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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK Jacksonville, Sylvan Hills tangle

It couldn’t have gotten much worse for the Sylvan Hills Bears, and couldn’t get much better for the Jacksonville Red Devils.

The Devils took advantage of six Bears’ turnovers and routed 48-14.

“We played well in every aspect of the game,” said Jacksonville head coach Rick Russell. “It’s as close to a 48 minute game as we’ve played all season.”

Sylvan Hills head coach Jim Withrow said it was as bad as his kids have played all year.

“Our youth showed up big time,” Withrow said. “We played terrible, really bad.”

Once the Red Devils got rolling, they were almost impossible to stop. By the midway point through the third quarter, they were up 42-0.

“Our defense played very well,” Russell said, “minus the two touchdowns we gave up at the end.”

Touchdowns from Marlon Cleamons and Quincy Flowers were inconsequential late in the game.

Cleamons was one of the few bright spots for the Bears gaining 99 yards.

Lamont Gause scored three touchdowns for the Devils.

RED DEVILS COULD BE LABELED AS SURPRISE TEAM

When the Jacksonville Red Devils opened summer workouts, head coach Rick Russell tempered his expectations.

One thing he had was a very talented group of skill players, any one of four that could play quarterback. Russell settled on Aaron Smith. That freed up Kevin Richardson to shine at receiver, which he has done.

Russell implemented a new offense that spread the field and didn’t know how well it was going to work.

“We knew what we had,” said Russell. “We just didn’t know how it would come together.”

It has come together nicely, though Russell admits it didn’t look great in the beginning.

“It took some time to get our timing down,” Russell said, “but we have got better really quickly.”

“We are blessed to have the coaches we have,” Russell said.

Not only does Russell give credit to the coaches he has on staff but also acknowledged volunteers that are working in specific areas of the team.

ONE RIVALRY DOWN, ONE TO GO

The Jacksonville Red Devils made short work of the Sylvan Hills Bears last week winning 49-14.

Now the Devils turn their attention to North Pulaski, a team that are as close in proximity as it gets for the two schools.

“Some of our kids went to junior high there and high school here,” said head coach Rick Russell. “Some of theirs went to junior high here and high school there.”

The teams are familiar both on and off the field.

They play a junior high schedule, but Russell said the Devils haven’t played at the high school level in several years and with the reclassification, Jacksonville’s drop to 5A set the stage to renew and rekindle a rivalry.

“Every week we have goals,” Russell said, “and that’s to win games. This one is no different.”

A City Bowl trophy is on the line, but that isn’t what Russell says is a motivating tool.

“That’s after the game,” Russell said. “Our focus is winning.”

BEARS NOT SO GOOD WHEN DOWN

The Sylvan Hills Bears could run for public office. They have become adept all season at erasing deficits.

Jacksonville head coach acknowledged such a point last week before his team was scheduled to take the field against the Bears last Friday.

Russell’s team proceeded to put Sylvan Hills so far behind that they couldn’t come back. By the midway point through the third quarter, the Bears were down 42-0 and out of the game completely.

Of course, six turnovers didn’t help Sylvan Hills.

“They jumped on us,” said head coach Jim Withrow.

The Bears had decent drives but couldn’t put up points until the fourth quarter and the game was well in hand.

“We were down 20-0 at half,” said Withrow, “and it didn’t feel like we were out of it.”

Withrow had good reason to feel that way.

His team has looked up at deficits such as 34-20 at Lakeside that was called off at the half for weather, a 19-7 third quarter deficit against Mills and 14-0 versus Newport.

But Friday’s performance wasn’t an anomaly either. The Bears fell back at Little Rock Christian before losing 28-0.

The common denominator has been location. The comebacks have occurred at home while the meltdowns have occurred on the road, which Withrow says is a sign of youth.

“Our youth showed up (Friday night),” Withrow said. “We felt like we could have scored. We just didn’t.”

The game was billed as a shootout with both teams coming in with the reputation of putting up points.

Jacksonville lived up, Sylvan Hills didn’t.

“We just didn’t shoot with them,” said Withrow.

PICKING UP PIECES

The Sylvan Hills Bears have another daunting task in front of them this week. Helena-West Helena looks like two different teams according to Withrow, especially on offense.

“They have run two different defenses this season,” said Withrow.

The Cougars are on game film running a standard 4-3 and a 3-3 stack.

“We saw the 3-3 against Mills,” Withrow said.

Withrow said it wouldn’t be difficult in adjusting to what they see on the field.

The Bears will focus more on eliminating the mistakes that plagued them last week in a 49-14 loss to Jacksonville.

Six turnovers during last week’s game left the Bears scoreless until late in the fourth quarter when Marlon Cleamons scored followed by a TD by Quincy Flowers. Cleamons finished with nearly 100 yards rushing.

Friday’s game becomes one of many critical to Sylvan Hills’ playoff chances.

“Making the playoffs would be huge for this program,” said Withrow. “We are one of about five teams going after that final spot.”

The downhill ride to postseason continues Friday.

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