Saturday, October 23, 2010

SPORTS>>Panthers’ pass pops Hornets

By todd traub
Leader sports editor
A few players were hurting but Cabot was feeling no pain Friday night.

Cabot took a bruising, 21-9 victory over Bryant at Panther Stadium to move into a three-way tie for first place in the 7A/6A-Central.

“I told our kids, ‘Guys, it’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out game and you better be ready to play all four quarters,’ ” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “And boy I was just proud of the kids. They played hard and Bryant played hard.”

The Panthers finished the game without workhorse running back Spencer Smith, who sat out the second half with a shoulder injury, while four other players, including quarterback Zach Craig, had to be helped off at one point or another.

But Craig returned to deliver the game’s biggest play and at least temporarily shush those who say the Panthers don’t pass enough.

Cabot was clinging to a 14-9 lead and got a fourth-down stop when Zach Brown broke up Hayden Lessenberry’s pass to Dillon Winfrey in the end zone. The Panthers marched to the Hornets 44, then running back Jeremy Berry got behind the secondary and Craig found him for a 56-yard catch and run for the score that made it 21-9 with 2:53 left.

“Some of them kept coming back,” Malham said of the injuries. “Our quarterback limped off, he came back and did a heck of a job. Zach is getting better every game, making good decisions now. He threw a great pass there at the end.”

Malham said Bryant’s defense, loaded up to stop the Panthers’ Dead T, lost track of Berry out of the backfield.

“We work hard on our throwing game, I just like it when we move it on the ground,” Malham said. “We complete most of our handoffs.”

Bryant drove to Cabot’s 28, but its possession ended when Rod Quinn led a gang of Panthers in sacking Lessenberry, and Cabot took over to run out the clock before a jubilant crowd, most of whom were wearing pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Cabot (6-2, 4-1) led 7-3 at halftime, then took the second-half kickoff and drove 66 yards in 12 plays, scoring on Andre Ausejo’s 19-yard run. With Smith out, Ausejo got the bulk of the second-half carries and finished with a team-high 73 yards.

Bryant (6-2, 4-1) wasted no time, driving from its 17 and scoring on Lessenberry’s one-yard run set up by a sliding catch by Nicholas Sawyer on a 30-yard pass play. But Cabot’s Riley Hawkins blocked the extra-point attempt to leave it at 14-9 with 3:48 left in the third quarter.

Cabot moved into a share of first with Bryant and either Conway or Van Buren, who were playing each other Friday. Conway beat Cabot in the conference opener but Bryant beat Conway.

“Right now we’re in a three-way tie for first but that’s better than being two games behind,” Malham said.

Logan Spry got position on receiver Tanner Tolbert and out jumped him in the end zone for an interception to end Bryant’s first possession with 8:18 left in the first quarter.

The Panthers held the ball for the remainder of the period on a 22-play drive that ended with Craig’s one-yard quarterback keeper for the 7-0 lead with 10:54 to go in the half.