If the Sylvan Hills Bears are to have a better overall defense than last season, head coach Jim Withrow believes that one particular area may be responsible.
From what Withrow has seen in team camp this week at Pulaski Robinson where the Bears competed against the likes of conference foe Little Rock Mills and Dover as well as the host Senators, his defensive ends are playing exponentially better.
"We played well, especially on defense and at the end position," Withrow said.
The reasons are two-fold — those two being the play of Matt Thompson and Damon Molden.
While no stats were kept throughout the camp, Withrow said his tandem "must have gotten four or five sacks apiece".
Thompson was one of Withrow’s many injury casualties last season going down in week two. Molden was a linebacker last year.
"They both played so well," Withrow said. "Matt is just so fundamentally sound. Damon still has a ways to go, but he is so strong."
Withrow said Molden, a consistent 300-pound bench presser, just needs to get comfortable in how he’s lining up on each play and learn some of the intricacies of playing on the edge.
Both can run well and Withrow believes if they stay healthy, then his defense can be "40 to 50 percent better" as a whole in 2013.
The end spot is critical against a 5A-Central league that is pass happy with every school except Mills operating a spread offense making quarterback pressure and containment critical for defensive success.
"It makes our linebackers better," Withrow said, "and it makes our secondary better."
Add Elijah Sowards, who is the starting fullback on offense, into the mix and the Bears appear solidified barring injury.
With an offense that prolific potential, an improved defense could be the difference in the Bears being playoff possibilities to league title contenders.