Tuesday, October 11, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers must play better

Leader sports editor

Cabot football coach Mike Malham knew the disparity between his team’s 5-0 record and Conway’s 0-5 record was misleading, but even he was surprised with how poorly his team played in a 37-14 drubbing last Friday at the hands of the Wampus Cats.

“We got beat, and we got beat up,” said Malham on Monday. “We’re licking our wounds, but we have to be ready to go on Friday.”

This Friday is when the Panthers host Little Rock Central for its annual homecoming festivities, and they could do it without as many as four starters, including quarterback Jarrod Barnes.

Barnes injured his ankle while returning the opening kickoff of the second half, and did not return. Starting linebacker Dylan Smith also suffered an ankle injury and starting defensive lineman Easton Seidl strained a knee.

“We’re hobbling, but right now it’s day to day on whether anybody is going to miss Friday’s game,” Malham said.
What’s not uncertain is that his team will have to play better than it did last week in order to have a chance to win.

“Defensively we didn’t play very good,” Malham said. “Offensively, we gave them two scores. Early on it looked like we were going to do all right, but then just started making mistakes.”

The first big mistake came late in the second quarter. Conway had the ball near midfield facing fourth and 2 with Cabot leading 14-7. The Panther defense jumped off sides, giving Conway a first down, which led to a game-tying score before halftime.

In the second half, two high snaps out of the shotgun formation led to nine defensive points for the Wampus Cats. Conway also converted a third and 25 that proved pivotal in the third quarter.

“Third and long, and we’re going to let them beat us on an out and up,” Malham said. “We’re going to bite on an out on third and 25. It was just stupid stuff like that.”

Cabot’s defense had been nothing short of dominant since the opening game, but Conway cut through it last week. The offense, without Barnes at quarterback, managed less than 50 yards of offense in the second half.

“Conway had good athletes,” Malham said. “They were just living on the wrong side of close games and we were living on the right side. I don’t know if our kids just didn’t take them seriously, didn’t work hard or what? I just know they definitely didn’t have it. They weren’t ready to play. They’ll get beat again this week if they don’t do any better because Central has good athletes, too.

“I hope the reason they beat us that bad is that we weren’t ready to play. I hope we’re better than we showed. It’s going to be a long second half of the year if we keep playing like we did.”