Saturday, October 17, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers run over LR Central

Leader sportswriter

Penalties limited Cabot’s play in the first half of its 7A-East Conference game against Little Rock Central on Friday, but the defense shut out the Tigers in the first half and the Panthers came out in the second half hitting on all cylinders and were able to leave Panther Stadium with a dominant 42-7 victory and improve to 7-0 on the season.

Despite committing six penalties for 70 yards in the first half, Cabot led 14-0 at halftime.

The Panthers (7-0, 4-0) committed four 15-yard penalties in the first half, but the defense held Central (2-5, 2-2) to just 28 yards of offense in the first two quarters of play, which allowed those penalties to not be as costly as they could’ve been.

Still, head coach Mike Malham made sure those unforced errors were corrected at halftime, and his team responded in the second half, scoring 28 points and only committing one penalty for 5 yards in the final two quarters of play.

“We played pretty good, but boy we played stupid at times,” said Malham. “We had four 15-yard penalties that helped them. We didn’t have the ball much in the first half. The defense wasn’t playing smart, but played hard and kept them out of the end zone.”

Three of those 15-yard penalties came on Central punts. Only one, a roughing the kicker penalty, allowed the Tigers’ offense to stay on the field, as the other two were personal foul penalties after Cabot had already gained possession. The other was a late hit on defense. None of those penalties, though, led to Central points.

Cabot found the end zone for the first time with 7:39 to play in the second quarter. The Panther offense started from its own 16-yard line and scored on the 13th play of that drive, on a 3-yard run by fullback Kolton Eads on third and goal. Caleb Shulte kicked the extra point to make it 7-0.

The hosts scored again with less than two minutes remaining in the half. A blocked punt by Trent Erickson gave Cabot possession at the Central 16, but the last of the four 15-yard personal foul penalties backed the offense up to the Tigers’ 31.

Quarterback Jarrod Barnes ran for 13 yards on the first play of the drive before completing a 16-yard pass to John Wiens on the next play. Alex Roberts punched it into the end zone on the third play, but a false start penalty pushed the offense back to the 7.

That penalty was nullified on the next play, when Barnes took an option keep the 7 yards needed for the score. Shulte’s extra point set the halftime margin with 1:51 left in the quarter.

Central tried an onside kick to start the second half, but it bounced out of bounds at the Cabot 45, where the Panther offense took over. A 44-yard run by Braxton Burton helped set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Roberts with 9:38 to go in the third, and the PAT made it 21-0 Panthers.

Cabot’s defense forced a turnover on downs on Central’s ensuing drive, and the Panther offense responded with a 10-play scoring drive that ended with a 14-yard run by Barnes. The extra point gave the hosts a 28-0 cushion.

The Tigers answered with their only scoring drive of the night. They started from their own 24-yard line, and a 44-yard run by tailback Richard Hayes on the fourth play of the drive helped set up Hayes’ 4-yard scoring run six-plays later. The extra point that followed cut the Panthers’ lead to 28-7.

Cabot’s last two scores came on its next two drives. The first of those touchdown runs was a 13-yarder by Austin Morse with 9:12 to play, and the last was a 1-yard run by Roberts on fourth and 1 with 34 seconds remaining.

Shulte made both extra-point attempts to set the final score and finish the game 6 for 6 on PATs.

Regardless of the first-half penalties, Malham was pleased with the win and is happy to be unbeaten, especially where it matters – in conference play.

“I was pleased,” Malham said. “I thought overall we did what it took to win. We got a good win and we’re just glad to be 4-0 in the conference, and more importantly, 3-0 against the 7A teams. So, that puts us with the best seed out of this conference. That gives us the bye and home field, at least in the second round anyway.”

The Panthers finished the night with 388 yards of offense, most of which came on the ground. Barnes was 4 for 6 passing for 38 yards, and the junior speedster had eight carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns.

Roberts was the workhorse in the Cabot backfield, especially in the second half, totaling 25 carries for 99 yards and two scores. Morse had nine carries for 61 yards and one touchdown, and three catches for 22 yards.

Hayes led the Tigers’ offense with 16 carries for 73 yards and scored the one Central touchdown.