Leader Blues

Monday, August 31, 2009

SPORTS >> Bears’ offense shines vs. PA

Leader sports editor

After watching Sylvan Hills zip through and around the Pulaski Academy defense during a benefit scrimmage on Tuesday night at Bill Blackwood Field, you might conclude that only injuries can keep the Bears from a special season.

Sylvan Hills enters the regular season against Malvern on Friday night with significantly fewer players than they had counted on. But it appears that what the Bears lack in quantity they make up for in quality. Sylvan Hills beat the defending 5A state champion Bruins 7-0 in a 24-minute scrimmage and missed out on two other sterling scoring chances.

Sylvan Hills fell 14-7 to Little Rock Christian later in the evening but, overall, head coach Jim Withrow had little to complain about.

“I felt really good about it,” he said. “I was really pleased with the offensive line opening up holes. We thought we were going to throw it all night, but then we hit some big gains (on the ground).”

Of the Bears’ first 12 running plays against the Bruins, seven netted 10 yards or more as they finished with 155 yards on 17 carries. Most impressive in limited action was North Little Rock transfer Marquis Smith, who ripped off runs of 11 and 24 yards on his first two carries. The second of those was an off-tackle rumble that Smith cut outside for a touchdown.

Smith finished with 35 yards on three carries and added a sack on defense, displaying great speed on both sides of the ball. He also caught an 18-yard pass from Jordan Spears.

“He is a beast,” Withrow said. “(Quarterback Jordan Spears) and (receivers) Ahmad (Scott) and Taylor (Clark) really open up some lanes for Juliean (Broner) and Marquis, and they don’t need a lot of lanes to begin with.”

Withrow turned to promising sophomore running back Trey Bone for most of the rest of Sylvan Hills’ offense. Bone lost a pair of fumbles, but had runs of 20, 22 and 10 yards on his way to a 68-yard performance.

“Trey could really be good, but he has to grow up,” Withrow said. “One of the things we told him he has to do is hold on to the football. But he’ll get better. That’s why we scrimmage.”

Juliean Broner rumbled for 16 yards on his only carry and backup quarterback Darnell Wade added 23 yards on three carries.

The Bears threw only four passes. Starting senior quarterback Spears was 1 of 3 for 18 yards, but threw an ill-advised pass near the goal line that was picked off. Spears also rushed twice for nine yards.

The Bear defense surrendered 218 yards but the rapid-fire Bruins ran 39 plays so that total is a bit misleading. Also, 69 of those yards came on one of the final plays of the scrimmage.

Devonte Britt had an interception, and linebacker Michael Robinson was all over the field, at one point batting down a fourth-down pass.

Also recording sacks were Stephan Kettle and Byron Shell.

Perhaps the biggest defensive play, hustle-wise, came from Wade after a Bruin stripped the ball from Bone and began what looked like a certain 70-yard touchdown run. Only Wade had a chance at him, and he was able to chase the Bruin down at the 5-yard line. The hustle paid off as one play later, the Bruins fumbled the pitch and the Bears’ Sirmichael Finney pounced on it.

“I thought our defense played well,” Withrow said. “We got to the ball fast and tackled well. We gave up some passes but against teams that throw as much as they do, you expect that.”

Withrow said that, heading into the final week of practice leading up to the season opener at Malvern, the Bears would work on picking up blitzes, developing some depth and balancing their offense.

“We’re going to have to throw the ball,” he said. “We’ll keep working on it.”