HOPE — The Sylvan Hills Bears made the trip to Hope last week to face the Bobcats in a first round playoff game, but too many circumstances stacked up against the Bears in a 31-17 loss.
Sylvan Hills gave up 10 points after turnovers, failed to score on first and goal from the one, and lost their top two running backs — Marlon Clemons and Kylan Wade — in the first half.
"We just left too many plays out on the field," said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. "I’m proud of the kids though. You lose that many guys and you’re playing a No. 1 seed and you’re just one play or another from being right there."
The Sylvan Hills turnovers started soon after the Bears received the opening kickoff. A handoff was fumbled on the first play of the game and recovered by Hope their own 24-yard-line. The Bears’ defense was able to hold the Cats out of the end zone and force a short field goal, as Hope took a 3-0 lead.
After trading punts and Sylvan Hills working for a field goal that tied the game 3-3 to begin the second quarter, the Bobcats came back with the first touchdown of the night. Quarterback Nathan Stubber ran in from seven yards out to give Hope a 10-3 lead. The Bobcats would take advantage of another turnover less than a minute later to score again for a 17-3 lead.
Hope picked up a fumble on the kickoff return following Stubber’s score. After two plays, Stubber found Steve Caple in the end zone for a juggling catch that gave the Bobcats a 17-3 lead.
Sylvan Hills was forced to punt after three plays, but quickly got the ball back on a fumbled snap by the Cats. Clemons and Wade each had solid runs in the Bears’ short drive before Tra Doss scored on a five-yard run to cut the lead to 17-10.
Hope bounced right back just before halftime as Javon Westmoreland carried five times on the seven-play drive, finishing with a four-yard score as Hope led 24-10 at halftime.
Coming out of halftime, both teams had impressive drives that didn’t end well. Hope received the kickoff to open the half, and then fumbled the ball away after driving down inside the ten. Sylvan Hills, starting at their own four-yard-line, put together a 14-play, 95-yard drive down to the Hope one. The Bears weren’t able to punch the ball in, however, as Hope was able to turn the field around soon after.
"They’ve got a heck of a front seven and we just couldn’t move them off the ball," Withrow said. "That was a momentum changer."
Hope was forced to punt, giving the ball back to Sylvan Hills on their 10-yard-line. Westmoreland had back-to-back big plays from there on defense and offense. First, he picked off a Doss pass on the Sylvan Hills 42-yard-line. Next, he came back on the next offensive play for a 42-yard touchdown that gave the Bobcats a 31-10 lead.
Sylvan Hills put together one last scoring drive late in the game, with Doss running it in from 12 yards out to set the final margin. Doss was held to less than half of his 104-yard average per game, with a pair of touchdowns. Westmoreland rushed for 170 yards for Hope.
"At the end of the day, we gave them too many points and you can’t do that against good teams," said Withrow. "We had a good season though and I’m proud of how hard these guys worked."