Tuesday, September 18, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers hosting Wildcats

Leader sports editor

One of the key tenants of football is to have a short memory. Things go wrong and you have to learn not to dwell on it and move on. When things go right, you have to learn not to bask in it and move on. When Cabot hosts North Little Rock on Friday to open 7A/6A East conference play, each team will be in one of those modes.

The home team will have to forget about the penalties, mistakes and turnovers that cost it a chance to beat rival Conway last Friday, while North Little Rock must guard against getting too comfortable after putting on its best performance to date in a 47-10 shellacking of a talented Pine Bluff team.

The Panthers are averaging about 360 yards per game, almost all on the ground, but in its first defeat last week, thwarted its own drives with procedure penalties, fumbled snaps and dropped passes.

“We shot ourselves in the foot with penalties,” Malham said of his team’s 31-21 loss. “We got down there close to the end zone a few times, got a couple of procedure penalties in a row, a fumbled snap. We had second and five and ended up with third and fifteen. Then of course we had the dropped pass in the end zone. You just can’t make mistakes like that and expect to beat good teams. We’ve got to move forward now and get some things corrected.”

North Little Rock gave up two long drives to start the game, but held the Zebras out of the end zone and gave up just three points. After making an adjustment, the Charging Wildcats dominated the rest of the game, scoring 47 unanswered points before giving up a mop-up touchdown late in the game.

The Wildcats were coming off a bad performance in its only loss of the season at Longview, Texas, so head coach Brad Bolding knows his team can’t afford to become overconfident.

“We keep it pretty low key,” Bolding said. “We don’t get too rambunctious. We’ve had a couple of letdowns where I don’t think we’ve kept the intensity up and we’ve worked on that I think we have that corrected.”

Cabot will also try to forget about last season’s game against North Little Rock. The Wildcats won that game 48-0 after leading just 7-0 with three minutes left in the first half.

Cabot fumbled the ball in the red zone then gave up a big play on the ensuing snap. The Panthers then fumbled the kickoff and gave up another score right before halftime.

Malham calls the last two quarters of that game the “worst half of Cabot football I’ve seen in a quite a while.”

That game, though, was the beginning of a turnaround for the Panthers. The offense began to perform well from that point and they entered last week’s game on a four-game winning streak.

“We started looking a lot better after that game last year,” Malham said. “This year I thought we’d made some significant improvement each game up until this last one. This one I almost want to say we took a step backwards. Hopefully we can get rid of some mistakes and give North Little Rock a run for their money.”

Conway beat Cabot on the ground. Running back Jeff Anderson carried 35 times for 210 yards as the Wampus Cats moved it up and down the field.

“They had a good running game and did to us what we like to do to people,” Malham said. “They held onto the ball and forced us to make plays when we had the chance. Both teams were up and down the field, they just got it in more times than we did.”

Conway’s success running the ball is a concern for Malham.

“It is a concern and it’s something we’re going to have to get better at because North Little Rock has just as many, probably more weapons than Conway,” Malham said. “(Altee) Tenpenny is not the only weapon they have. He didn’t even play against us last year and they’ve got them all back from last year too. It’s going to be a challenge to stop them but we’re going to do whatever we need to do to score points.”

Stopping Cabot’s offense has become a difficult task for opponents, even more difficult now that almost no one runs the same offense as the Panthers. North Little Rock did a superb job of stopping it last year, and Bolding believes it’s partly due to his team’s ability to simulate it in practice.

“We simulate it fairly well I think,” Bolding said. “From the standpoint that we have some big physical guys that give us a good look. We’ll work it about as well as we can but you’re never going to get it perfect. Other than we don’t really change up a lot of things as far as what we do in practice. The things we’re focusing on are the mental errors and mistakes we’re still making. Watching film of ourselves, there is still a lot of correcting that we need to do. So our main focus is really on ourselves. There are a few adjustments you have to make when you play a team like that, but we feel like if we can eliminate our own mistakes we can be pretty good. Our starting defense has only had 13 points scored on them all year, and really just six if you don’t count that bogus touchdown they gave Longview. These kids have a really nasty mentality. They like to get in there and mix it up. We like our defense.”