Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SPORTS >> Cabot faces driven Pointers

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers have shown improvement over the last two weeks, but still haven’t found the winning formula. Last-second plays lifted playoff-bound Little Rock Central and league-leading Bryant to victory over the Panthers in the last two weeks. This week Cabot faces another team that has lost to Central and Bryant, but the Van Buren Pointers lost each game by 20-plus points.

Van Buren has a bit more to play for than Cabot. The Pointers, by way of their win over Russellville earlier this season, still has a shot at a home playoff game at the 6A level. They are in the playoffs and have at least a five seed locked up, but can finish as high as a three seed if it wins its last two games. If it wins just one of them, it could earn a four seed and host a first-round playoff game.

“It’s a nice position to be in because we kind of have some control over what happens,” Van Buren coach Brooks Coatney said. “It’s kind of a difficult position to be in though because we now have a team in front of us that does something no one else does. That makes it a little difficult to prepare for.”

Cabot’s last two games have shown certain signs that the young squad is improving. After two weeks of not competing well, the Panthers mounted comebacks in the last two games before succumbing in the final seconds.

“The kids haven’t quit,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “When you’re 1-6 and down 28-14 in the fourth quarter you could just hang it up. To fight back and get back in it says something about your kids. They’re still playing hard and having fun. Now we just have to figure out how to hang on and get the win.”

While maturing physically and mentally plays its role in the recent performances, understanding what went wrong has been the key to Cabot’s improvement.

“You learn your lessons,” Malham said. “You make your mistakes and you learn from your mistakes. We didn’t turn it over against Bryant and that helps a lot. We turned it over five times against Central. If we don’t do that, we win that ball game. If we did turn it over five times against Bryant, we probably get blown out. It’s been enjoyable the last couple weeks competing against good teams. Now we want to win a couple.”

To beat Van Buren the first order of business is stopping junior quarterback Jacob Eason. The first-year starter is a speedy back who can run the speed option and throw the ball with precision.

“Their quarterback is fast,” Malham said. “He’s broken several long ones this year and speed has given us some trouble. We’ll have to play as good or better than the last couple weeks to keep him contained.”

For Van Buren, Coatney says the biggest challenge to facing Cabot is the same thing that everyone else says.

“The biggest factor is trying to get your kids prepared for what they’re going to be up against defensively,” the first-year head coach said. “I’m pretty familiar with it because I spent three years at Bryant preparing for it. It’s just hard to get it across to your kids. You watch a lot of film. The only was to truly prepare for it is to try to get a group of guys that can do a good job simulating it for your defense, and really get in there and hit. But you don’t want to get anyone hurt so it’s a fine line you have to walk the week of the Cabot game.”