Tuesday, September 13, 2011

SPORTS >> Cabot looking at yet another tough contest

Leader sports editor

The good thing about regular-season, nonconference football, is no matter how poorly things go one week, there’s another game next week to help erase any bad memories. Cabot looks to do that this week after suffering a bad loss to Pulaski Academy, but the task doesn’t get much easier.

Up next on the Panthers’ docket is a long road trip to play three-time runner up and one-time state champion Springdale Har-Ber.

Har-Ber will also be looking to put a loss behind it. The Wildcats lost 27-20 to two-time defending class 6A state champion El Dorado last week.

Cabot coach Mike Malham says his team has done a good job of putting last week’s game behind it.

“Win or lose, you got to get ready for the next one,” Malham said. “The next one is the only one you can do anything about. We have one heck of a team we have in front of us and if we’re not ready it’s going to be a long game.”

The Panthers have a very young secondary that was overmatched in size and experience last week. They also fielded a defense that had lost two starters to injury, but Malham wasn’t entirely displeased with his team’s effort.

“It wasn’t hard to see the mismatches PA had,” Malham said. “You could see the difference. But the kids played hard, and we’ll go up there (Springdale) and play hard and see what happens. We’re not going up there to not play hard. I don’t want to drive three and a half hours to just get off the bus and go get our butts kicked.”

Cabot and Har-Ber have faced each other each of the last four seasons, all four times in the playoffs with the Wildcats winning every time. Cabot knows it has a tough team ahead of it, despite the loss to El Dorado last week.

“El Dorado is a heck of a team, too,” Malham said. “They’ve won class 6A the last two years, they have a bunch of athletes, and they played a knockdown dragout up there. That was two good football teams. This is another big challenge.”

Har-Ber hasn’t changed in strategy over the years. The Panthers know what to expect.

The Wildcat offense centers around their big quarterback, senior Jon Vaughn. While not as mobile as Pulaski Academy’s Fredi Knighten, Vaughn can move, and his 6’4”, 200-pound frame is a load to bring down.

“He’s a hard-nosed kid, 200-pounder who runs well,” Malham said. “He can throw it. He’ll run the stretch and they’ll run the quarterback draw. You have to be ready to defend it all.”

Defending it all will be a bit more difficult this week. Starting defensive end Brandon Schiefelbein suffered a concussion last week. Cabot lost defensive tackle Kyle Sturgeon for the season in week 1, and defensive back Jordan Burke is out for at least a month with a broken bone.