Tuesday, October 14, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Win at Central is vital for CHS

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers will look to extend their 7A/6A-East Conference winning streak to three games Friday when they travel to Quigley-Cox Stadium in Little Rock to take on the Central High Tigers in a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Little Rock Central (3-3, 2-1) and Cabot (4-2, 2-1) are each coming off big week-six wins. The Panthers had their annual homecoming game last week, and despite a lengthy weather delay during the game and the distraction that can come with the homecoming festivities, the host team pummeled West Memphis, 42-7, to improve to 2-1 in conference play.

The Tigers dropped a 40-28 decision to Jonesboro in week five, but rebounded in a big way last week, wrecking Mountain Home’s homecoming en route to a dominant 49-7 win.

The win improved the Tigers’ conference record to 2-1, and if Cabot doesn’t show up ready to play Friday, head coach Mike Malham says his team could be in for a long night.

“They beat the heck out of Mountain Home last Friday night,” said Malham. “They’ve got some good talent. They’ve got some good athletes running around out there. They’re 3-3. They’ve played some good people.

“They got beat by (Fort Smith) Northside early, and that’s no slouch. Northside is 5-1 and tied for the lead in the West. In the four games we played that we won, we won pretty handily. We’ve got to play well.

“They’ve got talent. They’ve got some big kids in there, and they’ve got some speed. If we’re not ready to play, it could be a long night.”

The Tigers’ offensive formation is listed as the Power Spread, but Malham said Central will also get in the Power I formation, and that the standout for the Tigers on that side of the ball is senior quarterback Cooper Westbrook (6-2, 235).

In 11 games as the starter last season, Westbrook earned All-State honors after passing for 1,688 yards and 15 touchdowns, and in May, he advanced to the second round of the annual Elite 11 quarterback camp in Dallas.

“The quarterback is a dandy,” Malham said of Westbrook. “He’s been there for three years, and he’s a big kid that can throw the ball well. Offensively, they can put points on the board, no doubt about that.”

Defensively, Central is listed as a 4-3 base team, but Malham said the Tiger defense has lined up primarily in a five front this season, and that’s the formation he expects his offense to see Friday night.

“They’re a 50 like us,” Malham said. “They’ve got good skill people and their D-backs can run well, and they’ve got big kids on the line. They’re going to be as good a test as we’ve had since we played North Little Rock.

“They’ve been playing a lot of Spread teams. So, to me, it’s hard to gauge what they’re going to do against a team like us that likes to run it full time. I’ll find out a lot when we get into that first series.

“They’ll stack the box and they’ll come after you. We beat them twice last year. Of course, we had a great team last year, and the year before they beat us down there at Quigley. It was a tough ball game, and that’s what I expect this week.”

Cabot had some of its players sit out last week’s game against West Memphis, and some that suffered some minor injuries in that game, but Malham hopes a lot of those players will be ready to play Friday night.

“Holdyn Barnes will hopefully be back this week at corner,” Malham said. “He didn’t play last week with a sprained ankle. Jake (Ferguson) got a little tweak in the knee (against West Memphis). Hopefully, he’ll be ready to go Friday.”

Some of Cabot’s starters on the offensive line were also held out last week because of injuries, but Malham hopes they’ll be ready to play as well.

“Hopefully, we’ll be ready to go,” Malham said, “but it’s football. When you get to this point of the season you’re going to have some bumps and bruises. It helps when you have a little depth, which we really don’t have a lot of. So that could hurt us if some of these key players can’t play.”