Saturday, October 02, 2010

SPORTS>>Cabot outslugs Catholic in victory

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers had trouble stopping the Little Rock Catholic Rockets on Friday, so the Panthers settled for outscoring them.

Two fourth-quarter touchdowns and some defensive big plays helped the Panthers end a two-game losing streak with a 41-29, 7A/6A-Central Conference victory at Panther Stadium.

“It was a good high school game if you just wanted to see a good game and didn’t care who won,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said.

Catholic scored quickly, scored on long drives and scored on special teams. The Rockets took a 13-0 lead on possessions of two and four plays in the first half, forcing Cabot uncharacteristically to the air where Zach Craig completed two touchdown passes for a one-point Panthers lead at halftime.

But the fireworks were far from over as the teams combined for 51 points in the second half.

“They took, we took it, they took it, we took it,” Malham said. “There wasn’t a lot of defense being played it didn’t look like. But they’ve got a pretty good offense. They’ve scored on everybody they’ve played pretty much.”

Cabot led 14-13 at halftime but Catholic took the opening kickoff of the second quarter and marched 72 yards for Christopher Ashburn’s 24-yard field goal with 7:04 on the clock.

The Panthers got a good return from Mason James and began at the Rockets 43. Cabot drove the distance in eight plays and scored on Spencer Smith’s one-yard run to retake the lead, 21-16 with 3:04 left.

The Rockets answered immediately when Charley Gardner retuned the kickoff 68 yards up the middle to make it 23-21 with 2:52 left in the third quarter.

Another short Cabot drive ended when tight end Rod Quinn went around the right end on a reverse and scored on a 24-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter to put the Panthers back in front 28-23.

The Panthers still couldn’t silence the Rockets, who drove from their 20, survived a sack by Tyler Carter and scored on Zachary Conque’s six-yard run on a keeper. The big play on the drive was Conque’s 44-yard completion to Richard Holloway, but the Rockets’ conversion run failed and left Catholic holding a 29-28 lead with 7:35 left.

That was more than enough time for Cabot as the Panthers began at their 28 and put together their best sustained drive of the night.

A 17-yard run by Smith brought up first and goal at the 5, and a play later Jeremy Berry ran it in from the 2. Zach Craig, who completed two touchdown passes in the first half, threw long to James on the conversion attempt to leave it 34-29 Cabot with 1:44 left.

The Panthers held, as Robert Morris broke up one pass and Logan Spry nearly intercepted another, and Quinn got around right end for a late Panthers touchdown run of 33 yards to set the final score.

James made it official when he recovered a fumble on Catholic’s hook and lateral effort on the kickoff return.

“We’re happy to get a win,” Malham said. “We’re 1-1 in the conference now. We’re only one game behind, not two.”

Smith led Cabot with 104 rushing yards and a touchdown while Quinn rushed for two, gaining 57 yards, and caught a pass for a score in the first half. Craig passed for 121 yards and two touchdowns.

“We’ve got a lot of passing game in,” Malham said, explaining why he ordinarily prefers to run the ball in the Dead T offense. “It’s just when we move it on the ground we complete more handoffs than we do passes. It’s just like on the two-point conversion we had him wide open and we miss. But we did complete a couple good ones.”

Quinta Thomaas rushed for 148 yards and a touchdown for Catholic and Conque passed for 235 yards and one touchdown and rushed for another.

Cabot’s first drive ended on James’ fumble that Matt Morris recovered for Catholic at his team’s 44. The Rockets wasted little time cashing in on the gift as Thomaas gained four yards and then, after a false start penalty, delayed and burst through the right side for a 55-yard touchdown run that made it 7-0 with 7:37 left in the first quarter.

The Panthers punted and the Rockets put together another quick scoring drive that began at their 16. Conque completed a 16-yard pass, gained two yards after a low snap and then, after a Rockets holding penalty, he completed a 76-yard touchdown pass to Gardner who beat Greg Phelps and raced into the end zone.

James blocked Ashburn’s extra-point attempt, which would become a key play as the half went on.

The teams traded fumbles, with the backward scramble after a bad Catholic snap leading to Ethan Covington’s recovery that set Cabot up at the Catholic 43 in the closing seconds of the first period.

On the first play of the second quarter Craig hit James, who dodged two tacklers and scored to complete the 35-yard play and cut it to 13-7 with 11:50 left in the half.

Carter almost intercepted a pass and Floyd Sturgeon sacked Conque on consecutive plays to end the next Catholic drive, and the quarter bogged down in a series of punts until a partially blocked Catholic kick set Cabot up at the Rockets 34.

On the first play Craig found Quinn, who shook off a tackle and got to the right sideline where he picked up a block from Riley Hawkins and ran it in to tie the game with 2:59 left.

Jesus Marquez’s kick gave the Panthers the 14-13 lead and, after Catholic drove to the Cabot 19, Zach Brown put an end to the threat when he intercepted a tipped pass and allowed Cabot to run out the clock.