Saturday, September 03, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers win on final play

Leader sports editor

The clock indicated the game was over, but a Pine Bluff penalty kept hope alive for the Cabot Panthers on Friday. The Panthers turned that extra chance into a touchdown to beat the two-time defending Class 6A champions 28-27 in the season opener at Panther Stadium.

Trailing 27-21, Cabot’s Jarrod Barnes threw to the end zone from 14 yards out, and Pine Bluff’s Ronald Rockett knocked it down, seemingly giving Pine Bluff the victory. But a flag came out and pass interference was the call, giving the Panthers one final, untimed play. Even before the next snap, Pine Bluff jumped off sides, moving it even further to the 3-yard line.

Quarterback Jarrod Barnes then went right from the shotgun formation and leaped high into the air and over the goal line to tie the game at 27-27.

Mason Martin’s extra point sealed the victory for the Panthers.

“Jarrod’s a difference maker,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “We’ve never had one like him around here before. We were in the option but I knew he was going to keep it, and I wasn’t going to argue with him.”

Pine Bluff trailed 21-13 going into the fourth quarter, but scored twice, the second with just 1:17 left in the game. The Zebras tied the game with 8:24 remaining. Simeon Blair connected on a 7-yard fade pass left to Xavier Smith to make it 21-19, and then hit Jyrimee Thompson on a fade to the right side for the two-point conversion and tie.

Cabot failed on a fake punt with 6:02 left, and Pine Bluff took over on its own 43. As was the case most of the game, Blair scrambling was the Zebras best offensive play.

Cabot pressure forced him out of the pocket three times on the drive, and he picked up 52 total yards. Two of the scrambles converted fourth down attempts, including the second one, which resulted in a 14-yard touchdown run on fourth and 5.

But the Zebras missed the extra point, leaving Cabot with a chance for the win with just a touchdown and PAT.

Special teams got even worse when Pine Bluff tried to kick off. Three penalties moved the kick back to the 25-yard line, and Cabot started the game-winning drive on its own 24.

In the first half, Cabot scored on its opening drive of the game after a pair of mistakes cut short Pine Bluff’s first possession. An illegal block negated a big play and put the Zebras behind the chains. Two plays later they tried to punt, but a high snap resulted in a loss of 16 yards and Cabot took over on the Pine Bluff 39.

On the very first offensive play of the season, quarterback Jarrod Barnes went around the left end on an option keep and went 39 yards untouched for the score.

Mason Martin’s extra point made it 7-0 with 8:10 left in the first quarter.

The lead didn’t last long. Pine Bluff put together another good drive, converting a third and 9 along the way with a 10-yard run by quarterback Simeon Blair.

Two players later, Blair connected with Xavier Smith for 32 yards to the Cabot 27.

After another 10-yard run by Blair, he connected with Kamarea Wilkins for 13 yards on a wheel route for a touchdown with 4:34 left in the first quarter.

Cabot put together a long drive, but stalled inside the Pine Bluff 20-yard line. A 37-yard field-goal attempt was no good, and Pine Bluff took over on its own 20.

Blair kept the drive alive on the first set of downs by keeping for 7 yards on third and 5.

Two plays later. Blair’s legs kept a play alive when he was rushed out of the pocket by the Cabot pass rush. Blair stepped up in the pocket and then out to the right side line, and hit Xavier Smith for a 63-yard scoring strike. Justin Nabors blocked the extra point, leaving the Zebras with a 13-7 lead with 1:33 left in the first half.

That lead lasted precisely 12 seconds. Barnes took the ensuing kickoff at the 22-yard line, and raced up the middle for 78 yards and the score. The extra point was good, leaving Cabot with a 14-13 lead, which it took into the locker room at halftime.

Pine Bluff gained more yards than Cabot, 321 to 283. Blair accounted for 310 of the Zebras’ offense. He completed 17 of 27 passes for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns, and carried 15 times for 136 yards and one score.

Xavier Smith caught 11 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns.

Barnes led Cabot with 15 carries for 115 yards and two touchdowns, as well as the 78-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He also completed 8 of 12 pass attempts for 107 yards.

Cabot (1-0) travels to El Dorado next Friday while Pine Bluff plays its home opener against crosstown rival Watson Chapel. El Dorado beat Camden-Fairview 34-7 on Friday.