 carries for 156 yards and one touchdown.
Sylvan Hills is now 4-4 overall and 4-1 in the 6A-East Conference. Marion fell to 4-4 overall and 2-3 in conference. The Bears will play at Searcy next week, while the Patriots host Jonesboro.