Friday, May 08, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers earn split with LRC

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot boys’ soccer team clinched its second-straight 7A/6A-East Conference championship with a 4-0 win over Little Rock Central on Wednesday night at Panther Stadium.

Cabot led 1-0 at halftime, but reeled off three goals in the second half to put the game out of the Tigers’ reach. With the win, the Panthers locked up a No. 1 seed for next week’s 7A playoffs that’ll be held at Panther Stadium in Cabot. Central will go into next week’s playoffs as the No. 2 seed from the East.

Even though his team has won some of its more recent games handily over the past couple of weeks, Cabot coach Steve Porter hasn’t been entirely pleased with his team’s overall play in those games. He did, however, think his group played a more complete game Wednesday.

“I think we played very well,” said Porter. “In many ways it was a complete performance, so far as we did good possession-wise, we did good creating chances, we did good defensively – kept a clean sheet (shutout) – got to play a number of players. So, overall, I’m very happy.”

It took more than 30 minutes for the first goal to be scored, but Cabot freshman Abi Brown delivered with a short goal from the left corner of the goal with 6:57 remaining in the first half. That gave Cabot a 1-0 lead at halftime.

It didn’t take the Panthers near as long to score in the second half. At the 35:11 mark of the second half, less than five minutes in, Luis Nascimento scored the first of his two 20-plus-yard goals. This one came off his left foot in the middle of the field and sailed into the net from 22 yards out.

Kilian Oelrich, who broke the school record for goals scored in a single season this year, scored his 21st goal of the season and the Panthers’ third goal of the game with 26:29 remaining in the second half. Oelrich’s goal was scored from 16 yards away in the middle of the field and gave Cabot a 3-0 lead.

With 12:28 left to play, Nascimento scored his second goal on a free kick from 23 yards away, which set the final score at 4-0.

The Panthers did lose a starter in the early goings of Wednesday’s game. Junior Dylan Wagnon had to leave the game less than three minutes into it with what appeared to be a broken forearm.

Wagnon has been a big contributor for the Panthers this season, and though the injury looked significant, Porter is hopeful he can find a way to play in the playoffs next week.

“He probably fractured both bones in his forearm,” Porter said. “But, I’m still hopeful we can have him ready for next Friday. If he can play, I’m going to play him. He’s a great kid, works hard. He leaves everything on the field.

“He’s the type of kid I want on the field with us, even if he’s not 100 percent. If he’s able to go, I’m going to put him out there. I’ve played with a cast and it’s not ideal, but you can do it.”

The girls’ game was much more competitive, but the Cabot girls lost that game to Central by the final score of 2-1.

Cabot scored the game’s first goal. With 25:08 left in the opening half, Maddie Rice scored from a little more than 10 yards out to give the Lady Panthers a 1-0 lead. Central, though, who locked up the top seed from the East with the win, responded with a goal less than four minutes later.

At the 21:49 mark of the first half, Central’s Meg Sander broke loose down the middle of the field and scored from a little more than 10 yards away, tying the game at 1-1.

The Lady Tigers added one more goal before the half. With 5:57 remaining, Central lined up for a corner kick, and after the kick, the ball was batted in amidst a plethora of Cabot and Central players. That gave Central a 2-1 lead at the break.

Neither team was able to score in the second half. Cabot had a couple of good opportunities within the last 10 minutes of play, but were unable to capitalize, and will have to settle for the No. 2 East seed in next week’s 7A playoffs as a result.

“Ultimately, the story of the first half, they outplayed us,” said Cabot girls’ coach Kerry Castillo. “On the day, they were just the better team. I think they worked harder off the ball to win the game. They challenged the ball in the air more than we did.

“They sprinted to close down our players. They sprinted to the loose balls – just little bitty things that were necessary to help them win the game, and we just didn’t work hard enough to do those things. They outworked us.”

Both Cabot teams played their final conference games of the year at West Memphis last night after deadlines, and they’ll each host a nonconference game against Class 5A Valley View on Monday in the regular-season finale.

The Cabot boys (13-1-2) have a first-round bye in next week’s playoffs and, as a result, they’ll play the winner between the No. 3 West seed and the No. 3 Central seed next Friday at 2 p.m. at Panther Stadium.

The Cabot girls (8-6-2) will play their first-round game against the No. 6 West seed at 10 a.m. next Thursday at Bryant High School.