Friday, May 03, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot upsets powerful Searcy

Leader sportswriter

When Cabot’s Jack Whisker goes for redemption, he goes all out.

That was evident by the sophomore goalkeeper’s performance in the overtime penalty-kick period of Cabot’s 3-1 upset victory over Searcy at Panther Stadium on Tuesday. Whisker, who committed a costly error that prevented a victory at Pulaski Academy four days earlier, shut out the Lions on all four attempts during the PK period to secure the victory for Cabot, handing Searcy its first and only 7A/6A East Conference loss in the process.

The Panthers (6-3-4, 4-3) had more to play for entering the contest as the Lions (13-3, 6-1) had already secured the No. 1 seed for the upcoming 6A state tournament, but that did not make Whisker’s job any easier in the final 13 minutes of regulation, when Searcy went on the attack in an attempt to break a 1-1 tie and avoid overtime.

Junior Trevor Reed tied the game for Cabot in the 12th minute of the second half with a perfect strike from 30 yards out, and the Panthers kept on the attack until Searcy closed out regulation by dominating time of possession with seven shots on goal in the final 12:35, all of which were saved.

“They were hitting hard,” Whisker said. “And I told the defense that we just needed to stay calm and keep playing through the game. I was ready for it, I just had to stay on my toes the whole time.”

A.J. Mazon was the first Searcy player to come up against Whisker in overtime, and found his shot aimed at the lower left corner rejected with a body block by Whisker after Cabot senior Daniel Silva found the football crossbar on the first attempt for the Panthers, leaving the score 1-1 after one round. Blakelin Devore put one through for Cabot during the second round of penalty kicks, while Whisker denied Cody Redman with a similar block to his first stop.

Kyle Edgar gave the Panthers a 3-1 lead when he was successful on a shot to the right side of the goal on Cabot’s third attempt while Whisker went 3-0 in overtime, this time against Connor McClellan. Adrian Martinez was unsuccessful on Cabot’s final attempt, making Whisker’s final face off against Searcy team captain Evan Scarborough a must-stop situation, and Whisker came through with another hand block.

Teammates tackled Whisker in a dog pile in front of the goal before lifting him up over their heads in a spirited celebration.

“That was insane,” Whisker said. “I’ve done something like that before, a couple of years ago, and it was only two. I was just reading the guys and hoping I could get it. I didn’t think I would be able to do that.”

The Lions took a 1-0 lead at halftime when wing Tanner Scarborough scored with 26 seconds remaining before intermission, and had several promising second-half drives that went high, wide or got denied by Whisker and the Cabot defense.

“I thought their keeper played real well,” Searcy coach Bronco King said. “As a matter of fact, I thought he was the difference in the ballgame. We had some opportunities to score in the first half and didn’t capitalize on those. We had some in the second half, but he really kept us out of it, he sure did.”

The win still did not assure the Panthers a berth in the 7A state tournament. The 7A conferences will not be decided until early next week, leaving Cabot in limbo as to its potential postseason plans, but that did not hamper the celebration.

“It was a good win, and it was a must win for us,” Cabot coach Steve Porter said. “It’s vindication for how well the boys have played all year. Not our best performance overall as far as the chances we created, but Searcy is an excellent team, I don’t think they’ve lost many games if any. We played with them and matched them. Physically, we can’t do that, but from an effort standpoint and a technical standpoint, we can.

“We really don’t like PK shootouts around here since we’ve lost two, but it was a great showing, and Jack’s performance on-goal was brilliant.”