Wednesday, October 09, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers hit the road needlessly

Leader sports editor

The Cabot football team hits the road for its longest trip of the season, but that shouldn’t cause much concern for the class 7A, 5-0 Panthers. They travel to Mountain Home to take on the 0-5, class 6A Mountain Home Bombers in another conference mismatch that is the result of bad policy by the Arkansas High School Activities Association and its voting members.

Mountain Home submitted a proposal over the summer that both decreased disparity and travel time across the board for the upcoming two seasons, but it was rejected in favor of a new system that keeps the same basic conferences, but doesn’t count some of them as conference games.

So this Friday there is a mismatch even more sizable than the one Cabot played last week when it beat Marion 49-10, invoking the mercy rule at halftime and sidelining three Patriots, one of which was carted off on a stretcher and left the game in an ambulance.

Football, by its nature, is a dangerous sport, but the AHSAA staff, board of directors and voting members must ask themselves if a few of the injuries like that may not have been avoided if they weren’t pitting out-manned teams against larger schools on a weekly basis.

Mountain Home faces that possibility this week, and Cabot risks getting players injured in a game almost four hours away against a team that has little chance of winning.

Nonetheless, the game will be played, and Cabot coach Mike Malham doesn’t take any team lightly.

“You just have to stay focused and guard against a letdown,” Malham said. “We did that pretty well last week. Marion broke one big play on us so we know you can’t relax. Mountain Home has a really good quarterback so you have to be ready for him. They haven’t had any trouble moving the ball. They’ve had trouble stopping people, but they’ve moved it and scored pretty well all year. You let your focus fall off, turn that thing over a couple of times and you got yourself in a fight.”

Mountain Home coach Benjamin Mahan knows his team faces a huge uphill battle and will perhaps need Cabot to not be at its best, but his team doesn’t plan to come into the game defeated.

“Everybody of course is going to say, you know, it’s Cabot, you’re going to get beat and just get ready for next game,” said Mahan. “But what a great opportunity for our kids to show the kind of character they have. We’re coming in there to play hard and who knows, a missed block or two, they put the ball on the ground, we can be hanging right in there.”

The Bomber quarterback is Drake Walker and he has been responsible for most of Mountain Home’s offensive production this season. Mahan runs the spread with Walker making the zone read and keeping most of the time.

“The defense is going to get a challenge,” Malham said. “That quarterback is a threat and they really have nothing to lose. They can gamble all they want, do all kinds of crazy stuff and we have to be ready for anything. They haven’t slowed people down much on defense, but all it takes is a turnover here or there to change a ball game.”

Mountain Home hasn’t moved the ball on everyone its played. The offense has been much more efficient since conference began. The Bombers opened the season with a 47-0 loss to Rogers, then fell 44-7 to class 5A rival Harrison. Week three saw a 20-6 loss to Little Rock Parkview before opening league play with a 46-35 home loss to Marion. Last week the Bombers fell in the waning moments at Searcy 29-28.