Monday, October 28, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers blow by Devils in big rout

Leader sports editor

West Memphis was the unquestionable underdog, but Cabot was not a certain lock to win. Whatever chance the Blue Devils thought they had when they arrived at Panther Stadium Friday night dissipated quickly.

The end result was a 49-7 blowout as the Panthers dominated every facet of the game. The Blue Devils hit a few big pass plays for their one touchdown in the second half, but couldn’t sustain any drives as the Panther defense shut down the Blue Devil running game.

“We pretty much controlled both lines of scrimmage and did what we had to do,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “We had a busted coverage or two on defense and we did that last week too. We’ve got to fix that. But I was worried about them holding onto to that football. That No. 32 is tough and they got some good looking athletes. But we didn’t give them much in the running game and I was pleased to see that.”

West Memphis (2-6, 2-3) got the ball first and went three and out. Cabot then scored, and continued to do so. The Panthers scored touchdowns on five of their six first-half drives while the defense stifled the Blue Devils at every turn.

West Memphis appeared to have a good handle on Cabot’s main weapon, fullback Zach Launius. He had just 9 total yards on his first four carries, so Cabot switched gears and the Blue Devils were caught off guard.

On second and 19 after a penalty and a dropped pass, the inside counter handoff to halfback Chris Henry left the 5-foot-7, 150-pound senior all alone on the right hash mark and he out-raced the defense to the end zone for a 52-yard score with 8:33 left in the first quarter.

The two teams went three and out on their next possessions before West Memphis finally got a first down. Just one though, as that drive stopped when nose guard Tristan Bulice tackled tailback Kam Pittman for a 5-yard loss on third and 10 from the Devil 19.

Cabot (8-0, 5-0) took over on the West Memphis 32 and needed just three plays to score again. All three were the fullback up the middle, with Launius taking it 26 yards on the third play for a 14-0 lead with 1:46 left in the opening quarter.

Another three-and-out series was forced when Bulice made another tackle-for-loss on third and long.

Cabot started at the WMHS 40 and scored in five plays, with Launius scampering 27 yards up the middle for the touchdown. Trevor Reed’s third extra point made it 21-0 with 8:59 left in the first half.

The Blue Devils finally put together a nice drive, gaining three first downs and driving to the Cabot 32. There, facing fourth and 2, they went for it all, but Jordan Burke knocked the pass down inside the 10 to give the Cabot offense possession.

Cabot survived its second fumble on the second play. Two plays later, Launius again took the handoff up the middle and ran untouched between the hash marks for 57 yards and his third touchdown of the game.

West Memphis hit a big pass on the next drive and got to the Cabot 9-yard line, but went backwards from there. On second and 5, the Blue Devils jumped off sides. After an incomplete pass, a holding penalty pushed it back to the 24.

Fullback Jarvis Cooper picked up 18 yards on third and 20. But on fourth and 2, Burke came up big again, this time in run defense. The sweep pitch went to Cooper, but Burke hit him for a 2-yard loss to give the Panthers the ball with 1:06 remaining.

Launius almost broke another one on first down, but was caught after a 24-yard gain.

After two incomplete passes, including Jake Ferguson’s third drop, halfback Preston Jones took the option pitch 52 yards to the West Memphis 15. Launius did the rest, going 8 and 7 yards for his fourth touchdown with 16 seconds left in the half and a 35-0 lead.

Cabot went with a backup unit in the offensive backfield to start the second half and rotated backup linemen in and out with starters. The starting defensive secondary played the whole game with backup defensive linemen.

The Panthers got the ball first and scored on a seven-play, 65-yard drive. Fullback Jack Whisker ran five times for 59 of those yards, including a 35-yard run and a 5-yarder for the touchdown with 7:29 left in the third quarter. Reed’s extra point made it 42-0.

West Memphis finally got on the board with back-to-back long passes. Quarterback Parker Grigsby hit receiver Demarcus Rivers for a 46-yard gain to the 34-yard line. On the very next play, Grigsby found Harrison Cole on a deep crossing pattern for the score. The PAT made it 42-7 with 5:18 left in the third.

Cabot punted for only the second time on its next drive, and then forced a punt by West Memphis. A complete backup unit, including the third string backfield, took over at the Blue Devil 25 after Ferguson made a 30-yard punt return.

Senior Dylan French, junior Jason Shrunk and sophomores Jess Reed and Kolton Eads each had carries, with Eads getting the final 3 yards and the score with 4:25 left in the game.

Cabot finished with 401 total yards with 400 of it on the ground. Launius led the way with 13 carries for 168 yards and four touchdowns – all in the first half.

Whisker had nine carries for 78 yards and a score. Jones carried three times for 60 yards and Henry had three carries for 51 and a touchdown.

West Memphis totaled 228 yards. Grigsby completed seven of 14 pass attempts for 160 yards. Cooper carried 18 times for 68 yards and caught two passes for 32.

The Panthers start a two-game road stint to close the season at Jonesboro next week.

The Hurricane routed Searcy, Cabot’s final regular-season opponent in two weeks, 40-0 on Friday. West Memphis plays at Searcy.