Friday, July 15, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Panther playmakers answering questions

Leader sportswriter

Cabot High School hosted its second 7-on-7 meet of the summer Wednesday at Panther Stadium, and showed signs of promise on both sides of the ball, as did the other local schools competing.

The same five schools that competed in last week’s 7-on-7 meet at Panther Stadium were back Wednesday – Cabot, Lonoke, Des Arc, Hazen and Rose Bud, but J.A. Fair joined the action Wednesday as the sixth team.

Cabot entered the summer missing some returning starters because of injuries, but the Panthers showed Wednesday they still have plenty of guys that can make plays, starting with quarterback and University of Arkansas commit Jarrod Barnes.

“Jarrod, he’s looking good out there,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “He’s a three-year starter at quarterback, and just watching him throw the ball – man, he can throw it. He’s more confident, he anticipates better and he’s doing a good job.”

The very athletic Barnes, who’s expected to be used as a slot receiver at Arkansas, split out and played receiver at times throughout Wednesday’s meet, and gave a preview of what Razorback fans can expect to see once he’s at the next level.

“He asked to go out there and play receiver, because that’s where he’s going to play next year at Arkansas,” Malham said, “and you can just watch him go up and get a ball, if it’s around there he’s going to get it.”

Barnes made multiple acrobatic catches Wednesday and was perhaps even more impressive in space, turning routine catches into big-yard gains because of his speed and agility.

Barnes made his share of plays throughout the meet, but Malham was also pleased with what he saw from several other Panther skill players, including fellow seniors Austin Morse and Collin Thames, junior tight end John Weins and one or two in the Panthers’ sophomore class.

“Offensively, we’ve got some kids that are catching the ball pretty good,” Malham said. “If we can throw it and catch, we can open that avenue up a little bit more.”

Cabot also got a quarterback transfer that threw with the team for the first time Wednesday in junior Layton Morris. Morris transferred from Prattville, Ala., a Class 7A school known well for its football tradition.

With it being his first day throwing for the Panthers, Morris is in the earliest stages of getting accustomed to the plays and routes the Cabot receivers run, but the junior transfer, who lived in Cabot before making the move to Alabama, showed good mechanics and threw some good balls Wednesday.

“He doesn’t have a bad throwing action,” Malham said of Morris. “Of course, that’s what they do in Prattville. They’re a spread (team) and all that. He was a sophomore and played with the JV, you know. But this is the first day we’ve seen him, so it’s hard to tell.”

Lonoke’s offense looked very crisp once it got into game play Wednesday. The Jackrabbits played Des Arc in their first of two games, and senior quarterback Logan Dozier threw touchdown passes on the first two Jackrabbit drives.

The first Dozier TD toss was to Will Miller inside 10 yards, and the second was to Isaac Toney on a 40-yard pass in between the hash marks on the first play of that drive. Lonoke’s most noticeable improvement from last week’s 7-on-7 meet was the number of turnovers.

“When we were here Monday, I think we threw six or seven interceptions,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost. “Today we cut it down to one, and the decision-making was a whole lot better. I think it slowed down more for them today, and the receivers bailed them out with some real good catches. So I’m real pleased, overall.”

Daniel Seigrist, one of Lonoke’s more versatile players, also saw time at quarterback. Most of his throws against Des Arc were underneath routes, but the junior slasher completed 8 of 8 passes for two scores, the last one a 31-yarder to Dalton Smith.

“He’s kind of a slash for us,” Bost said of Seigrist. “He’s a quarterback, a wide receiver. He’s playing corner but he can also play safety, and he’ll probably be on a lot of special teams. So he’s doing everything for us.”

In the second game against Cabot, Lonoke sophomore Braidon Bryant made several plays at receiver. Bryant played quarterback in junior high. He got injured early last season and had to sit out the rest of the year, but showed promise at receiver and is expected to contribute heavily at receiver and in the secondary as well this upcoming season.

Defensively, Lonoke made some plays as well. Senior corner Kameron Cole had the defensive highlight against Cabot, snagging an interception on the first Panther drive of that game. The Jackrabbits return no starters in the secondary, so facing as much stiff competition as possible leading up to fall practice is something Bost welcomes for his youthful defense.

“We had four team camps in June,” Bost said, “and went against some real good competition. We had Pine Bluff a couple of times and North Little Rock down there, but we need this 7-on-7, too, and this was our second time coming. We have three more to come, to brush up on passing as well as the secondary stuff, too.

“We don’t return any starters in the secondary, so we need all this we can get.”