Wednesday, September 01, 2010

SPORTS>>Hawkins hauls in the hardware

Leader sportswriter

The final game of the Arkansas High School Kickoff Classic set a precedent when Cabot senior linebacker Riley Hawkins was named the most valuable player following the Panthers’ 28-14 victory over longtime rival Jacksonville.

It was the first time in two years, or eight games, of the season-opening classic that a defensive player won the honor.

Hawkins led the Panthers with five solo tackles and five assists. One of those assists was a sack on Jacksonville quarterback Logan Perry for a five-yard loss.

But the play that earned the hardware for Hawkins, 6-1, 210 pounds, was when he intercepted Perry’s pass at the Cabot 30 with 6:12 left in the third quarter. Jacksonville was on the move following a Cabot touchdown that extended the Panthers’ lead to 21-6 when Perry looked for standout receiver D’Vone McClure.

Hawkins stepped in front of McClure for the interception and returned it 11 yards to the Cabot 41, which set up the Panthers’ final score eight plays later when Austin Alley sprinted 16 yards around the left side into the end zone.

“It feels awesome,” Hawkins said. “We’ve been busting our butts, working hard this week getting ready. It feels awesome; I can’t explain it, it feels great.”

It was far from a one-man show on the Cabot defense, which got strong performances from junior Chase Boyles, junior Bryson Morris and senior defensive tackle Jared Dumois. But many of Hawkins’ plays came at times when the Red Devils appeared intent on climbing back into the game.

“I just worked my butt off and tried to find the football,” Hawkins said. “Trying to be there on every tackle, just working hard.”
Cabot head coach Mike Malham not always generous with individual praise, was more than happy to compliment Hawkins.

“He started for us last year. He was our second leading tackler behind Spencer Neumann,” Malham said. “He’s really grown and come into his own this year. He’s got his 40 time down to about a 4.6, he’s grown a couple of inches, so we’re expecting big things from him this year.”

There was no dominant performance on the offensive side for Cabot, although senior fullback Spencer Smith had a respectable 16 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown.

It was not quite the night he had in the same game a year ago when he surprised the Jacksonville defense with 22 carries for 110 yards and three touchdowns during the Panthers’ 35-6 blowout at Panther Stadium.

“To tell you the truth, I really didn’t do that great,” Smith said. “I was running high. I could have done a lot better. The offensive line, they were opening up the holes. I need to get better and prepare better.”