Saturday, October 29, 2011

SPORTS>>Panthers run away from Pointers

Leader sports editor

For the last two weeks, the Panthers were heading towards a game in which everything finally comes together. That game arrived Friday night at Panther Stadium as Cabot hammered Van Buren 56-25 on senior night.

“They just played well,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “The kids played hard. We just had a pretty good game on offense. We took care of the ball in the first half. The defense made some plays. It was good for the seniors. Hopefully we can play good again next week and end on good note going into offseason.”

‘A pretty good game on offense’ is an understatement. Cabot rolled down the field every time it touched the ball in the first half. The only first-half possession in which the Panthers didn’t score was the last one, and only because quarterback Zach Craig took a knee to run off the final few seconds of the half.

The fireworks began on the first play of the game. Halfback Weston Conard went 64 yards up the middle for a touchdown with 11:46 left in the first quarter. He also scored the last touchdown of the half on a 14-yard run that made it 42-12 with 1:03 remaining.

In between Conard’s touchdowns, fullback Zach Launius put on a show. The 146-pound sophomore carried 12 times for 189 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. His first score came on Cabot’s second drive, a 3-yard run that made it 14-0 with 3:24 left in the first quarter.

Van Buren then marched 71 yards in 17 plays and took only 3:11 to do it. The drive ended with a Jacob Eason pass to Wacey Connor for 10 yards and a touchdown.

Cabot answered right back. Launius went 22 yards to midfield on the last play of the first quarter. Senior fullback Ian Thompson picked up eight yards, and Launius scampered for 42 more on second down for his second score. Jesus Marquez’ extra point made it 21-6 with 11:13 left in the first half.

Van Buren’s next drive ended after Chase Boyles and Tyler Gilbertson sacked Eason for a three-yard loss. Cabot got it back and went 73 yards in just six plays with Launius breaking off the final 32 for a 28-6 lead with 7:08 on the clock.

After a Van Buren three-and-out, Cabot went 76 yards in nine plays with Thompson getting in on the fun. He finished the drive with a one-yard plunge that made it 35-6 with 2:07 left. Van Buren then got a one-play drive. Eason hit Williams Walton on a hook pattern. Walton broke a tackle and went 66 yards for the score.

“I thought we had that covered pretty good,” Malham said. “He broke a tackle and scored on us.”

The two minutes remaining was still enough for Conard’s final touchdown of the half. It was also enough time for the Pointers to run eight plays and get down to the Cabot 36. There, senior defensive back Bryson Morris intercepted an Eason pass at the 8-yard line and returned 14 yards to end the drive.

Morris started the second half where he left off in the first. Van Buren had first down at midfield, but Morris got another pick on a deep pass down the sidelines and brought it back out to the 21.

From there, things went poorly for Cabot’s offense, at least for a while. The Panthers put a pitch on the ground on an option play that was wide open to end their first drive. Van Buren answered with a touchdown that made it 42-18 with 6:19 left in the third quarter.

Cabot’s Mason Haley broke a 51-yard scoring run on the next drive, but a holding penalty negated the play and forced the Panthers to punt. That’s when things started to break Cabot’s way again.

Van Buren fumbled the punt and Seth Hoggard covered it at the Pointer 26. It took Cabot nine plays to get it in from there, but junior halfback Max Carroll finally scored on a 3-yard run on fourth and goal to put Cabot up 49-18.

Van Buren gained just six yards on three plays on the next drive. On fourth down, Gilbertson knocked down an Eason pass to give the Panthers the ball at their own 45. Launius got back in the action on the next drive. He took the first carry two yards, and the second one 53 for his fourth touchdown of the game.

Van Buren scored again with 1:01 remaining on a pass from Eason to Bradley Eversole to set the final margin.

“When you’re 1-7 you don’t take anything for granted,” Malham said. “This was a good one. The kids have been working hard and I’m glad for the kids tonight.”

While Van Buren was able to get some offense going at times, the Cabot defense made several big plays and never allowed Eason as the Pointer offense to get momentum.

Zach Boyd had two sacks. Brandon Schiefelbein, Gilbertson, Chase Boyles, Connor Bennett and Devin Crawford all recorded sacks in the game.

“We were worried about their quarterback,” Malham said. “We saw him break several long ones on film. He ran that speed option and got a few decent runs on us, but we never let him break that long one and that was good to see.”

Eason did most of his work through the air. The junior hurler completed 35 of 58 pass attempts for 353 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions.

His favorite target was Walton, who caught 13 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns.

Cabot rolled up a whopping 577 yards of offense, including 537 on the ground.

Launius led the way with 251 yards and four touchdowns on just 16 carries. Conard carried just once in the second half for four yards. That brought his game totals to six carries for 127 yards and two touchdowns.

The Panthers go to Russellville to close out the season. The Cyclones are 1-8 and fell 27-7 to Conway on Friday.