They took care of their business last week by trouncing North Pulaski in their regular season finale. Now the Sylvan Hills Bears are ready for the next step.
The Bears, the fourth seed out of the Central, travel to Hope Friday to take on a surprising group of Bobcats.
Hope was picked to finish seventh in the league in the preseason, but have won the 5A-South title and the league’s top seed.
The surprise is that the Bobcats won what is believed to be one of the strongest leagues in the state with the likes of Watson Chapel, the fourth place finisher, White Hall who finished third and Camden Fairview, the league runner up.
Watson Chapel and White Hall have been in the title mix in each of the last three seasons. White Hall was a win away from playing at War Memorial Stadium for the state championship two years ago, and Camden Fairview won it all last season.
Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow believes no matter where his team placed in the league that their game Friday would be tough.
"I think you are going to see some good games between these two leagues top to bottom," Withrow said.
In fact, Withrow believes that two teams each from all four 5A conferences have a shot to win it all.
Undefeated Pulaski Academy is obviously the cream of the Central crop, but the South with Hope and Camden Fairview, the west with Shiloh Christian and the East with Wynne and Batesville all have the mettle to win the trophy.
Withrow said his team will have their hands full with Hope, but the Bobcats are far from unbeatable.
"We can’t give up the big play," Withrow said. "They’ve got some fast kids. We just need to keep the sticks in front of us and tackle on defense."
Withrow and his staff were able to watch the Bobcats’ season finale and was particularly impressed with Javon Westmoreland who has turned into Hope’s most versatile go-to player.
Eliminating turnovers and penalties on offense and making the Bobcats drive the field on defense and making them earn their points will be key for a Bears’ win.
Last season, Withrow and his Bears felt lucky to be in the postseason, thus suffered a blowout loss to Greenbrier. This season, the Bears want to make some noise.
They start their second season on Friday against some surprising, speedy group of Bobcats.