Tuesday, August 02, 2011

SPORTS >> Cabot ready for season

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers were 84 strong on the first official day of practice for the 2011 football season. The number was no surprise to head coach Mike Malham. It’s the same bunch he had working all summer long, due to long-standing rules of the CHS football program.

“There were no surprises because if they weren’t here all summer they wouldn’t be on the team,” Malham said.

Conditioning was not a problem due to the summer work. Panthers came in twice a week over the break for conditioning work and weight training.

“We ran them pretty good this summer,” Malham said.

As a result, the squad showed up Monday ready for work.

“It’s not like it used to be when you had to worry about them showing up in shape,” Malham said. “Our kids are in pretty good shape, so we’re not worried about that.”

Every coach who’s been in the game as long as Malham’s 31 years has seen almost everything, but the 2011 Panthers are a uniquely young squad.

Of the 84 players, there are only 13 seniors. There were 31 juniors and 40 sophomores practicing Monday, and a half dozen or so of those sophomores will figure into the rotation this season.

“It’s a young bunch,” Mal-ham said. “You always worry when you have to play that many sophomores, but there are some pretty good players in that sophomore class. You just go with what you got.”

Effort was good throughout practice, but things began to wane a bit towards the end, according to Malham.

“The afternoon got a little hot on them and you could tell that,” Malham said. But overall it was pretty good I think. They gave a good effort.”

Cabot started lifting weights at 6 a.m. and hit the practice field an hour later for the morning session. They came back at 1 p.m., but had to cut the afternoon session short when a driving rainstorm with huge lightning popped up all of a sudden.

The team could’ve finished on the indoor practice field, but with just a few minutes left, Malham gave a short talk and cut the team loose once inside.

Because of new rules instituted this year by the Arkansas Activities Association, teams are no longer allowed to have two consecutive days of two-a-day practices because of growing heat-related health concerns. So Cabot went just once on Tuesday, much to Malham’s chagrin.

“We’ve never had a problem with the heat,” Malham said. “Just keep ‘em hydrated, give them plenty of short water breaks and just use a little common sense.”