Tuesday, July 10, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers even at Catholic 7-on-7

Leader sportswriter

There was something different about the way the Cabot Panthers’ offense looked in the 7-on-7 football meet Monday at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

Cabot’s traditional run-heavy Dead-T offense was put aside for the six-team, all-passing exhibition, and the Panthers finished their first game with an 11-8 win over Vilonia. Cabot lost its next two, 15-3 to Little Rock Catholic and 18-3 to 7A/6A East conference foe Little Rock Central. But Cabot rebounded in its final game of the day with a 12-0 win over Benton to finish on a high note.

Although the Panthers won’t put their main focus on moving the ball through the air this upcoming season, several of their opponents will. Cabot entered the meet with the primary intention of testing its depth in the secondary, and strengthening some of its weaknesses on both sides of the ball through competitive repetition.

“That’s our weak part,” said Cabot defensive coordinator Randy Black about the secondary. “We played nine kids today, so we didn’t just play our best group. We have to find some kids. It’s still wide open. We had some that made some plays, but we’re not doing the little things right.”

It wasn’t just the secondary where the Panthers used their depth. In the first 15-minute game against Vilonia, backup quarterback Grant Bell was 3 for 3 passing, including a 15-yard touchdown pass, followed by a successful two-point conversion which ended up being the final possession of the game.

Cabot didn’t have any luck moving the ball in its next two games against Catholic and Central, but scored its three points in both games on interceptions from the secondary. According to traditional 7-on-7 scoring rules an interception results in three points for the defense, plus possession at the 40-yard line.

In the Panthers’ fourth game of the day against Benton, the Cabot secondary played lights out, intercepting the ball on Benton’s first drive. Bell came in again to relieve starting quarterback Kason Kimbrell about halfway through the contest, and threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to put the game away. The Cabot defense finished the game as it started, intercepting the ball on Benton’s final possession to earn the 12-0 shutout win.

Even though the Panthers were a bit out of their element in the all-passing competition, Black won’t use that as an excuse. Instead, Black sees where improvements need to be made if the team expects to compete for a conference championship this fall.

“Definitely, we have to talk and communicate better,” Black said. “We did a bad job of talking and making sure everyone was on the same page. I did see the desire. We got after it and we hustled. We have some kids that want to play and they’re trying hard. So, bottom line, I like the desire. But we have to get smarter.”

Despite lack of communication at times, the Panthers’ secondary grabbed a total of five interceptions in the four 15-minute games played. Kimbrell was 6-18 passing combined on the day for 59 yards. Bell was 8-17 passing for 89 yards and two touchdowns.