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Bears have obstacles in 6A-East

Sylvan Hills' football team will face several challenges this season. Among those are a jump from Class 5A to Class 6A, a tough schedule and plenty of new players and Coach Jim Withrow knows his team will face new hurdles.

"We have no idea what we are going to see," said Withrow, who's been the Bears' head coach for 12 years. "I think there are two schools with new coaches, we're kind of going in blind.

Bears at a glance

COACH Jim Withrow, 12th season at Sylvan Hills (20th season overall)

CONFERENCE 6A-East

2017 RECORD 6-5 (4-3, 5A-Central)

KEY RETURNEES QB Nate Floyd, Sr., 5-11, 215; SB Seth Taylor, Sr., 5-5, 165; FS Micah Williams, Sr., 5-7, 165; CB/SB Jamir Chutes, Sr., 5-5, 155; C William Mayo, Jr., 6-5, 335; FS Dionte Hutchison, Jr., 5-10, 152; G/DL Julian Willis, Sr., 5-9, 275

SCHEDULE

DATE;OPPONENT

Aug. 24;at Arkadelphia

Aug. 31;LR Catholic

Sept. 7;at LR McClellan

Sept. 21;Pine Bluff*

Sept. 28;at Marion*

Oct. 5;at West Memphis*

Oct. 12;at Jacksonville*

Oct. 19;at Mountain Home*

Oct. 26;Jonesboro*

Nov. 1;Searcy*

  • 6A-East Conference game

One thing Withrow does know is who the tough teams are in the 6A-East Conference. Pine Bluff has always been a top league choice and will be again this year. But, he added, that West Memphis, Jonesboro and Searcy are going to be in the hunt as well. All four were playoff teams in 2017, where three of them (Pine Bluff, Searcy and West Memphis) advanced to the semifinals.

"We have our work cut out for us," Withrow said.

One advantage for the Bears is they will play Pine Bluff, Jonesboro and Searcy at home.

"We go to [defending Class 4A champion] Arkadelphia in the first game," Withrow said. "Then we play [Little Rock] Catholic and [Little Rock] McClellan, who always finds a way to win."

McClellan, which finished third in the 5A-Central last year, advanced to the state final against four-time champion Pulaski Academy, losing by one point when the Lions turned the ball over in the final minute.

"Our first conference game right out of the chute is Pine Bluff, then the sixth game is West Memphis," Withrow said. "Those first four games, you better be ready to play and the first game is a week earlier than usual."

Withrow said the Bears were competitive in Class 5A, but 6A schools are bigger and have more depth, an issue his team is still trying to address.

"We're coming into a tough situation in 6A with an unproven quarterback, unproven running backs, new receivers," he said. "We struggled in 7-on-7, but we're gonna get better.

"I tell our guys this is not the end of the world. The sun's going to come up and you can't control those things; let's control what we can."

Inexperience will be a major obstacle for the Bears this season. The backfield will be new, but Withrow said the players have been exposed to the Bears' system for a couple years and he doesn't expect any problems there.

Senior Nate Floyd (5-11, 215 pounds) is expected to be the quarterback with backup from junior Dionte Hutchison and sophomore Emil McCoy. Hutchison was moved to safety in 2017 and didn't get any significant time at quarterback.

Junior Chris Thomas (6-0, 205) will be the main tailback for the Bears this season. Withrow said he played "really good in the spring." Among those leading the way will be center William Mayo (6-5, 335) and guard Julian Willis (6-9, 275), both returning starters.

"We've had to move some players from the defensive line to the offensive line," Withrow said. "One of them [Keelan Stanley (6-0, 233)] has experience and will be a good high school lineman."

Defensively, the Bears will depend on senior ends Darman Hubbard (6-0, 207) and Syphrus Givens (6-3, 190) along with tackle Ra'maun Baker (6-1, 245), linebacker Ellion Dison (5-11, 180) and free safety Micah Williams (5-8, 155).

Sports on 08/03/2018

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