Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow will visit familiar haunts on Friday when the Bears head down the highway to take on the Mills Comets.
That’s where Withrow spent seven years of his coaching career, and had spurts of success though his overall record at the school may not reflect.
Friday will be the third time to go back since he took over at Sylvan Hills in 2007, and Withrow said it’s still a little different.
"The first time was weird," Withrow said. "But I’m still close with the coach over there because we coached together."
Patrick Russell has the Comets at 4-0 and poised to give the 5A-Central a run for their money. Russell goes against the grain by being the only team that doesn’t run a spread offense. Instead, he forces teams to defend a flex option, and so far it’s yielded wins.
"It’s going to give everybody fits," Withrow said. "You go from bringing the house, to assignment football."
It helps that the Bears and Comets are familiar foes. They have spent time in camps competing with one another over the summer.
But tougher games arrive on the schedule beginning this week. The Bears’ only hiccup this season so far has been at Newport.
Back when Withrow coached at Mills and they were a member of the 5A-Southeast, along with Sylvan Hills, week 10 against White Hall always meant something whether it was for one team’s playoff chances or for seeding.
Friday’s game for the Bears has that feel. It’s going to wind up meaning something.
Mills is leg two of the most important three-game stretch for Sylvan Hills. After taking care of the Little Rock Christian Warriors, the Comets and Jacksonville Red Devils are the biggest obstacles standing in the way of a league title showdown with Pulaski Academy in week 10.
Teams such as Helena-West Helena, Little Rock McClellan, and North Pulaski represent "supposed to" wins on the Bears’ schedule.
There are two things that Withrow wants to have on the bus after next week, and that’s a win and a healthy line. After injuries to Elijah Soward and Matt Thompson, Withrow can’t afford any more players hurt.
The Bears have beaten Mills in three of their last five meetings. Withrow knows that a loss won’t derail their season, but it would go a long way to making 2013 very special.