Saturday, November 23, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot bounces Tigers

Leader sports editor

The old adage is that it’s always difficult to beat a good team twice, but when Cabot met Little Rock Central for the second time this season, the second session was easier than the first. The Panthers rolled over the Tigers at Panther Stadium on Friday 35-7 to advance to the semifinal round, where they will face another previous foe, North Little Rock. The Panthers established control early by stopping Central after one first down, then scoring on their first two possessions.

“With a week off it takes a little while to get the engines revved up, but we got it going pretty quick and played pretty good on both sides of the ball,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “We gave up one big play on third and long, but that (Logan) Moragne, he’s a good athlete. We kept him contained most of the night, but he got a little space and that’s all he needs. I just thought both sides of the ball played pretty good. I’m sure there will be lots of mistakes when we watch the film, but we did what we needed to do and we get to move on.”

The first drive was all fullback Zach Launius, who broke the 1,500-yard mark for the season with 25 carries for 204 yards. He also scored all five Cabot touchdowns and now has 1,556 yards rushing this season.

The game was also highlighted by several big plays on defense.

The first came on Central’s third drive when junior defensive back Logan Melder knocked down a pass on third and 7. On Central’s next drive, Moragne got loose for 20 yards on the first play, but defensive end Brian Marshall put the Tigers on a hole on the next play by blowing up his blocker and knocking wingback Tyler Fountain backwards for an 8-yard loss.

Junior linebacker Jack Whisker made two critical plays. The first came late in the second quarter when, on a Central punt attempt, he was in the backfield, the punter had to pull it down and try to run, but Whisker tackled him for a 10-yard loss, setting up Cabot’s final touchdown of the first half. Whisker also intercepted a Cooper Westbrook pass right after a 24-yard gain early in the fourth quarter that all but sealed the win.

After a false-start penalty to start the game, Launius went 3 yards on first down, then broke one for 57 yards to the 3-yard line on the second play. He got the rest on the next play to put the Panthers up 7-0 with 8:59 left in the first quarter.

Central got one more first down before being forced to punt on its next drive, and Cabot scored again. It took a few more than three snaps, but the Panthers went 75 yards in 10 plays. The key play was a 26-yard gain on the option pitch from Kason Kimbrell on third and 6. That play took it to the 6-yard line, where Launius took the next handoff into the end zone. The extra point attempt hit the upright, leaving it 13-0 with 3:31 left in the opening frame.

Things bogged down for both teams for most of the second quarter. Each team received personal foul penalties on defense for late hits on opposing quarterbacks, and both were on third and 17. But neither offense was able to capitalize on the defensive mistakes. Central was unable to convert another first down, and tried a 35-yard field goal. Cabot defensive tackle Aaron Henry got a hand on the kick and it fell well short of the goal post.

Cabot’s first drive of the second quarter ended when Dylan Thompson fumbled at the end of a 9-yard run and Central covered it. The Panthers next drive looked stalled at the their own 46, but Central’s late hit kept it going. Still, Cabot turned it over on downs without another first down.

Central took over on its own 36 with 2:42 left in the half, and used just 20 seconds throwing three incomplete passes.

That’s when Whisker flew into the backfield to sack the punter.

Three Launius runs and a two-point conversion later, the Panthers led 21-0 with 46 seconds left in the half.

Cabot got the ball to start the second half and took 11 plays to go 54 yards for another score. Launius punched it in from 4 yards out on third and 1 with 6:42 left in the third quarter and the PAT made it 28-0.

The two teams traded three-and-out possessions before Central finally got on the board. The Tigers converted twice on third and long, and scored on second and 24 when Westbrook hit Moragne on a short inside screen. The tailback did the rest, first cutting up field between the hash marks, then finding a seam on the left side for a 47-yard touchdown reception.

Cabot wasted little time answering. After covering an onside kick attempt, Cabot picked up 2 yards on first down before a false-start penalty. On second down, Launius got loose again, this time for 50 yards and his fifth touchdown that set the final margin with 11:04 remaining in the game.

The Panthers gained 404 total yards while Central amassed just 182. Moragne finished with 133 total yards, 76 rushing and 47 receiving.

Cabot halfback Chris Henry had six carries for 64 yards.

The Panthers will host North Little Rock next Friday. The Charging Wildcats beat Bryant 28-7 and have not lost since falling 48-32 to Cabot in week four.

“We’ll get the tape and start work in the morning and see if we can beat them again,” Malham said of the Wildcats. “They’ve got more talent than anyone in the state so it’s going to be tough.”