Saturday, November 03, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot wears Lions down late in game

Leader sportswriter

In order for the Cabot Panthers to make a trip back to the class 7A state playoffs, a win in the regular season finale against a tough Searcy Lions team was a must.

The 7A/6A East matchup between the two respective teams looked as if it could’ve gone either way with the score tied 7-7 at the break, but the Panthers ground-and-pound style wore down the Lions’ defense in the second half as Cabot ran its way to a 35-13 victory Thursday at Panther Stadium.

“We didn’t make a lot of adjustments,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “We just executed a little bit better I think on both sides of the ball in the second half. We keep pounding it, that’s what we do. Zach Launius coming back, that helped us. He’s been out with a broken arm. This is his first time back.

“He was able to rotate in there with Kyle (Edgar). So to have a fresh fullback in there, they could kind of rotate, and both of them had good games. Zach’s a little quicker and a little faster. Kyle’s a little stronger, but they both run hard, and I think having (Launius) back helped us a little on offense.”

Cabot’s offense came out in the third quarter hitting on all cylinders. A 30-yard run by Launius on the fourth play of the drive, as well as 15 additional yards for a face mask penalty on the play, set up the Panthers for the go-ahead score.

Launius ran in the touchdown from 7-yards out two-plays later. The extra point gave the Panthers a 14-7 lead with 9:40 to play in the third quarter. Cabot scored again on its next possession on a 1-yard touchdown run by Rankin, which capped off a 13-play drive.

Searcy made it a one possession game when athletic senior quarterback Antwan Arnold scored another touchdown on the ground, this one from 2 yards out with 3:41 to play. But the extra point attempt was blocked by senior linebacker Ian Thompson to make the score 21-13.

After Cabot’s Conor Bennett covered Searcy’s on-side kick attempt at the 50-yard line, the Panthers (6-4, 4-3) all but sealed the win when Edgar broke free for a 40-yard touchdown run with 1:53 to play. The Lions (5-5, 4-3) committed their fifth turnover of the game when they mishandled the ensuing kickoff.

Cabot took over at the Searcy 38, and Edgar scored on the next snap by breaking free yet again for another long touchdown run. Marquez’s extra point made the score 35-13.

“I think we’re getting a little better,” Malham said. “We’re just going to sit back and see where we’re going to go next week. And then it becomes a one-game season. If you win, you know you keep going. Our kids have come back after two disappointing losses to Little Rock Central and West Memphis.

“Those were two games we let get away from us. These last two (games) have been really good. Searcy beat West Memphis last week, and Jonesboro was 7-1. So I feel like we’re playing a bit better, and maybe we’re peaking at the right time.”

On the opening kickoff, Cabot managed to force a turnover and get great field positioning after a Searcy fumble on the return gave the Panthers the ball at the Lions’ 32-yard line. Six plays later, the Panthers scored on a 1-yard touchdown run by Edgar. Jesus Marquez’s extra point gave Cabot a quick 7-0 lead.

The Panther offense stalled for the remainder of the half, and the Lions knotted up the score at seven with a 1-yard touchdown run by Arnold with 8:56 to play in the opening half.

Arnold had little trouble making plays with his feet through the first two quarters as he totaled 103 rushing yards at the break. With Arnold’s dual threat capabilities, Searcy tried to make something happen on its final drive of the half. But with less than a minute to go, senior defensive end Ben Powell stuffed Arnold at the line of scrimmage to put the Lions’ offense in a third-and-long situation.

Arnold was held to a 6-yard gain on the next play, which forced the Lions to punt. Cabot tried to make something happen as well with two straight passes by quarterback Kason Kimbrell to Russ Rankin for a total of 16 yards, but on Rankin’s second reception the clock ran out, ending the half.

Cabot finished the game with 400 total yards of offense, with 350 of those yards coming on the ground. Edgar led the Panthers with 132 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. Launius had 15 carries for 98 yards and one touchdown. Senior Max Carroll rushed for 74 yards on 10 carries.

Searcy totaled 280 yards of offense. Arnold accounted for all but 10 of those yards as he threw for 92 yards and ran for 178 yards and two touchdowns.