SHERWOOD, Ark. —
It’s a new era at Sylvan Hills, and they're looking to turn the page after a rough 2022 season.
“We don’t want to repeat that at all," Junior running back Malachi Sherwin said. "We’re going to come with something else for sure... [The] energy levels have been way up from what we’re used to."
New head coach Jason Houle is in the process of shifting the Bears' culture, and he's doing it at his alma mater.
“It’s where I grew up," Houle said. "This has been my goal ever since I started coaching 16 years ago. To get back to this point, it means the world to me. This place is home, it’s family to me, and that’s what we’re trying to instill in these kids, that we’re family.”
And Houle said it starts with a transformative mindset.
“We wanted to go in a whole new direction from where we were, and I think we’ve done that," Houle said. "Our guys have responded to it and enjoyed it. The energy has been really great at practice.”
Sherwin said the players feel it too.
“Things have been way different, our playbook and just the atmosphere," Sherwin said. "It’s a lot more positive. I like what he’s been doing here.”
With the culture shift and new head coach comes a new playbook. Gone are the single-digit passing attempts at Sylvan Hills brought on by the flexbone offense.
“We’re going to be throwing the ball, folks,” Sherwin said. It's kind of a spread. It's going to be a lot more exciting to watch."
Although it's been a learning curve, Houle said the team is picking it up nicely.
“They’ve done a great job," Houle said. "I think the excitement is there... and the guys have really responded to it."
That means the quarterback position becomes more critical, and sophomore Tyler Hampton is ready to take the reins.
”He’s been good at slinging the rock and a good facilitator," Sherwin said. "He's a good leader for someone so young."
So go ahead and throw out the past. Sylvan Hills is ready to attack the future with newfound energy.
“It’s a blessing to be here,” Houle said. “I enjoy every day, and I think that’s the key. Trying to get the community back out, get the support, and I think it’s going in the right direction.”
The Bears scrimmage Joe T. Robinson next week before kicking off the regular season on Aug. 25 at Maumelle.