Wednesday, October 18, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot must be perfect against Bryant

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers have to find a way to stop the trend in the wrong direction, and the task doesn’t get any easier as the undefeated Bryant Hornets visit Panther Stadium Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Cabot enters the game in the wake of a 16-14 loss at Little Rock Central. The loss looks bad on paper at first glance. The Tigers were 1-5 overall and 0-3 in conference play going into the game, but a closer look reveals that four of their five losses are to teams with a combined record of 28-0.

One of those 7-0 teams that beat Central was Bryant. The Hornets beat the Tigers 35-20 one week before the Tigers beat the Panthers.

Bryant, however, won’t be as strong offensively this week. Centralknocked Bryant’s starting quarterback, Ren Hefley, out of action for five to six weeks with a broken collarbone.

Hefley’s absence wasn’t much of a problem last week.

Jake Meaders took over and led the Hornets to a 30-19 win over Fort Smith Southside.

“He’s not as good as Hefley, but he’s not bad,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “They’re solid everywhere. They’re big on both sides of the line. Defensively they’re as good as anybody we’ll see all year. That running back (Kris King, 5-8, 190) is one of the best in the state - very strong. They’re ranked No. 1 and undefeated for a reason. They’re solid all the way across.”

Cabot also beat Southside 43-41 in Week 4. Catholic High is another common opponent the teams share. Cabot won at War Memorial Stadium 43-21. Bryant beat the Rockets at home 49-17.

A key to an upset this week will be ball security.

Cabot lost three fumbles last week, including one in which the ball was dropped at the 2-yard line as quarterback Tommy Oaks was about to cross the goal line untouched.

“I hope that was a once in a lifetime thing,” Malham said. “I know it’s the only time in my whole coaching career I’ve seen it.”

Until last week, penalties had been a bigger problem for Cabot than turnovers. The Panthers were only called for three the entire game, but one nullified a long touchdown run by halfback T.J. Rogers.

“That was a completely bogus hold they called us for on that one,” Malham said. “We did a lot better with the penalties, but one of them they called us for was a killer.”

Cabot will have Division I defensive line prospect Dayonte Roberts back in the lineup this week after a four-game absence.

“We thought we might have him back last game but we didn’t,” Malham said. “He could’ve helped us in there. We’ll have him back for this one. He won’t be in game shape, but he’s going to have to play.

“We just had some bad things happen to us last week. You just have to put it behind you and move forward. We have to focus on this week now because we’re going to have to play perfect. Bryant’s too good to give away anything.”