SPORTS>>D-line shines (mostly) at Jamboree
Leader sports editor
The Sylvan Hills offense sputtered and the defense gave up several big plays, but the Bears were able to battle last years’ 5A runner-up Little Rock Christian Warriors to a 6-6 tie in the Jamboree at War Memorial Stadium on Tuesday evening.
Earlier in the evening, Sylvan Hills ran 20-play scrimmages each against Mountain Home and Little Rock Catholic.
Junior Christian sensation Michael Dyer torched the Bears for a 63-yard touchdown gallop the very first time he touched the ball, and he added runs of 23, 21 and 18 yards.
But the Bear defense made the stops when they had to. Casey Cerrato and Ryan Williams wrapped up the fleet and strong Dyer a half-yard shy of a first down at the Sylvan Hills’ 11-yard line in the final minutes to preserve the tie.
“I thought defensively we got to the ball fall fast and thought we kept everything in front of us,” said Sylvan Hills head coach Jim Withrow, whose Bears open the 2008 campaign at Malvern on Friday. “The pressure our offensive line put on them was the most positive thing I saw. I thought we looked real athletic. I was real happy with it.
Offensively, quarterback Jordan Spears struggled to stay upright at times, suffering three sacks. But he hooked up with wideout Ahmad Scott on a slant at the 45 and Scott did the rest, streaking down the middle of the field to complete a 53-yard touchdown play for the Bears’ lone score.
On the ground, Juliean Broner was the only running back to carry the ball, and the line busted open holes for him on occasion. Broner finished with 38 yards on nine carries, with a long of 12.
Other than Scott, the only Bear to catch a pass was Taylor Clark, who hauled in two for 12 yards.
“Offensively, I didn’t think we executed very well,” Withrow said. “We could have run our routes a little better. We didn’t have very good spacing and we had some miscommunication on the offensive line. That’s all stuff you expect the first time out. And it wasn’t like we were out there playing (bad teams.)”
After Sylvan Hills matched the Warriors’ long touchdown play with Spears’ strike to Scott, the Bear defense buckled down.
Prolific Christian quarterback Griffin Kuhn was injured in an earlier scrimmage in the day and didn’t play against the Bears, and his backup had little success against the aggressive Sylvan Hills rush. Williams broke up a pass across the middle and Jeramiah Murphy helped stuff consecutive plays for losses.
Dyer broke free on the Warriors’ next possession for a 23-yard run before being wrapped up by linebacker Lawrence Hodges to end the first quarter. Hodges, who didn’t play on offense, led the Bears unofficially with three tackles. Brian Hale also recorded three stops.
Devin Shaw made a nice solo tackle on Dyer — never an easy feat — to open the second quarter, before Hale contributed to two consecutive sacks of the Warrior quarterback.
After Spears threw an interception on the Bears’ next possession, Hodges made a touchdown-saving tackle of Dyer after his 21-yard run to the Sylvan Hills 19. From there, the Bears’ defense held, and on fourth-and-five, the front line strung out a sweep by Dyer and Cerrato and Williams knocked him out of bounds just short of the marker.
The Warriors had one final shot from the Sylvan Hills 30 with three seconds left, but a big rush by Pennington and Cerrato’s pass breakup ended the contest.
Dyer finished with 139 yards on just eight carries, but the rest of the Warrior offense went for minus-8 yards.
For Sylvan Hills, Broner had 38 yards, while Spears completed 3 of 7 passes for 65 yards.
“Our run blocking wasn’t bad,” Withrow said. “But we’ve got to stay on our blocks a little bit longer, go all the way to the whistle. Broner ran well and ran patient. He didn’t make some cuts he could have made, but he also made some really good cuts.”
Defensive end Nick Brewer was expected to practice on Thursday after missing most of the summer with an injury. Withrow praised the play of his replacement, Taylor Pennington, as well as Devin Shaw, Brian Hale and Patrick Onuigbo up front.
“The front four played real well and they can even get better,” he said. “And Hodges was good at linebacker. A couple of times he ran down Dyer and made the play.”
Sylvan Hills prepares for its season opener at Malvern on Sept. 5.