Tuesday, September 20, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Rockets aimed at Panthers

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers open conference play against the 1-2 Catholic Rockets this Friday at Panther Stadium. Cabot practically had a bye week last week when it traveled to Little Rock to take on J.A. Fair. The starting offense played only two series and the defense just a few more. Any player with any sort of injury, regardless of how minor, did not play in last week’s 41-0 win over the War Eagles. The final score was also the halftime score.

Playing a 5A team with only two wins in the last six years did give Cabot a chance to rest starting defensive lineman Dayonte Roberts, who should be back in the lineup against Catholic after suffering a shoulder injury two weeks ago at El Dorado.

Connor Daigle, who started last year at safety but suffered a knee injury in the spring, will likely be in the lineup for the first time this season on Friday.

“This should be the first game where we’ll have everybody we were expecting to have out there,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “Daigle is going to give us some depth. We just got to find a place to put him because Dylan Smith has looked pretty good at safety. But Daigle can play so we’ll have him out there. Defense should be a strong point for us this year. We’ve got some size and some speed over there.”

Defensive coordinator Randal Black has been pleased with how his squad hasperformed overall. The run defense has been dominant, and the pass defense has been good. Where teams have hurt Cabot this year has been mobile quarterbacks improvising.

The Panther pass rush has regularly brought pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but containment has been lacking.

“That’s the area we have to improve,” said Black. “They’re playing well. They’re aggressive and they’re playing hard, but we haven’t contained the quarterback. The Pine Bluff quarterback killed us. We let El Dorado get away from us a few times. It’s just a matter of executing like we’re supposed to. We’ve game planned to keep it from happening, we just didn’t execute it right.”

Catholic doesn’t have the same kind of mobility at quarterback as the first two opponents, but Taylor Price has been an effective passer, and running back Samy Johnson has a pair of 100-yard rushing performances.

“They have a good offense,” Black said. “They’re efficient. The quarterback is really good at timing routes. That back they have is a good one. They have some tall receivers. We have to be ready.”

Catholic has just one win in three games, but the victory, a 31-6 win over Jacksonville, was the lowest point total of the year for the Rockets. They lost 48-34 to Sylvan Hills to open the season, and then dropped a 69-34 loss to Jonesboro last week.

“They’re scoring points,” Malham said. “They don’t have a quarterback like Pine Bluff had, but they’re executing their offense and they’re scoring points. They’ve played two really good offenses in those two losses. So we can’t take anything for granted.”

Cabot was called for numerous penalties against Pine Bluff, and even more against El Dorado. The Panthers committed 13 penalties for more than 100 yards against the Wildcats, most of them on offense. That’s been a key point of attention for coaches since that game.

“That’s not going to work in this conference,” Malham said. “That’s going to get us beat if that keeps up. We’re good enough, I think, to compete with anybody if we’re playing well and doing what we’re supposed to do. But we’re not so good that we can’t get beat by anybody if we go out there and screw around and get a hundred yards in penalties and turn it over three times like we did at El Dorado.”