Wednesday, October 26, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Grizzly QB a concern for Panthers

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers continue to struggle as they enter the final two weeks of the regular season against the current top two teams in the 7A-Central.

This Friday the Panthers host second-place Fort Smith Northside, who just lost its first conference game of the year to first-place North Little Rock, 35-28.

It was the Grizzlies first loss since falling 33-25 to Greenwood 33-25 in the season opener Sept. 2.

Senior Tre Norwood, who is committed to the University of Louisville as a cornerback, led Northside at quarterback last week.

He hasn’t played quarterback most of the season, however. He filled in for regular starter Max Frazier, and it would suit Cabot coach Mike Malham just fine if Norwood were back on defense this Friday.

“They had another kid playing quarterback that was injured,” said Malham. “Norwood is a good runner, throws it pretty good, too. He’s a lot like that quarterback from Pine Bluff that gave us so much trouble. I kind of hope the other one comes back to be honest with you.”

Cabot has had its own quarterback injury problems the last three games. Razorback commit Jarrod Barnes suffered a high ankle sprain three weeks ago on the first play of the second half against Conway. The Wampus Cats scored 23 unanswered points after that injury and won the game 37-14.

The following week, Cabot (6-2, 3-2) edged by last place Little Rock Central 23-20, before getting drummed 48-20 by Bryant last Friday.

It was Cabot’s pass defense that suffered in last week’s game. The Panthers gave uponly 40 yards on the ground, but Bryant threw for more than 300 yards. Some of that had to do with missing one starting defensive back and another playing with a nagging injury.

Malham expects the defense to be back at full strength this week.

“That should help some, but we just didn’t cover anybody,” Malham said. “Our run defense was strong. We should have (starting safety Evan) Hooper back, and (Dylan) Smith should be back to pretty close to 100 percent. So hopefully that’ll help.”

Cody Skinner threw 13 passes at quarterback for Cabot last week.

He completed eight of them, seven to Barnes, who decided on Friday he felt good enough to take the field.

“He didn’t practice all week,” Malham said of Barnes. “He told us Friday he felt about 80-85 percent, so we decided to put him out there on an island, kind of keep him away where he wouldn’t have to get all the contact.”

As of Tuesday, it still wasn’t determined whether Barnes would remain at wide receiver, or return to quarterback for this week’s game.

“As soon as he gets 100 percent, he’ll be back handling the ball on every play,” Malham said. “We just don’t know when that will be right now.”

Barnes had 96 receiving yards and two touchdowns last week.

Northside (5-2, 4-1) has played one less game than most teams. It’s final nonconference game against Pine Bluff was canceled because of storms, but the Grizzlies and Panthers share four opponents in conference play. Most of the results seem to favor Northside.

The Grizzlies beat both teams that beat Cabot. They manhandled Bryant 29-0 in the league opener at Bryant on Sept. 23, and also got a road win over Conway, 28-21.

Northside beat Central 19-0. The Grizzlies skirted by Catholic 26-19 while Cabot beat the Rockets 35-14.

Kickoff at Panther Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m.