Saturday, September 15, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Conway pulls away late, defeats Cabot

Special to The Leader

CONWAY — The Cabot Panthers moved up and down the field all night on Conway, but fell apart a few times in the red zone, dropping a 31-21 decision to the Wampus Cats at John McConnell Stadium on Friday. An interception in the end zone, a fumble and penalties all hampered good Panther drives and left the visiting team scoreless on three occasions.

Wampus Cat running back Jeff Anderson rushed for 219 yards on 25 carries and Conway came up with big plays on fourth downs on the way to the victory.

The Wampus Cats (2-0) played their first four-quarter game of the season after having games called off early because of lightning the first two weeks. Cabot fell to 2-1.

With most of the game played in a steady rain, the Wampus Cats were engaged in a old-style Cabot-Conway grind-it-out contest when Kevasia Tate turned the game around late in the third quarter. After Cabot had drawn within 17-14 on a 7-yard run by Kyle Edgar, the Conway defender tossed about Edgar on a sweep on fourth down and recovered the resulting fumble at the Conway 45.

Four plays later, quarterback Cody Rhodes found Brandon Cox all alone behind the Cabot defense for a 43-yard gain. Anderson scored from 4 yards out on third and one to put Conway up 24-14 with 8:25 left.

After the Panthers failed to convert on fourth down, T.J. Ruth gave the Cats some breathing room with a 16-yard run. Cabot scored in the final minute on a 29-yard run by Zachary Launius, who led the Panthers with 133 yards rushing.

The first half featured long drives by each team.

The Cats took the lead on their second possession, driving 91 yards in 10 plays using a steady dose of Anderson, who set up the touchdown with a 34-yard run. Brannon Kotch, an offensive lineman running from Conway’s “Big Cat” formation, scored from a yard out to put the Wampus Cats up 7-0 with 1:18 left in the first quarter.

Cabot drove to the Conway 23 but had a wide open receiver drop a probable touchdown pass on fourth down. The ’Cats then used Anderson, Kotch and Brandon Cox on a steady drive to the Cabot 15, where Matt Cummins booted a 32-yard field goal. Devin Dooley made a diving interception on fourth and inches at the Wampus Cats 30 to preserve Conway’s 10-0 lead going into halftime.

Cabot came back with its traditional grinding offense to drive 70 yards in 11 plays to draw with 10-7 with 7:31 left. The Panthers scored on a fourth-down pass from Kason Kimbrell to Keith Pledger.

With the rain subsiding, the Cats opened up their offense with Rhodes passing 37 yards to Cox and 19 yards to Austin Morgan to set up Anderson’s 14-yard run to extend Conway’s lead to 17-7 with 6:26 left in the third.

Cabot came back with a 47-yard drive with Edgar scoring on a sweep to pull within 17-14 with 4:26 left in the third.

Next week, the Panthers will open their 7A/6A East Conference schedule with a home game against North Little Rock at Panther Stadium. The Charging Wildcats improved to 2-1 with a 47-10 bludgeoning of Pine Bluff on Friday.

The Wampus Cats will begin 7A/6A Central Conference play on the road at Russellville next week. The Cyclones fell to 2-1 on the season with a heartbreaking 17-14 loss to Alma on Friday.