Friday, November 20, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Rebels roll through Panthers

Leader sports editor

An illegal procedure penalty against Cabot before the first snap of the game was an early sign of things to come. Mistakes in every facet of the game played a big role, and Fort Smith Southside’s defensive line played one as well as the Rebels whipped the Panthers 35-25 Friday in the quarterfinals of the Class 7A playoffs at Panther Stadium.

Cabot’s base Dead-T offense accomplished very little against a large and fast Rebel defensive front. There were high snaps, failed fake punts, dropped snaps, fumbles, interceptions, missed kicks, flubbed punts and just about anything else a team can do wrong, and it resulted in the season-ending loss.

“We jumped off sides, missed holes, missed blocks,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “Give them credit, though. They played hard. They played good, but we made so many mistakes offensively it made it a lot easier for them.

“Defensively we didn’t play bad. We gave them a short field with bad snaps and procedure penalties and muffing that punt. I don’t know. I don’t know.”

The game was still scoreless with less than five minutes left in the first half, but Southside changed that when it took possession at the Cabot 38 thanks to a dropped snap on a fake punt attempt. Southside converted third and 4 with an 11-yard run by tailback Parker Dixon.

The Rebels had first and goal at the 10 but lost 5 yards on the next play. Quarterback Cooper Johnson then rolled right and threw back left to a wide-open Dixon for a 15-yard scoring strike with 4:45 left in the half.

Cabot went three and out on its next possession before a high punt snap resulted in Southside taking over again inside the Cabot 40.

Panther defensive end Bryce Crockom sacked Johnson to set up third and 11, but he found receiver Evan Simpson with a 25-yard touchdown pass on the next play to give the Rebels a 14-0 lead with 47 seconds left in the half. But it didn’t go into halftime that way.

Cabot’s Dylan Smith returned the kickoff 30 yards to the Southside 40. A 24-yard pass from Jarrod Barnes to Austin Nguyen was sandwiched between two 8-yard Barnes’ runs for a Cabot touchdown with 20 seconds remaining, but a high snap on the extra point left it 14-6 at the break.

Southside got it to start the second half, and Cabot got a much-needed defensive stop. Back-to-back sacks by Dayonte Roberts and Crockom left Southside with fourth down and 24 yards to go on its own 42. But Holdyn Barnes failed to secure the punt reception and the Rebels recovered at the Panther 21. Four plays later, Johnson kept for a 5-yard touchdown to make the score 21-6 with 5:21 left in the third quarter.

Cabot answered with the help of a pass interference penalty on Southside on third and 10. Three plays later, a 36-yard touchdown pass from Jarrod Barnes to Holdyn Barnes on fourth and 19 made it 21-12.

Rebel coaches argued that Holdyn Barnes was down at the 3, but the score stood after some discussion. Trailing by nine, Cabot went for two and failed to convert with 2:54 left in the third quarter.

Cabot again won first and second down, but gave up a 60-yard touchdown pass to Simpson on third and 9. The extra point made it 28-12 with 1:58 remaining in the third.

Cabot ran 10 plays and gained two first downs on its next possession, but netted only 4 yards on the drive. Barnes had two runs for -8 yards and failed to snap the ball in time to set up third and 18. A reverse to Flores on fourth down was sniffed out by Southside and lost another 10 yards.

The Rebels started on their own 39 after a Cabot punt, and got 38 of it on the second play, a run up the middle by Dixon. He also got the last play of the drive, a 2-yard run that made it 35-12 with 7:06 left in the game.

Cabot lost the ensuing kickoff out of bounds on its own 2-yard line, and Barnes was intercepted three plays later by linebacker Si Kilinc at the Rebel 39.

Cabot’s defense held and Cabot took over on its own 18 with 3:10 to play. Jarrod Barnes was dropped for a 13-yard loss on first down, but found Holdyn Barnes for a 33-yard pass play. After an 11-yard run by John Weins and another pass interference penalty on Southside, Barnes kept for 13 yards to the Rebel 23. Weins then took a counter handoff 20 yards before fumbling into the end zone, where Nguyen covered it for the score with 1:20 remaining.

The extra point was good, and Easton Seidl covered the onside kick for the Panthers. Three runs by Jarrod Barnes went for 35 yards and another score, but the two-point conversion failed with 28 seconds remaining. Southside covered the onside kick to seal the win.

“We’ll go back and watch film, and we’ll probably say, ‘what are we doing’,” Malham said. “We didn’t look like we knew what we were doing. They did their job and we didn’t do ours. We got out butts beat is what it amounts to.”

Cabot (10-1) finished with 255 yards of offense, and almost half of it on the last two drives of the game. Southside (8-4) had 346 total yards.

Holdyn Barnes led Cabot offensively with two receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown. Jarrod Barnes led Cabot in rushing with 18 carries for 61 yards and two scores.

Johnson, who rushed for 425 yards in the last two games combined, was held to 38 yards on 20 carries by the Cabot defense. He completed 10 of 15 pass attempts for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Simpson caught five passes for 113 yards and two scores. Dixon carried 15 times for 95 yards and one rushing touchdown, and caught four passes for 44 yards and another touchdown.