Tuesday, November 13, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers vs. Wildcats part two

Leader sports editor

Take two. North Little Rock and Cabot take the field for the second time this season when they meet at North Little Rock Stadium on Friday in the quarterfinals of the class 7A state tournament. The first meeting between the two teams came in week four of the season. It was the opening week of conference play and the Charging Wildcats took a 33-14 victory at Panther Stadium.

Cabot hit a slump a couple of weeks later, losing games in the waning moments to West Memphis and Little Rock Central. North Little Rock struggled the following week against Jonesboro, but went on to dominate all its opponents the last month and a half of the season.

Since Cabot’s losing streak, however, the Panthers have hit their stride. They clobbered Jonesboro at home and pulled away late to beat Searcy by three touchdowns in the final two games of the regular season. Last week, the Panthers controlled the tempo and the line of scrimmage in a 28-21 win over Bryant in the first round of the playoffs.

North Little Rock had a bye in the first round, which many coaches dislike. Wildcat coach Brad Bolding doesn’t have a problem with it.

“I look at that as an excuse to not play well,” Bolding said. “We were able to work on a lot of things last week and we got a lot of things in that are hard to work in when you’re trying to prepare for a specific team. So I kind of like having a week off.”

Cabot believes an advantage it could have this week is that it’s playing much better than it was in week four.

“I think we’re a lot better defensively,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “We’ve been playing some pretty good football on the defensive side. Of course North Little Rock has got talent everywhere. They’ve just been blowing everybody out. But we played them about as good as anybody. We had two long drives last time. We had a 15-play drive and a 17-play drive that we came up an inch short on. Hopefully we can move it on them again and go ahead and punch it in the end zone this time. If our defense can play better like it has been, who knows what might happen. We’re certainly glad for the opportunity to play them again. There aren’t many teams left playing and we’re one of them, so we’re going out there to give it our best shot.”

Cabot ran the option much more than usual against Bryant. That was primarily because the Hornets stacked the inside to take away the Panthers’ power running game. The option worked very well as halfback Chris Henry and quarterback Kason Kimbrell led the team in rushing yards last week.

Bolding said he expects to see more option this time around than last time.

“I would think so,” Bolding said. “They executed it very well with Bryant taking away the inside. They didn’t have anybody on the pitch man at times and Cabot took full advantage of that. Cabot’s a very good football team that does what it does very well. We’re going to have to spend a lot of practice time making sure we’re ready for that because I think we’ll see it quite a bit. The bottom line is we have to execute our game plan. We have to play football like we’re capable of playing. Here we are in the quarterfinals and there are no more easy games left.”