Tuesday, September 06, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcat D-line is formidable

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers didn’t have long to celebrate after their exciting one-point win over Pine Bluff last Friday. After beating the two-time defending Class 6A champions 28-27 at home, Cabot now travels to El Dorado, where it will face a similar foe. The Wildcats won its season opener 35-7 over Camden-Fairview.

Cabot overcame a dramatic size difference when its offense was on the field last week, and will face an even bigger disadvantage in that area this Friday.

“They’re big up front on that defensive line,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “Pine Bluff was pretty big, too, but I think El Dorado’s going to be even bigger.”

Despite the smallness of his offensive line, Malham was pleased with how the unit played on Friday.

“I thought they played pretty good,” Malham said of his offensive line. “They got after it. We didn’t just run rampant, but we did good in spots. The guards, even though they’re about 180, 190 pounds, they did a good job with those big guys.”

El Dorado not only has size, but speed on the defensive line. Two players on the Wildcat defensive front are getting Division I interest. One is 6-foot-3, 265-pound senior Lake Tucker. The other is junior Terry Hampton, who is 6-1, 265.

“One of them got an offer from Texas,” Malham said. “I was asking about him watching film. I was saying, ‘is that him?’ and they said, ‘no, that’s the other one.’ So we’re going to have our work cut out for us.”

Cabot’s offensive line is not only small, but it’s also inexperienced. That doesn’t stop the head Panther from being optimistic about its potential.

“This group works hard, and I think they’re going to improve,” Malham said. “I thought with all of them being brand new, not being very big and none of them having ever played on Friday night, they did a pretty good job. They have good work habits. They want to be here and they’re working their butts off. We just have to keep working on the same stuff and keep getting better every week. But as hard they work, they’re going to get better.”

Pine Bluff racked up a lot of yards against Cabot, but a big portion of it came after plays had broken down and quarterback Simeon Blair began improvising. El Dorado quarterback Darius Holly is mobile, but not the same kind of threat that Blair presented.

“He (Blair) is like Jarrod (Barnes). He creates a lot just scrambling around back there. That puts a lot of pressure on your defense and makes it tough. El Dorado’s quarterback can move pretty good, but I don’t know if he’s going to be the same kind of problem the Pine Bluff kid was.”

Malham is also optimistic about the potential of the defense.

“I’m fired up about both sides of the ball,” Malham said. “I think we can be pretty good on defense. We lost some receivers on some scrambles. They out-athleted us on fades a couple times. But I think we have a real possibility of being real tough on defense.”