Tuesday, August 25, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers cruise in benefit

Leader sports editor

The Cabot football coaches took a cautious approach to the Panthers’ complete domination of Lake Hamilton in Monday’s preseason scrimmage at Panther Stadium. In the controlled event where the teams traded 15-play drives regardless of scores or failure to convert first downs, Cabot scored nine touchdowns to zero for the Wolves.

Lake Hamilton’s only score came after a 15-play drive failed to accomplish much, and the coaches agreed to let the Wolves’ special teams unit attempt a field goal, which it made to end its first drive.

After that, Cabot scored its nine touchdowns on five drives. The first team had three possessions and scored six times. The second team had one possession and also scored twice, though the final two touchdowns were a mixture of first and second team offensive players against Lake Hamilton’s first-team defense. The other touchdown was an interception return for a touchdown by defensive lineman Lino Garcia.

Cabot coach Mike Malham was pleased with the outcome, but hesitated to say it’s a sign of things to come.

“Their coach had said he didn’t think they were going to be as strong this year as some of the teams they’ve had,” Malham said. “And I think he was right. Of course our second group was so much better than theirs, I think that’s where we really poured it on them.”

Malham also wasn’t pleased with his team’s two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, both on the first team.

“I was pleased with the effort, but we’ve got to cut out all the stupid things we do,” Malham said.

Garcia’s interception re-turn of a tipped pass was the first touchdown of the game.

Cabot’s offense then scored two touchdowns on its first 15-play possession after holding Lake Hamilton. The first was a 15-yard run by junior fullback Alex Roberts on the drive’s eighth play. After the touchdown, the team reset at its own 25 and got back to the Lake Hamilton 15-yard line with one play left. That’s when junior quarterback Jarrod Barnes hit Dylan Smith in the corner for Cabot’s second score.

Caleb Schulte hit the third of his nine successful extra points to give Cabot the imaginary 21-0 lead.

Cabot’s second unit took the ball next for 15 plays.

Sophomore Cody Skinner ran the second-team offense while last year’s backup quarterback, senior Jess Reed, played halfback. That group picked up 30 yards in six plays before Skinner went 45 yards on the option keep for the fourth touchdown of the scrimmage.

After resetting at the 25, Reed picked up 7 yards on the next play. Halfback Austin Morse then broke loose on the dive play for a 68-yard touchdown run.

Still with six plays left, Cabot’s second team experimented with the passing game for the remainder of the possession, picking up about 30 yards on 3 of 5 attempts with one short run. Sawyer Stalnaker caught all three passes.

The second team defense not only kept Lake Hamilton’s second unit from scoring, it held the Wolves to just two first downs in 15 plays. It also forced two fumbles and covered one.

Lake Hamilton’s first offense tried to go to the air more often on its second possession, but the Cabot defensive line was in the backfield frequently. Defensive end Kolton Eads picked up two sacks. The Wolves countered Cabot’s strong end rush with the draw play, which was its most successful play of the game. While the draw picked up some good yardage, it failed to produce any momentum, and Cabot stuffed Lake Hamilton again.

On Cabot’s second series for the first team, the Panthers took nine plays to go 75 yards with Roberts plunging in from 2-yards out. On the very next play, Morse went 75 yards on one play on a counter handoff for the Panthers’ seventh touchdown of the game.

The next drive of the same possession is when Cabot lost its composure. Offensive lineman Luke Ferguson drew the first unsportsmanlike penalty when he instigated a scuffle after a 12-yard run by Roberts. It resulted in two Lake Hamilton players kicking Ferguson in the helmet while he was down. Other players jumped into the fray, but only Ferguson and one Lake Hamilton player was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Cabot coaches still benched Ferguson for the remainder of the game.

A few plays later, Barnes picked up the same penalty for shoving a defender after a play ended on a whistle when Barnes was stood up, but not brought down, near the Cabot sideline. He also sat for the rest of the scrimmage, but Skinner looked good running the first team as well.

On the first team’s third series, Skinner led the team on scoring drives of seven and eight plays. Halfback Braxton Burton broke a dive play for 35 yards and junior halfback Williams Niles carried three times for 20 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run on the seventh play.

Cabot went back to practicing the pass with its final eight plays. After an incompletion, Skinner hit Stalnaker for 28 yards, and then kept for 28 more. Two more option keepers picked up 15 yards with one play remaining. Morse scored this third touchdown on a counter from 4 yards out.

Cabot will play its regular-season opener next Friday at home against archrival Conway.