Wednesday, September 27, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Maverick offense is on target

Leader sports editor

The Cabot defense continues to perform well, and it continues to face stronger and stronger challenges. That trend continues this week as the Panthers face Fort Smith Southside, which has scored at least 35 points in three of its four games. The Mavericks are only 1-3, and have suffered an inexplicable 49-0 loss to Greenwood, but they’ve lost a pair of shootouts, one to Springdale Har-Ber and the other last week to Conway, and hammered Rogers-Heritage 50-17 in Week 3.

Southside was without starting quarterback Taye Gatewood against Greenwood, and that appeared to be a key to the lack of production. With Gatewood out, Southside threw the ball just five times, completing three for 35 yards, and managed just 122 total yards of offense.

There were no statistics available for the game against Heritage, but against Har-Ber and Conway, Gatewood was the playmaker. Against Har-Ber, he completed 22 of 33 pass attempts for 351 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also ran nine times for 42 yards and two scores.

Against Conway, Gatewood completed a remarkable 18 of 21 pass attempts for 337 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran 19 times for 115 yards and three more scores.

“They’ve scored some points,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “Hopefully our defense can keep playing well. I think we’re getting better each week. I thought we got better last Friday as the game went on. They came out and used up half the first quarter and scored on us, but they didn’t have another one like that. But this is a different challenge and it don’t get any easier.”

Cabot and Southside built a nice long-distance rivalry in the early 2000s. The two teams met in the state championship twice, each going 1-1. It’s been a rekindled rivalry since just before becoming conference mates. In 2015, the Panthers were 10-0 7A-Central champions with any eye on another run to the title game, but Southside came to Panther stadium and ruined those plans in the second round of the playoffs.

Last year, Cabot’s goal line stand as time expired at Southside played a huge role in keeping the Mavericks out of the playoffs.

“They’re a good program and it’s always a dog fight with us and them,” Malham said.

Cabot will continue to be without two key starters, one on each side of the ball. Fullback Adam Flores and Division I defensive line prospect Dayonte Roberts missed last week’s game, and both will be out at least two more.

Flores’ backup, junior Bradley Morales, had a great outing against Catholic after moving from halfback to fullback. He had 14 carries for 145 yards and two touchdowns, including a 68-yard touchdown run that answered the Rockets’ long opening drive.

“He’s not as big and strong as Flores but he’s got some speed,” Malham said. “He showed that when he got loose and they couldn’t catch him. Of course little T.J. had a great night. He’s so quick, he’s just tough to get a hold of in the open field.”

A pair of sophomores, Hunter Horka and Hayden Matthews, filled in for Roberts, and did well.

“The two sophomores are coming around,” Malham said. “And another sophomore, Logan Bell, is playing at the defensive end. Those guys have been good so far to be so green. Hopefully they’ll keep getting better. They’re getting a chance right now and they’re contributing.”

And the game plan, at least offensively, is the same as always.

“They’re capable so we got to get ready to play,” Malham said. “Last year we went to the wire and got lucky. (Southside fumbled the pitch on the last play from 1 yard out.) If we can’t move the ball and hang onto it, it’s going to be a long night. There are no gimmies in this conference. We just have to try to do what we do best. Hold the ball, keep our defense on the sideline rested, and keep their offense on the sideline dying of old age.”