Saturday, November 19, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Like night and ‘Day’ for Cabot

Leader sports editor

Cabot special teams went awry all night and North Little Rock’s quick-strike capability were the two big factors in the Panthers’ 49-19, season-ending loss to the Charging Wildcats on Friday in the quarterfinal round of the Class 7A state playoffs.

The game was two weeks after the No. 1 ranked and undefeated Wildcats barely escaped Week-10 with a 28-27 win over the Panthers.

The big difference between the regular-season finale on Nov. 4 and Friday’s playoff game, was the presence of Division I running back recruit Alex Day, who sat out last game on concussion protocol.

Day carried 21 times for 196 yards and three touchdowns in Friday’s victory.

On special teams, Cabot had a bad snap on an extra point attempt, got another extra point blocked, gave up a 40-yard kickoff return, an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and flubbed a cross-field lateral on one of its own kick returns and had to start the drive from its own 12-yard line.

North Little Rock’s big-play capability showed early, very early. On the first play of the game, quarterback Trey Cox hit receiver Deontae Montgomery on a flag route. Montgomery angled inside the corner and no one was in the middle of the field. The result was an 80-yard touchdown that gave the Charging Wildcats a 7-0 lead just 10 seconds into the game.

After the two teams traded punts, Cabot quarterback Jarrod Barnes found John Wiens for a 74-yard pass from the Cabot 17 to the NLR 9-yard line. On the next play, Barnes kept up the middle, fumbled into the end zone where halfback Adam Flores covered it for the Panther score.

The extra point tied the game with 6:47 left in the first quarter. The Wildcats scored the next 21 points. After a long kickoff return, Day broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, and ran 51 yards on the first-play of the drive. Savana Melton’s extra point made it 14-7 NLR.

Cabot went three and out, and NLR responded with seven-play, 75-yard drive and another touchdown. Day went 17 yards on the first play and 2 yards on the last one to make it 21-7 with 2:38 still left in the first period.

Cabot (7-5) got the NLR 15 on its next drive, but went backwards from there and failed to convert a fourth and 16 from the 21.

NLR then went on a 12-play, 87-yard drive with Day again rumbling in from 7 yards out with 5:47 left in the half.

Cabot then turned in its best drive of the game, going 77 yards in 14 plays. Barnes kept for 16 yards on fourth and 6 from the NLR 31 to keep the drive alive.

Barnes then hit halfback Austin Morse with a 14-yard pass to the 1-yard line. On the next play, Flores split wide right and no one covered him, giving Barnes an easy 1-yard touchdown throw to make it 28-13 with 56 left in the half.

The extra point snap was mishandled, leaving it a 15-point margin at halftime.

Cabot scored first in the second half, but the PAT was blocked, and NLR answered with Wynton Ruth returning the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown to make it 35-19 with 5:02 left in the third quarter.

Cabot’s failed lateral came on the NLR kickoff. The Panthers were driving, but a chop block erased half of its progress, moving the ball from the 39 back to the 24. Two plays later, a fumble was covered by the Wildcats at the Panther 21.

Six plays later, Cox was unable to find an open receiver from the 6-yard line, but was able to trot untouched into the end zone. Melton’s PAT made it 42-19 with 10:58 left in the game.

Cabot got another drive going, moving from the 12 to the NLR 40, but an interception ended that drive, and the Wildcats tacked on one more score with 3:23 to play to set the final margin.

The Charging Wildcats finished with 455 yards of offense, 356 of which came in the first half. Cox completed 10 of 17 pass attempts for 255 yards, and Montgomery caught three passes for 127 yards and one touchdown.

Cabot finished with 332 yards of offense. Fullback Easton Seidl led the way with 23 carries for 111 yards and one touchdown.

North Little Rock (11-0) will host Bryant in the semifinals next week. The Hornets shocked No. 3 Springdale Har-Ber 23-8 in Springdale on Friday. North Little Rock beat Bryant 38-7 on Oct. 28.