Saturday, September 14, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot blasts through Rockets

Leader sportswriter

Cabot wore down Little Rock Catholic with its traditional power run game, but the Panthers made some plays through the air as well as they beat the Rockets 40-20 in nonconference action Friday at War Memorial Stadium.

The Panthers’ offense amassed 448 total yards in Friday’s win, bettering the Rockets’ 298. Cabot used a plethora of backs to rush for 371 yards in the game, but the 77 yards and two touchdowns through the air brought more balance to the offense than it has had in some time.

“It’s not really a new passing game,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “We ran this several years ago, but we haven’t done it in a while just because we didn’t have that kind of (athletic) kid. It’s simpler. It makes defenses balance up more and it stretches them more because there’s one more gap they’ve got to control.

“I just feel like we’re real thin on the offensive line as far as having enough linemen and we have the skill people, so you use what you got to your advantage. I feel like right now, going open does a lot more damage than going two tight like we’ve done the last several years.”

The kid Malham referred to is none other than junior Jake Ferguson, who is the only Cabot player that consistently plays both offense and defense. Ferguson had another big game against the Rockets as he caught four passes for 59 yards and two touchdowns, and intercepted a pass on defense early in the second half.

“Last year he had a great year in the secondary,” Malham said of Ferguson. “So we decided to go split this year like we used to do because he’s a difference maker. He can run and catch and can catch in a crowd. That’s why we put him out there to try and get some of those (defensive) guys out of the box.

“He caught several over the middle tonight and if they’re going to single cover him then we’ve got to get it to him. We feel like it’s going to take more than one to cover him. He makes a real difference.”

After forcing a three and out on the Rockets’ first possession, Cabot’s offense also went three and out, but an illegal participation penalty against Catholic’s defense gave Cabot a first down.

The Panthers made the Rockets pay for the infraction with a five-play drive that resulted in a 12-yard touchdown run by Preston Jones with 7:35 to play in the first quarter.

The extra point was good, but Cabot’s offense stalled for a couple of series and Catholic tied the score at 7-7 after a 31-yard touchdown run by D.J. Brown and a successful PAT with 2:22 to go in the first.

Cabot retook the lead with 7:46 to play in the second quarter on a 6-yard touchdown run by senior fullback Zach Launius that put the Panthers up 13-7. Cabot’s defense held Catholic scoreless for the remainder of the half, and its offense struck twice more before the break.

After forcing a Catholic turnover, the Panthers scored on the first play of the ensuing drive, thanks to a 55-yard scamper by Launius that pushed the Panther lead to 19-7. Cabot extended its lead to 26-7 with 43 seconds to play in the half after quarterback Kason Kimbrell connected with Ferguson on a 14-yard strike at the back of the end zone, and sophomore kicker Caleb Schulte put the extra point through the uprights.

Kimbrell hit Ferguson again for another score with 7:30 to play in the third quarter, this one from 17-yards out. The PAT was good to push the margin to 33-7. It took Cabot just a little more than two minutes to find the end zone for the final time. With 5:14 to play in the third, Kimbrell scored on a 33-yard option keeper, which capped a three-play drive. Schulte’s extra point made it 40-7 Cabot.

Catholic’s offense found the end zone for the first time in the second half on a 27-yard pass from Andre Sale to Brown with 35 seconds to play in the third quarter that cut the deficit to 40-14 after the successful PAT. With much of Cabot’s second unit in the game, Catholic (0-2) set the final score on a 9-yard run by senior running back Joe Mariani and a successful PAT with 3:28 to play.

Kimbrell’s 77 yards through the air came after completing 6 of 11 passes for two touchdowns and one interception. Launius led the Panthers’ ground game as he totaled 162 rush yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.

Kimbrell added 59 rush yards and one score on the ground. Chris Henry finished with nine carries for 79 rush yards, and Jones had all six of his carries for 39 yards and one touchdown in the first half.

Cabot (2-0) will face a much tougher challenge next week as it hosts Conway in the final nonconference game of the season. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.