Tuesday, October 16, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot’s offense has to improve

Leader sports editor

The road doesn’t get any easier for the Cabot Panthers this week as they travel to Crittenden County to take on the West Memphis Blue Devils. The Panthers are coming off a disappointing 21-14 loss at Little Rock Central, and now must face a Blue Devils’ team that has won its last two games, including a 20-7 win over those same Central Tigers that beat Cabot last week.

West Memphis has struggled at times this season against speedy teams. The Blue Devils lost 42-0 to North Little Rock and 30-21 to Jonesboro, but in their five wins, have given up an average of just 11 points per game.

Linebacker Jarvis Cooper (6-3, 235) anchors the West Memphis defense.

“He gets after it,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said of Cooper. “He makes a lot of big plays. We may have to double team him. It ought to be interesting.”

Cooper is far from the only playmaker for the Blue Devils. On offense, tailback Kendall Allen and quarterback Kody Frasure move the team forward. The Blue Devils also have a big defensive line that could make running the ball up the middle difficult.

“They’ve got good athletes,” Malham said. “They always have. We’re not going to be able to play like we did last Friday night and win. We’re going to have to play a lot better. Hopefully we can go over there and not help them out. Hopefully we’ll block.”

Malham was not pleased with his team’s run blocking against the Tigers, though it’s been one of the team’s strengths all season.

“I don’t know, I thought it was our worst night offensively all year,” Malham said. “We moved the ball pretty well early on. But in the second half we missed blocks. I was just disappointed with the line play. Most of those kids played last year, started as sophomores. You’d think we’d be getting better, but it seemed like last week we went backwards a little bit.

“But they work hard. We’ll probably get that corrected and hopefully play a lot better.”

The Panthers gained just 220 yards of offense last week. It was the first time this season they have not exceeded 300 total yards.

Defensively the Panthers played well, except for one blown assignment on a deep pass and three critical pass interference calls. Two of them came on Central’s game-winning drive, one of those on fourth down and 9.

“One of them was obvious but the other two I thought were kind of picky,” Malham said. “We got beat over the top late in the second half, but other than that I thought the defense did pretty well. The secondary did a pretty good job of covering their receivers.”

Right after Central’s go-ahead touchdown, Cabot’s Chris Henry returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but it was called back for an illegal block. Malham had no qualms with the call.

“It was a good call,” Malham said. “It was a stupid block because he was off and running. He was going to score. We blew our chances and they played well, that’s what it comes down to. They basically out-played us.”