Tuesday, August 17, 2010

SPORTS>>Panthers’ personnel feel pain

Leader sports editor

Cabot coach Mike Malham would like to start hitting opponents before he runs out of players.

The banged-up Panthers will scrimmage at Lake Hamilton on Monday, and between now and then Malham is hoping to get some important players healthy as practice, among other things, has taken a toll.

“We’ve got some key personnel not being able to work right now,” Malham said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to get them back.”

It isn’t enough Cabot needs to replace seven graduated defensive players, a quarterback and three offensive linemen while trying to find depth across the board. Now, Malham said, seven players are banged up or limited in some way.

Defensive lineman T.C. Carter isn’t expected back until the second week of the season because of a shoulder injury; it is hoped cornerback Mason Haley (knee) can return to practice this week and defensive end Zach Kerr (knee) is two weeks away.

On offense, running back Mason James is nursing a hip flexor; running back Jeremy Berry is easing back into action after being hospitalized with kidney problems in the spring and kicker/defensive back Logan Spry recently dropped a weight on his toe — not a good thing to have happen to a kicker.

“Man, I tell you we’ve had a bunch of them,” Malham said of the injuries.

Malham has settled on a quarterback, junior Zach Craig, while his competitors at the position, Bryson Morris and Zach Brown, are slotted to play defense.

“Right now he’s got that nod,” Malham said of Craig.

Of course, things could change if Craig, or any other player, doesn’t bear up in Monday’s scrimmage.

“I think we’ve done all we can do right now, we just need to see what happens when we go to war,” Malham said.

Malham said most of the Panthers’ offensive and defensive schemes are in place. When it comes to the Dead T running attack, Malham likes to keep it simple.

“Offensively it’s not like we have a big playbook,” he said. “Kids are going to make mental mistakes. You’ve just got to keep going over it and over it.”

Cabot went 9-1 in the regular season to win the 7A-Central Conference last year and came a late-touchdown pass shy of edging Springdale Har-Ber in the state semifinals.

The Panthers will begin to find out what it will take to get back to the postseason at Lake Hamilton on Monday. The Wolves were 8-4 last year and reached the second round of the 6A playoffs, just missing a state-final berth with an eight-point loss to Pine Bluff.

Nonetheless, Malham isn’t treating the scrimmage like a regular-season game and said he would probably devote part of just one day to prepare.

“I’d rather get ready for teams like Har-Bar, Pulaski Academy and Jacksonville,” Malham said, naming Cabot’s non-conference opponents.

But the Monday scrimmage will be good for one thing, Malham said. At least the Panthers can finally hit someone new.

“When you’ve been beating on yourself for two weeks, that gets old,” Malham said.