Tuesday, August 04, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers get new halfback, loses two TE’s

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panther football team opened official preseason practices Monday morning with a lineup slightly different than the one that went through spring drills. Two projected starting tight ends are no longer with the team, one with injuries and another for missing summer workouts, while another ball carrier recently joined the team.

Alex Roberts, a 5-foot-7, 150-pound speedster has impressed the Panther coaches since arriving via military transfer from Alaska.

“We haven’t timed him yet,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “He says he ran a 4.4 40 and an 11.2 100-meter dash up in Alaska. And from watching him out here, I kind of believe him. He’s not very big but he’s extremely quick and he’s pretty strong. He’s looked good so far.”

Roberts joins a crew of offensive backs Malham was already excited about. Kolton Eads returns at fullback after running for more than 1,200 yards last season. Starting quarterback Jarrod Barnes “has the potential to be the best one we’ve ever had here,” according to Malham. The head Panther has also been impressed with sophomore Adam Flores, and expects to line him up at halfback and fullback. He also likes the speed and determined running of halfback Braxton Burton, despite his small stature, as well as David Morse.

The Panthers, as all other teams, can only practice once per day for the first week, instead of the two-a-day practices that were the norm until a couple of years ago. Teams also cannot practice in full pads until the sixth day, which for Cabot, will be Saturday.

“You have to have five practices before you go in full pads,” Malham said. “So if you don’t go Saturday, you have to wait until Monday.”

Malham also joked about the weather on day one.

“It’s too cool out here,” Malham said. “There’s no humidity. There’s a nice breeze blowing. We’ll never get them into shape like this, only going once a day.”

As usual for non-pad practices, the Panthers lifted early then broke into groups for position-specific drills. Offensive linemen worked a lot on footwork. Defensive linemen practice coming off the ball and slipping blockers. Linebackers spent a large portion of its practice on recognizing alignments and passing routes. Offensive backs worked a lot on route running and catching and tucking passes. Defensive backs worked on footwork and different coverages before closing with tip drills.

The Panthers have three weeks of practices before the Red-White game that’s scheduled for Friday, Aug. 21.