Tuesday, September 27, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers try to avenge playoff loss

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers are coming off a key win in their 7A-Central Conference opener on Friday. They will now try to carry that success with them in their first league road game.

The Panthers travel to Fort Smith Southside for the first time ever as a conference opponent. The two programs have a storied history going back to the late 1990s. They have met twice in state championship games, going 1-1 against each other. More recently, Southside knocked Cabot out of the state playoffs in last year’s quarterfinal round, coming to Cabot and defeating the favored Panthers 35-25.

The newly named Mavericks (formerly the Rebels from the schools’ founding in 1965 until this season) have eight starters back from that offense that piled up the points in the playoffs last year, and five back on defense.

“They have most of them back and they whipped us pretty good, so we’re going to have to play awfully well,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham.

Southside lost its first two games by wide margins, but have rebounded to win the last two, including last week’s conference opener at Conway, 23-20.

“They started with two of the better teams in the state in Har-Ber and Greenwood,” Malham said. “There’s no disgrace in losing to those two, especially that early. Southside is big and they have some speed. We sure can’t make all the mistakes we made last year and expect anything different than what we got.”

Cabot was called for six procedure penalties, fumbled a punt and had a punt snap sail over the punters head in last year’s game.

While Southside has most of its offense back, Cabot has almost everyone back on defense, and the head Panther thinks they’re better than a year ago.

“When you get them all back you should be better,” Malham said.

Connor Daigle started practicing with the team last week, and will be on the field for the first time this season. He started at safety last year, but is currently working at linebacker.

“We’re looking at him at linebacker and moving (Easton) Seidl to the front,” Malham said. “We think that could make us stronger on the defensive line. That’s where we’re practicing them this week and we’ll see how it works out.”