Tuesday, October 27, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers face fierce, powerful Hurricanes

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers play another mathematically meaningless game on Friday, but it probably won’t be an easy one. The Panthers travel to Jonesboro to take on the Class 6A Hurricanes in a game that counts towards the conference record, but means nothing as far as playoffs are concerned. What makes it meaningful is the test the Hurricane offense will present for Cabot’s defense.

“They say offense wins games and defense wins championships, well we’re going to find out if we might have a championship level defense this week,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham.

On paper, the game has the potential to be a long one with a lot of points scored. Jonesboro (6-2) managed just 17 points in a two-touchdown loss to Conway in week two of the season. Since then, its lowest total is 36 points the following week against Batesville.

In five conference games so far, the Hurricanes have averaged 57.4 points per game. On the other hand, they are giving up an averaged of 42 points per game in those same five games.

Sophomore Tyler Darr and junior Tyson Williams trade time at quarterback for Jonesboro. Darr has made most of the big throws, and both have several other weapons to get the ball to. Senior running back Kylon Tate has been the key big-play man, but Jakaylen Jackson has had his share of long runs as well.

Two 4.5 receivers split wide for Jonesboro. Ke’Dren Brunson had almost 700 yards receiving last year, and this year is joined by Jonathan Adams Jr., son of former Arkansas rushing leader Jonathan Adams of Osceola, who also went on to become a 1,000-yard rusher for Arkansas State in the late 1990s.

“There’s no shortage of playmakers to keep up with, that’s for sure,” Malham said of Jonesboro. “They’ve got them all over the field. I think it’s probably going to be the toughest test for our defense all year.

“The good thing is they’ve given up a whole lot of points, too. We’ve had some big-play capability this year we don’t usually have. So hopefully we can keep scoring and get enough stops to pull it out. But Jonesboro’s a dangerous team.”


The Jacksonville Red Devils’ most disappointing week of the season was their bye week. While sitting out last Friday for its scheduled game against North Pulaski, the Red Devils were eliminated from playoff contention. Despite 1-3 league records, Jacksonville and Mills still had hopes of making the playoffs by closing the season with back-to-back wins. But those hopes were predicated on forcing a three-way tie for the final two playoff spots.

McClellan’s win over Sylvan Hills last Friday ended any hopes of forcing that tie, making this week’s 7 p.m. game at Mills about pride.

“We’re out,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “We exp-lained the situation to them before Friday’s games. So they understood as soon as they found out who won (the McClellan-Sylvan Hills game). Now you try to focus on ending strong, sending the seniors out on a positive note and building up some momentum for next year.”

Jacksonville enters the game without either of its two starting quarterbacks. Senior Brandon Hickingbotham and junior Rowdy Weathers both suffered season-ending shoulder injuries in recent games.

Sophomore Har’Derrious Martin will take over that spot for the final two games, and that could mean less focus on the passing game.

“It’ll be senior night for Mills, so they’ll have that motivation working for them,” Hickingbotham said. “We’re going to see how this works out for us with a new quarterback and doing some different things.

“We had some opportunities and weren’t able to take advantage of them. And we had some bad breaks, a lot of bad breaks. We were able to go back and look at the chances we had. When you don’t seize those opportunities, you don’t get to move on. That’s real life, too, so hopefully this is a learning opportunity.”


Lonoke (3-5, 1-4) hosts Stuttgart Friday to face one of the league leaders, but in the wacky world of the 4A-2 Conference, nothing is certain. The Ricebirds (5-3, 4-1) suffered its only conference loss of the season last week at Helena-West Helena Central, 22-21, the same place Lonoke got its only conference win the week before, 26-16.


Carlisle (3-5, 3-3) will be favored in its 2A-6 Conference road game at Clarendon this Friday. The Bison can clinch a playoff spot with a win, and even though the Lions are just 1-7, a Bison victory is not guaranteed.

Clarendon has been shut out twice this year by DeWitt and McCrory, but has scored at least two touchdowns in every other game. Carlisle scored 14 points on DeWitt, but gave up more points than did Clarendon.

The Lions also scored more than Carlisle did against Brinkley, while the Bison outscored the Lions against the other four common opponents.

Carlisle is the heavy favorite, but its defense has been suspect enough to make this game a little less than a sure thing.