Friday, August 03, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot offense looks set

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers are 91 strong as the first week of summer practice wraps up today. The Panthers go in full pads for the first time this morning. Like most other teams, Cabot started Monday with helmets as the only equipment used. On Wednesday they added shoulder pads and will have live contact for the first time today.

Head coach Mike Malham has been pleased with how his team has performed so far, but wishes he could see more. With new, even stricter regulations regarding practice time, teams are only allowed to practice once per day until the second week of practice. That means Cabot has only practiced half as much as it has in years past.

“You can’t have two-a-days at all until the second week, and even then you can only do it every other day,” Malham said. “It’s like a picnic here now.”

Despite not practicing as much as Malham would like, the team has looked pretty good in the early going. The offense has looked particularly improved from where it was at this time last year. Several sophomores started on the offensive line last season, meaning everyone is back with a year of experience under their belts.

“The offense should be in pretty good shape,” Malham said. “They’ve looked pretty sharp so far. With all the returning starters on the line, and of course we had Launius, who as a sophomore, came on for us at fullback later in the year, we should be set for the next couple of years really. If everybody stays healthy.”

The injury bug has already bit the defense. Returning defensive back starter Chris Luna broke his ankle during 7-on-7 this summer. He is out indefinitely. Other projected starters in the secondary have missed practice for nagging injuries. The secondary was an area Cabot struggled greatly in last season. Despite the injuries, Malham thinks this year’s group will be improved from last year.

“We had to start some young guys back there too last year,” Malham said. “So we have guys coming back who are a little better than they were. So we should be better in the secondary. And we need to be.”

Cabot is replacing almost the entire defensive line. One player returns who got a good amount of playing time, but most are new to the starting role.

“I think we have some pretty good football players to step in there,” Malham said. “We’re just not going to have much experience right off the bat.”

Cabot’s first game will be Tuesday, Aug. 28 at War Memorial Stadium against Jacksonville.