SPORTS >> Reinforced Bears are facing the Falcons
Leader sports writer
Weather could be a factor again this week when Sylvan Hills visits local 5A-Southeast Conference rival North Pulaski on Friday.
That could be good or bad news for the Bears, who will return senior speed receiver Ahmad Scott to the offensive lineup after he was sidelined the past two weeks with a concussion he suffered against Mills.
Sylvan Hills (1-5, 1-2) won its first game last week against Crossett in wet conditions, but coach Jim Withrow said drier weather could help his team’s cause with a revamped passing game featuring Scott.
“A lot of it will depend on how well their field holds up,” Withrow said. “We have a junior-high game there on Thursday night, so who knows how bad that thing will be torn up.
“We haven’t even been able to practice outside much for the last two weeks with all the rain. It’s just hard to pass in those kinds of conditions.”
Sloppy field conditions led to limited passing last week against Crossett, but senior running back Marquis Smith stepped up and posted his best numbers of the season with 29 carries for 141 yards.
“He hit the hole better than he has all year,” Withrow said. “He’s a big, strong guy, and when he’s running well, it really helps our ground game. We just need to hold on to the ball and cut out some of those penalties.”
The Falcons have a solid ground game of their own with big junior running backs Darius Cage (6-1, 210 pounds) and Billy Barron (5-10, 245). Sophomore quarterback Shyheim Barron also has scrambling abilities as a dual threat in the backfield.
“Their power game is kind of scary to us,” Withrow said. “And it looks like their quarterback can run as well. They do a good job of mixing it up.”
Seniors Juliean Broner and Devonte Britt are back from injuries in limited roles on defense. Broner’s injured knee still has some swelling, which prompted the training staff to release him for defensive play only.
“We’re still living week to week,” Withrow said. “We’re still trying different things to try and move the ball since we can’t use those guys on the offensive side. Broner gets better each and every day, we just can’t use him on offense because he can’t take any hits to that knee.”
There will be a number of interesting match-ups in Friday’s game, but none more so than Bears receiver Scott versus North Pulaski senior all-conference cornerback Arlando Hicks.
The two possess comparable speed and experience, and Hicks’ tight coverage could be another obstacle for Sylvan Hills.
“That ought to be a good matchup,” Withrow said. “Hicks is a good D-back; he covers well, and that also worries us. But it’s great to get Ahmad back. It’s good for our other receiver, Taylor Clark — it will help to open things up for him.
“The past couple of weeks, it’s just been him and Marquis coming out of the backfield, so it’s been kind of obvious who it was going to.”
The Falcons are 1-5, 1-2 in the 5A-Southeast entering this week’s game with Sylvan Hills.
With both teams tied for fifth in the 5A-Southeast at 1-2, the winner of this game still has an outside shot of reaching the playoffs. The loser will most likely be done at the conclusion of Week 10.
Withrow said that victories are important for Sylvan Hills’ playoff cause, but margins are equally as important.
“I think it all depends on how much you win by,” Withrow said. “I figure we probably need to win three of our last four to get in.
“It just depends on who beats who. That Crossett-Mills game will be a factor in it. It’s just too early to know for sure. We won’t until we get two or three more games into it.”
North Pulaski sophomore Robby Darrington has been named Hooten’s Arkansas Football Air Guard scholar of the week.
Darrington, a 6-2, 210-pound offensive lineman on the varsity and junior varsity squads, has a grade-point average of 3.8 in strictly advanced placement courses.
A candidate for the weekly honor must have a GPA better than 3.2 and be a solid citizen, in addition to being a valuable member of a football team, Hooten’s editor Chris Hooten said.
Hooten added that most recipients have had 3.5 GPAs or better.
“There have been some pretty impressive cats,” Hooten said.
Darrington is one of only 26 players selected each season and is eligible to be one of the three finalists for the Hooten’s Air Guard Scholar Athlete of the Year award given out after the season.
He receives a certificate of achievement and other prizes.
Darrington will also be featured on Hooten’s Arkansas Football TV show which airs at 11 a.m. Saturday on KTHV-TV Channell 11.