Saturday, October 28, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers rout Grizzlies

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers snapped a three-game conference-losing streak on Friday, going on the road to earn a dominant 40-14 victory over Fort Smith Northside in Fort Smith.

The host Grizzlies got the ball to start the game, but after a couple of first downs, failed to convert a fourth down near midfield and gave Cabot the ball. The Panthers moved down field meticulously before junior halfback T.J. Rogers bust through for 7 yards and the first touchdown of the game. The extra point failed, leaving Cabot with a 6-0 lead with four minutes to go in the first quarter.

The Panther defense forced another quick turnover, and the offense took advantage of the short field. Quarterback Tommy Oaks kept on the option for a 23-yard touchdown run. Another failed extra point attempt, this time for two, left the Panthers holding a 12-0 lead.

The Grizzlies then put together their best drive of the game, scoring with seven minutes left in the first half and making the extra point to cut Cabot’s lead to five, but the Panthers answered before halftime.

Cabot kept the ball for nearly the entire rest of the half, plodding down the field before Rogers scored his second touchdown of the game. This time it was from just 6 yards out with less than a minute to go. This time the extra point attempt was good, sending the Panthers into halftime with a 19-7 lead.

The Grizzlies made it interesting briefly in the second half. They stopped Cabot’s opening possession and then scored with five minutes to go in the third quarter, cutting Cabot’s lead to 19-14.

The Panthers then answered. Big runs by Rogers and Oaks set up an 8-yard touchdown run by fullback Adam Flores as time wound down in the third period. Ben McCullough made the extra point, giving Cabot a 26-14 lead with seconds remaining in the third.

A run of more than 30 yards got the Grizzlies across midfield, but they didn’t get much farther, and turned the ball over on downs at the Cabot 45-yard line.

The Panthers only needed 55 yards, but the patented Cabot drive took more than six minutes before they went up 33-14 with less than five minutes left in the game. Halfback Bradley Morales scored on an 8-yard run to cap the drive.

In desperation, Northside (2-7, 1-5) was forced to go to the air, but a Cabot interception by Cody Skinner set up a short field and another touchdown with less than a minute remaining to set the final margin. This time it was halfback Graham Turner who scored from 1-yard out.

The Grizzlies managed just 207 total yards to 386 for Cabot. All of Cabot’s came on the ground while Northside had 158 on the ground and 49 through the air. Rogers led the Panthers with 22 carries for 117 yards and two touchdowns.

The Panthers (5-4, 3-3) finish the regular season at home next Thursday against the state’s No. 1 ranked team, North Little Rock. The Charging Wildcats (9-0, 6-0) beat No. 2 ranked Bryant (8-1, 5-1) 25-14 on Friday.