Wednesday, August 31, 2011

SPORTS >> Cabot wins ‘Brawl’ going away

Leader sports editor

Close for a half, the Backyard Brawl turned into a backyard mauling, as Cabot flexed its defensive muscle, controlled the line of scrimmage and ran away from rival Jacksonville 34-13 Tuesday at Panther Stadium.

Jacksonville wasn’t without its moments, but penalties continually put the Red Devils in poor situations, and Cabot’s line controlled most of the game.

“I thought they did pretty good,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said of his offensive line, which features several sophomores. “I’ll have to look at film to see the particulars. It’s just eliminate mistakes and don’t stop yourself. They (the Red Devils) hurt themselves a bunch with penalties. We don’t want to do that, we want to make them stop us.”

No penalty was bigger than the first one called on Jacksonville. It negated a 33-yard touchdown run by Cortez Brown. The Red Devils had to punt four play later.

Cabot got the ball and went to work.

Starting from its own 6-yard line, the Panthers drove length of the field in 15 plays with fullback Ian Thompson barreling for the last two to give the home team the early lead.

After Cabot’s score, Jacksonville got it back and tied the game on play that Cabot appeared to have stopped dead.

On fourth and nine from the 31-yard line, the Cabot pass rush had quarterback Tirrell Brown wrapped up four yards deep in the backfield. Brown’s size came in handy. He managed to stay on his feet long enough to make a throw to the flat to Smith. The Cabot defensive back made a play on the ball and missed. When Smith made the catch, it was an easy walk into the end zone. The extra point made it 7-7 with 9:51 left in the half.

“We had him (Brown) wrapped up in the backfield, hanging all over him,” Malham said. “He’s just a load. He’s 6-feet-5, 230-pounds. That’s tough to bring down.”

The Panthers answered right back with a 12-play, 80 yard drive. A missed extra point made it 13-7 with 4:32 left in the half.

Cabot finally got Brown down in the backfield when defensive end Brandon Schiefelbein got a sack for minus five yards on first down. Two plays later the Red Devils punted back to Cabot.

The Panthers mounted another long drive, but disaster struck on third and goal from the 11-yard line. Smith picked off a Zach Craig pass and returned it 99 yards to tie the game with 13 seconds left in the first half.

The second half was all Cabot, as Jacksonville had trouble going forward.

Cabot scored on its first two drives of the half to take a 14-point lead. The first drive ended on a 1-yard quarterback sneak. The second was a one-play drive when senior halfback Weston Conard went 22 yards for the score.

Jacksonville had as many penalties on its first two drives of the second half as it did snaps. There were four of each, and the last snap resulted in a fumble that Cabot recovered at the Jacksonville 18-yard line. Nose guard T.C. Carter forced the fumble and Schiefelbein recovered it. Cabot gave it right back with its own fumble three plays later.

Jacksonville finally got something going in the fourth quarter, but a 53-yard drive ended at the 1-yard line when Chris Luna intercepted a Brown pass and returned it out to the 28.

Jacksonville’s next drive was going well too, but it also brought the nail in the coffin. The Red Devils moved from their own 41 to the Cabot 37 in just three plays, but the fourth was picked off by Chase Boyles and returned 65 yards for the final touchdown of the game.

Officially, Jacksonville was flagged 11 times for 67 yards, but many penalties negated plays that would have been good gains. After the game, it wasn’t the penalties that Jacksonville coach Rick Russell was upset about. It was his team’s reaction to them.

“This was not a team-oriented game,” Russell said. “We had some plays that didn’t go our way early. We started getting frustrated with the officials’ calls. We started getting frustrated with each other. And until we bond as a team, and understand that we have to go on to the next play, it’s going to be a long year for these Red Devils.

“We were in sync early. We scored a touchdown early, our right tackle they said was in the backfield. Maybe he was, maybe not. We got to work through that.”

Cabot held the advantage in total yards, gaining 374 yards to Jacksonville’s 237.

Conard led everyone with 174 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries. Tirell Brown led Jacksonville offensively. He completed 24 of 36 pass attempts for 236 yards, with one touchdown and one two interceptions.

Cabot will host nationally ranked Pulaski Academy next week while Jacksonville will play its home opener against Benton.