Tuesday, October 07, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers need win over WM

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers didn’t go the usual route and pick a pushover for homecoming this season. The Panthers will have to deal with the full-week of distractions that come along with homecoming before dealing with the West Memphis Blue Devils at 7 p.m. Friday.

While West Memphis has a strong tradition, making it to four state championship games in the last decade, it is struggling under a new coach and system so far this season.

The Blue Devils are 2-3 with wins over Forrest City and Marion, but were upset 13-12 last week against Searcy.

“They got beat by a point last week but I don’t know, they’ve got some good-looking athletes out on that field,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “I know we’d better not take them lightly because this means a lot. That’s a 7A team and we’re 0-1 against 7A teams in our conference. With the way these conferences are set up now, you got to think North Little Rock is going to win out, so that leaves two slots between us and two other teams. Beating the 6A teams don’t mean anything anymore. So if we don’t take care of business, we could be in trouble.”

It’ll be the second-straight week the Panthers have faced a team from Crittenden County that wears red, white and blue, has a first-year coach that is switching the offense from a T formation to the spread offense. But West Memphis is doing it better than Marion. The Blue Devilsbeat the Patriots 41-0 in the conference opener. Cabot just beat Marion last week 42-6, but was up 42-0 at halftime.

“Well they helped us right off the bat,” Malham said of Marion. “We covered a fumble on the 6-yard line and scored. Then we held them and they only got the punt to the 35. So we didn’t have far to go for our first two scores.”

The Panthers have been more balanced on offense than a year ago, spreading the ball around to several different players, whereas last season fullback Zach Launius averaged 30 carries per game and went over the 2,000-yard mark.

Four different players have carried for more than 100 yards so far this season. Last week fullback Kolton Eads had 18 carries for 131 yards and two touchdowns. He was the only player over 100 in that game, primarily because he and the rest of the starters did not play at all in the second half.

For the past two seasons, Cabot has played with one tight end and one split end, but went back to the two-tight set most of the time last week. That was because starting split end Jake Ferguson had missed most of the week of practice with an illness. Sophomore Jack Teague played the second tight end most of the game. Center Justin Hagar also sat out last week and Kameron Eide stepped into his spot. But Malham expects everyone to be healthy and ready to go this week. In fact, Ferguson played on defense, and even caught Cabot’s only pass of the game for a 45-yard touchdown.

“I think Jake is fine and everybody else should be ready to go,” Malham said.

Malham says the keys to victory are pretty simple, and not much different than any other week.

“We just need to do what we do,” Malham said. “Play solid defense and hang onto that football. We usually do pretty good when we hang onto the football.”