Tuesday, October 09, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers looking to slow down fast Tigers

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers hit the road again this week after a convincing 42-17 victory over Mountain Home on homecoming last Friday. The Panthers travel to Little Rock to take on Central High at storied Quigley-Cox Stadium. The Tigers are a team that has managed just one win, but a team that still worries head coach Mike Malham.

Two of Central’s three conference games have been against two of the better teams. The Tigers are coming off a 20-7 loss to West Memphis. The week before they fell 35-24 to Jonesboro. They started league play with a 19-14 loss at Searcy.

“They have a lot of good athletes. They just haven’t been able to put it together yet,” Malham said of Central. “They have big-play potential and they’ve scored on a lot of big plays this year. Nobody has just beaten them bad. They’re going to get it together one of these games and they’ll be a dangerous team when that happens. They are a dangerous team. We just have to keep it from happening this week.”

Cabot is getting close to full strength again since injuries have depleted the offensive and defensive backfields.

“We’ve had a lot of injuries, especially with the running backs,” Malham said. “We played last week without three of our starting backs, really four. (Max) Carroll got a concussion the week before. (Chris) Henry and (Kyle) Edgar didn’t play in the second half. Henry got sick and Edgar got a hip pointer. Of course our fullback (Zach) Launius is out. Hopefully everybody else will be back and ready to play this Friday.”

Tight end Keith Pledger moved to fullback in last week’s game after Edgar was injured. He carried six times for 40 yards. The other tight end, Brandon Boatright, played quarterback the last two weeks with starter Kason Kimbrell out for one game and backup Grant Bell lost for the season. Boatright played well, especially running the option, but with backup tight end Josh Sorrell hurt against Mountain Home, and Kimbrell likely to be back to full speed, Boatright will go back to tight end.

“We’ve just had all these injuries,” Malham said. “We had some depth and were able to get through it so far, but we’re starting to get a little thin.”

Playing so many players out of position may have contributed to the Panthers’ turnover problems last week. Cabot gave the ball up five times to the Bombers, but Malham isn’t using injuries as an excuse.

“You just can’t do that no matter who’s in there,” Malham said. “I like the way we’re moving the ball. I think we scored every time we didn’t turn it over, but you can’t do that against very many teams and expect to win.”

Last year the Tigers (1-5, 0-3) beat Cabot 41-36 with a touchdown in the final minute right after Cabot scored to take the lead. Malham doesn’t want to see another game like that, and doesn’t expect to. “Last year was a scorefest,” Malham said. “I feel like our defense is improving. Mountain Home had scored 31 points a game. They basically had one good drive on us and got a field goal. We were up 35-3 pretty early in the third quarter and they were able to score a couple times at the end when we had a lot of backups on the field. Overall I think we’re getting a little better on defense. We’re going to need to be because if you make mistakes against a team with the athletes Central’s got, you’re going to be in trouble.”