Tuesday, November 08, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Wolverines worry Panthers

Leader sports editor

The Cabot football team hurries preparations this week for its first-round playoff game against newly formed Bentonville West High School. The game is being played on Thursday because BWHS shares a stadium with Bentonville High School, and both teams are hosting playoff games.

Bentonville High is the 7A-West Conference co-champion but had to settle for a three seed and play a first-round game. Bentonville West is the four seed, and hosts 7A-Central five seed Cabot. Each league’s top two finishers earned first-round byes.

The Wolverines are only 3-7 this year, but all three wins came in conference play and earned them a playoff bid in its inaugural season.

The not-so-impressive record means nothing to Cabot coach Mike Malham, who has seen his team suffer a major upset once already this year.

“We can’t take anybody for granted,” said Malham. “We’ve already lost to an 0-5 team this year, and we were 5-0. You ever seen that? I think we showed last week that we’re capable of competing with anybody. But we’ve also showed we aren’t good enough to assume we’re just going to beat anybody either. They have players and we’re going to have to be ready to play.”

The Wolverines have no seniors, but there is talent, especially on offense. Sophomore Jadon Jackson (6-foot-1, 170) has emerged as one of the best wide receivers in the conference. Responsible for getting the ball to him is quarterback Will Jarrett, who has thrown for more than 2,000 yards this season.

“They do exactly what seems to give us trouble,” Malham said. “They spread it out and throw it around. They do a lot of no-back and one-back sets and they throw it all over the field. You saw what happened when Bryant threw it all over the field. We’re going to have to play better than we did that night.”

Cabot (6-4, 3-4) went 1-4 in the last half of the season after starting 5-0. The only win was against last-place Little Rock Central, 20-17.

Outside of the loss to Bryant, much of Cabot’s woes can be boiled down to two things; Turnovers, and being without starting quarterback Jarrod Barnes, who has verbally committed to the University of Arkansas.

Barnes was hurt on the opening kickoff of the second half against Conway with the score tied 14-14. Conway won the game 37-14. The Panthers were without Barnes the next two games, the win over Central and the loss to Bryant.

He played most of the game against second-place Northside (35-28 loss) and all of last week’s 28-27 loss to No. 1 ranked North Little Rock.

Barnes’ absence, however, had nothing to do with giving up 48 points to Bryant.

“Our defense has been pretty solid most of the season,” Malham said. “But that one wasn’t and that’s a concern. Bentonville West does some of the same things, so we have to be better.”

Cabot has also had 14 turnovers in the last three games combined. There were five against Bryant, four against Northside and five more against North Little Rock.

“You’d think as close as we played the top two teams, if we don’t have those turnovers we’re in shape to win those two games,” Malham said. “I think we’ve shown what we’re capable of. If we can cut out these turnovers maybe we’ll end up on the right side of these close games.”

Cabot was also without two starting offensive linemen last week, and both should be back in the mix on Thursday. Starting safety Evan Hooper missed last week as well, and will likely be out again this week. Justin Nabors filled in at North Little Rock and played well.