Saturday, October 27, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot blows off Hurricane

Leader sports editor

Jonesboro took the opening possession of the game at Panther Stadium on Friday and marched right down the field to start the game.

The Jonesboro holder dropped the snap on the extra point and it was all down hill from there for the visiting Hurricanes, as Cabot scored 38 consecutive points en route to a 38-12 victory.

Jonesboro quarterback D.J. Anderson hit receiver Kevontae Pope for a 23-yard scoring strike on third and 5 fewer than four minutes into the game. The missed extra point left it 6-0 with 8:42 remaining in the first quarter, and Cabot dominated the rest of the way.

“Just right off the cuff I’d say I was totally shocked,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “We played like we wanted to come out and play some football. I think they realized it’s now or never and we’ve got to get to work.”

The Panthers’ defense physically whipped Jonesboro’s offense after the game’s opening drive. Cabot dropped Jonesboro for lost yardage seven times, forced one interception, one fumble and held two-time all-state running back Martin Stafford to 98 yards on 21 carries. Stafford got 48 of those on two carries, and had just 10 yards on five carries in the second half until Cabot pulled its starters and Stafford reeled off an 18-yard run.

The biggest hit of the night was delivered by sophomore defensive back Jacob Ferguson. His hit separated Jonesboro’s all-state receiver Kevontae Pope from the ball at the Cabot 36-yard line, where junior Colby Ferguson recovered it to secure the Panthers’ fourth takeaway of the game.

“The defense was stingy,” Malham said. “That first drive they picked their way down the field, but after that, the defense played really good. There were some good licks out there by that defense tonight. If we can keep playing that way we’re going to have a chance. We’ve still got to win next week too, but it sure feels better than the last two weeks, I’m telling you.”

Special teams was a major downfall for the Golden Hurricanes, especially in the second half. Jonesboro fumbled four kicks and two were recovered by the Panthers. Cabot’s first touchdown of the second half came after a fumbled punt was covered by Matt Griffin at the 11-yard line. Fullback Kyle Edgar punched it in two plays later from 3 yards out to make it 28-6 with 9:46 left in the third quarter. The two teams traded possessions before Jonesboro took over again at its 14 after fumbling, but covering, another Cabot punt.

The drive got out to the 42-yard line before a sack by Griffin and Ben Powell forced another Jonesboro punt. The punt snap was high and once again Griffin was there to scoop it up at the 2-yard line and step into the end zone.

Cabot capped its final scoring drive with a 26-yard field goal by Jesus Marquez with 5:03 left in the game.

“I don’t know if Jonesboro played that bad or we played that great, but it was probably a little of both,” Malham said. “They did help us out but the kids got after it. Offensively they started moving the ball like old times.”

Cabot’s offense didn’t get things rolling right away. The Panthers didn’t score until their third possession, and it came rapidly.

Halfback Chris Henry took a handoff left 74 yards for Cabot’s first touchdown of the game on first down. Marquez’s extra point gave the Panthers a 7-6 lead with 11:50 left in the first half.

After Cabot’s defense stuffed Jonesboro for a three-and-out series, Henry struck again. Again on first down and again from the 26-yard line, Henry got just 56 yards this time, getting dragged down from behind at the Hurricane’s 18.

It took Cabot six plays from there to score, with fullback Kyle Edgar getting the last 4 yards to make it 14-6 with 6:06 left in the half.

Jonesboro dropped the sky kick on the ensuing kickoff and Scott Burnett covered it for Cabot at the Jonesboro 34.

From there, the Panthers needed eight plays to get into the end zone with Edgar again plowing in from 2 yards out. The extra point made it 21-6 with three minutes remaining until halftime.

Cabot tried an on-side kick on the next kickoff and almost got it, snaring the ball in the air as the Jonesboro up-man called fair catch. The play was ruled interference and Jonesboro took over at the Cabot 41-yard line.

The Hurricanes threatened the score, driving down to the Cabot 9-yard line. Facing third and a yard to go, Colby Ferguson blew up a run to the left.

Ferguson didn’t get to make the tackle after being dragged down by his jersey from behind, but his presence in the backfield halted Stafford in his tracks. He tried to reverse field, but Seth Hoggard caught him for a 16-yard loss to set up fourth and 15 from the 25.

Cornerback Jordan Burke then intercepted an Anderson pass in the end zone to end the threat with 31 seconds left in the second quarter.

Cabot totaled 293 yards of offense, with 224 coming in the first half. Henry, who did not carry the ball in the second half, finished with eight carries for 152 yards and a touchdown. Kyle Edgar had 21 carries for 74 yards and three touchdowns.

The Panthers will host Searcy on Thursday to close out the regular season.