Tuesday, November 06, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Hornets’ passing attack is Cabot’s concern

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers try to continue their turnaround this week when they head to Bryant for the first round of the class 7A playoffs. The Panthers were on the brink of collapse earlier this season when they dropped to 2-3 in league play with back-to-back losses to Little Rock Central and West Memphis, two games Cabot should have won.

Since then, the Panthers dominated heavily favored Jonesboro, and pulled away from Searcy for a three-touchdown win.

While Bryant’s formations are similar to Cabot’s last two opponents, the Hornets are not a run-first team like the Hurricanes and Lions. Bryant has averaged 43 points per game in conference play this season, and starters played little or no minutes in the second half of any of its five conference wins.

Leading the way for Bryant is quarterback Hayden Lessenberry. He cracked the 2,000 yards passing mark for the second-consecutive season last week with 400 yards passing.

The Hornets, are, however, entering the playoffs on a bitter note after losing their regular-season finale 42-35 to El Dorado. A win in that game would have made Bryant a number three seed and hosting Little Rock Central, a team its already beaten 28-7 this season.

Despite the loss, the offense was still very good. Bryant compiled nearly 500 yards of offense, with 400 of it coming through the air.

Bryant’s wide-open passing attack is the thing that most concerns Cabot coach Mike Malham, whose teams have struggled with that kind of offense in past playoff games.

“Their quarterback is as good as any we’ve seen and they have three wide receivers that can all hurt you,” Malham said. “The quarterback does a good job of know the offense and finding the open receiver, and he’s got plenty of good ones to throw to. They’ve been moving it on everybody they’ve played so one thing we’ll have to do is do our job on offense and play a little keep away. We need to limit their snaps with long drives. If we can’t do that, we’re going to be in some trouble.”

Cabot’s offense has been able to do that in recent weeks, and it finally seems to be at full strength now that the postseason has arrived. The Panthers have suffered several injuries to offensive players this year, mostly running backs. They expect to take the field in Saline County this Friday with its full slate of backs.

Starting fullback Zach Launius and starting halfback Max Carroll came back last week and knocked some of the rust off after sitting out several weeks with various injuries. Launius carried 16 times for 98 yards and Carroll had about 70 yards rushing in the game. Co-starting fullback Kyle Edgar has carried the bulk of the load in Launius’ absence, and halfback Chris Henry broke several long runs in Carroll’s absence.

“We’ve had pretty good depth at running back so it hasn’t hurt us a whole lot to be missing guys,” Malham said. “For a while there we started getting really thin, but it helps to be full strength this time of year. Launius gives us some speed at fullback we didn’t have without him. Of course Kyle is stronger and he’s hard to bring down. Having them both healthy gives some strengths we wouldn’t have without one or the other.”