Friday, August 08, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers are searching for starters

Leader sports editor

Energy has been high during the first week of preseason practice at Cabot High School, but progress is taking a bit longer than it has the last couple of seasons. The main reason for the slow progress is all the inexperience that will be relied upon this season. Cabot returns just three starters on offense and no one in the backfield. They were expecting six returning starters on defense, but that became four with the loss of two over the summer. Another projected starter transferred, leaving the potentially strong defense with some holes to fill as week one of the season approaches.

“We’re looking at starting maybe four sophomores right now,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “That’s not good.”

The head Panther also said there could be a few playing offense and defense, and wasn’t clear on which was worse, playing sophomores or playing people on both sides of the ball.

“It depends on how good those sophomores are,” Malham said.

Because of the inexperience, Cabot is still looking for the players that will fill in certain spots. That means many players are splitting practice time between offense and defense and coaches try to ascertain where each one fits most advantageously for the team.

“We’re going 90 minutes offense and 90 minutes defense,” Malham said. “We’re looking at different people in different areas. We got just about our whole secondary back so we should be pretty strong there. We lost two starters there but the ones we have back either started or got some playing time. But we’re replacing everybody in the offensive backfield. We’re not very experienced but we’ve got some guys we feel like can do a good job.”

Sophomore Jarrod Barnes has emerged as the probable starter at quarterback. Though last year’s starting safety/split end Jake Ferguson is working there as well and doing a good job.

“Jake will probably stay at wide receiver,” Malham said. “We’re pretty excited about what Jarrod Barnes can do. He’s got a lot to learn but he’s got some ability.”

Junior Kolton Eads will likely start at fullback, the feature position in Cabot’s Dead-T offense, though senior Jack Whisker has worked there as well. Whisker was the primary fill-in at fullback last year when 2,000-yard rusher Zach Launius missed two games with a concussion, but he will most likely start at linebacker this season.

“He (Whisker) started at linebacker for us last year too when (Jake) Vaughn was out,” Malham said. “We’re probably going to put Eads in there at fullback and Whisker at linebacker.”

All three projected starters that were lost played on the defensive line, combined with the loss of both tackles to graduation, and nose guard Tristan Bulice is the only starter returning on that unit. Cabot defensive coordinator Randall Black is excited about the one starter he’s got back.

“I really feel like he’s got a chance to be one of the best nose guards in the state,” Black said. “He’s a beast.”