Tuesday, September 07, 2010

SPORTS>>Cabot not passing on PA preparation

Leader sports editor

Why does a running team like Cabot even bother competing in summer 7-on-7 football?

The answer is this week’s opponent, Pulaski Academy.

While Cabot doesn’t pass much out of its Dead-T formation, the Panthers play the summer game to get their defensive backs ready for teams that do. That includes Pulaski Academy, which beat Central Arkansas Christian 59-33 at War Memorial Stadium last week.

“That’s why we do it,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “To get the D-backs against somebody throwing the ball and trying to get some good coverage. Maybe they can complete a few to us too.”

Cabot is coming off its 28-14 victory over neighbor and rival Jacksonville in the Arkansas High School Kickoff Classic at War Memorial. Pulaski Academy and Central Arkansas Christian were part of that four-game lineup, but Malham already knew without having to watch that the Bruins can be a handful with their multiple receiver sets.

“They’ve been high profile for the last decade,” Malham said. “They’ve done well. I can’t ever remember them not doing well in the playoffs. They’ve won a couple state championships and they’ve got a chance this year.”

Pulaski Academy, the 2008 state champion, made national news last year because coach Kevin Kelley refused to punt regardless of the down or distance.

But the Bruins didn’t face that many situations where they would even be expected to kick it away as they tied for second in the 7-4A Conference and won two playoff games before falling to Monticello.

“It’s a little tougher non-conference game than we’ve been playing in the past,” Malham said. “Hopefully it will get us ready for what we’re going to see in the conference.”

Cabot is one of the large-school teams playing in the 7A/6A-Central, but while a classification may say something about a team’s depth, it doesn’t determine talent.

“As far as athletes go, I’d say they’ve got just as many or more than we’ve got,” Malham said.

Malham pointed out Pulaski Academy’s points against CAC and noted that Springdale Har-Ber and Conway, the Panthers’ next two opponents, scored 63 and 53 points in their openers. Har-Ber eliminated Cabot from last year’s 7A state semifinals with a late touchdown pass.

“There’s no nights off, it just gets tougher as we go,” Malham said.

With that in mind, Malham is hoping the 7-on-7 experience, and whatever the Panthers’ scout team can do to simulate Pulaski Academy’s offense, will pay dividends at Pulaski Academy on Friday.

“It’s always hard to simulate the other team’s offense,” Malham said. “Because nobody is going to do it like they do because they practice it every day and you’ve got a scout team doing this and that.

“I think people have trouble trying to simulate what we’re going to do.”

At least Cabot has had a couple extra days to prepare after its Tuesday night victory over Jacksonville on Aug. 31.

“Hopefully we’ll be rested and ready to go,” Malham said. “And know what we’re doing.”

Malham was happy overall with the Panthers’ season- opening performance, with the exception of four fumbles and a 91-yard pass play late. Jacksonville recovered two of the fumbles with both leading to scores.

“The main thing I didn’t like is we gave up the big play over the top and we gave up the turnovers,” Malham said.

Malham had no issues with the way any of his 14 new starters performed, and other than the fumbles, he was happy with his offense and the play of new quarterback Zach Craig.

“I thought the 14 new starters got some game experience, which is invaluable,” Malham said. “And maybe they’ll feel a little more comfortable on Friday night.”