Saturday, October 20, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Blue Devils run down Panthers

Special to The Leader

WEST MEMPHIS – For three quarters, the Cabot Panthers had West Memphis on the ropes.

Despite getting shut out of the end zone, the Panther offense was grinding it out well enough to make place kicker Jesus Marquez the hero of the game. But then came the fourth quarter.

A fumbled punt and two consecutive killer illegal procedure penalties opened the door for the Blue Devils, who erased a 20-9 deficit after three quarters to earn a 23-20 victory over Cabot.

“We made the mistakes, yes,” said Cabot head coach Mike Malham. “But you’ve also got to tip your hat to West Memphis.”

The Panthers (3-4 overall, 2-3 in the 7A/6A-East Conference) completely shut down the West Memphis ground game, which is led by two of the better backs in the conference in senior tailback Kendell Allen and junior fullback Jarvis Cooper, both of whom were coming off two 100-yard games the previous week.

Cooper got his yards, as he rushed for 100 on 18 carries. But they were very tough yards, and through three quarters he had only 74 yards. Cabot’s defense held West Memphis to 132 yards on the ground, or 91 below its season average.

West Memphis head coach Lanny Dauksch knew he might be in trouble if the Panthers goaded the Blue Devils into a grind-it-out affair. He tried unsuccessfully to get his aerial game going through three quarters, and one instance cost the home team dearly. Cabot’s Jacob Ferguson snared a Kody Frasure pass that was batted down near the line of scrimmage and raced 65 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Frasure got it going in the fourth quarter after a fumbled punt gave West Memphis (6-2, 3-2) its window of opportunity. He completed his first three passes of the quarter, the third of which went for 31 yards and a touchdown to DeAnfernee Davis that cut Cabot’s lead to 20-15.

“The biggest play of the night was the fumbled punt,” said Malham. “That swung the momentum big time over to (West Memphis’) side.”

With a little more than eight minutes to play, the Panthers had to continue to move the ball, yet keep the clock moving. They failed at both.

With only one penalty through three-and-a-half quarters, Cabot’s first two snaps following West Memphis’ touchdown resulted in two illegal procedure penalties that forced the Panthers into big-play situations.

A three-and-out gave West Memphis the ball at its 37 and this time Frasure’s passes finally loosened up the Panther run defense. Frasure completed only one pass on the drive, but a crucial pass interference call on Cabot sucked the life out of the Panther defense.

Cooper ended up with an 11-yard touchdown with 3:44 to play in the game and his two-point conversion gave the hosts a 23-20 lead.

“Everybody’s been able to throw on us this year,” said Malham. “We’ve got a good run defense, but we just give up too many big plays in the air. We knew West Memphis was more of a running team, but they’ve shown flashes of being able to throw it this year, too.”

Still with plenty of time to move into Marquez’s field-goal range (he boomed a 40-yard field goal on the final play of the first half), Cabot was hoping to catch the Blue Devil defense napping on first down. Malham called for a fumblerooski for lineman Tommy Pledger, but the Blue Devils snuffed it out quickly and so effectively that it goaded Pledger into a personal foul following the play, further complicating matters for Cabot.

A fourth down and 23 attempt ended with a 3-yard loss on a pass from Brandon Boatright to Timothy Pledger, which effectively ended the night for Cabot.

Marquez was 2-for-3 on field goals. He hit on a 21-yarder in the third quarter to give the Panthers a 20-9 lead. Cabot’s first touchdown came on a 2-yard run by Kyle Edgar that gave the visitors a 7-3 margin. Cabot was held to 135 yards on the ground and it was only able to connect on two passes for 26 yards.