Tuesday, September 08, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot visits rolling Rockets

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers got a big win in a major rivalry game to open the season, beating Conway 34-18 at Panther Stadium on Friday, but things don’t appear to get any easier for the Panthers in week two. Cabot visits Little Rock Catholic at War Memorial Stadium on Friday.

The Rockets went on the road in week one and pulled off a big upset, ruining North Little Rock’s first game in its brand new $7.5 million stadium and coach Jamie Mitchell’s first game at NLRHS by beating the Charging Wildcats 32-25 in overtime.

“They look pretty good, too,” said Malham of Catholic. “Anybody that can go get a win at North Little Rock is going to be pretty good. We’re going to have to clean up some mistakes, but we have a chance to be pretty decent ourselves. We made a lot of mistakes against Conway, but we were lucky enough to make some big plays and get a win.”

Running back Lance Harville-Thomas stood out for Catholic last Friday. The senior scored the first and last touchdowns of the game. Harville-Thomas ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, and scored on a 7-yard run in overtime to put the Rockets ahead. The Catholic defense then forced and covered a fumble on NLR’s first play of overtime to seal the win.

Harville-Thomas finished the game with 106 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.

“No. 7 is definitely one that we’re going to have to stop,” Malham said of Harville-Thomas. Fortunately I think we have a little more speed on defense than we’ve had in the past. I thought our defense played really well, especially in the second half. We missed a tackle on that first play whenthey went 50 yards on us. Then that other long one they hit, we had a guy right there but he didn’t turn around and find the ball. If he’d have turned around he probably knocks that one down. He was in good position. So if we get little things like that straightened out, I think we have a chance to be really good on defense.”

The Cabot defense gave up 230 passing yards in the first half as Conway completed 15 of 20 attempts. The Panthers didn’t let that happen in the second half, holding the Wampus Cats to 3 of 13 passing for just 70 yards.

The Panthers sacked Conway quarterback Breylin Smith four times; two each by defensive end Kolton Eads and nose guard Dayonte Roberts. Linebacker Easton Siedl added two tackles for loss. The bad news for Cabot is that Seidl’s partner at middle linebacker, Cody Nabors, was lost for several weeks with a broken collarbone.

Cabot also blocked four kicks, two field goals and two extra points. All four were by safety Connor Daigle, who speed rushes from the right side. Eads, last year’s starting fullback, returned one of the blocked field goals for a touchdown, and almost got the other one.

“The first one he just couldn’t quite grab hold of,” Malham said of Eads. “The second one he got and I thought they were going to chase him down, but they didn’t. They were closing on him the first 20 yards or so, but when he got going they couldn’t catch him.”

Cabot also may have solved its kickoff question after losing last year’s starter, Christian Underwood, to Conway. It was Underwood that Cabot blocked those four times.

The Panther coaching staff felt comfortable with Caleb Schulte as place kicker, but had not been sufficiently pleased with anyone kicking off. The first several kickoffs on Friday were onside, squib or sky kicks. The last two were deep kicks and Schulte kicked both of them deep into the end zone.

“He surprised us when he did that,” Malham said. “That first one he asked me, ‘coach, let me kick it deep.’ I said all right. I’ll give you one shot at it, and he put it in there. Then he did it again. If he can keep that up we’ll keep letting him do it.”

Cabot’s offense also made two plays out of nothing. One was by quarterback Jarrod Barnes, who turned a loose snap on third and 17 into a 29-yard gain. The other was by sophomore halfback Adam Flores, who was stopped in the backfield on fourth and 3, and somehow evaded and broke enough tackles to pick up 17 yards.

Cabot also fumbled five times, losing two of them, and had a couple of key penalties that thwarted drives. Those are the things Malham hopes to correct before Friday.

“We’ve got to fix some things,” Malham said. “We have some athletes that bailed us out a few times last week. It’s early still and I’m pleased with where we’re at. If we can get everything working like we want it too, this could end up being a pretty good team.”