Monday, October 02, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot conversion seals win

Leader sports editor

It was homecoming night for Cabot, but both teams found a home in the end zone of Panther Stadium. Three special teams gambles failed, but the fourth one paid off for the Panthers, who got a two-point conversion with 2:14 remaining for a nine-point lead, and held on for a 43-41 victory over Fort Smith Southside on Friday.

The Mavericks scored with 4:52 left in the game, but got two penalties, one for illegal procedure and another for illegal participation, that made it a long extra point try that they missed, leaving Cabot with a 35-34 lead.

The Panthers rolled four plays down to the 14-yard line, and Southside called its second timeout with 2:58 to play. The Mavericks (1-4, 0-2) decided during that team huddle to allow Cabot to score, and Panther coach Mike Malham knew it.

He instructed his backs not to score, and they followed instructions for one play. Halfback T.J. Rogers fell down after a 4-yard gain, but on the next play, went 10 yards for the touchdown.

Malham decided to try to put the game away, and fullback Bradley Morales got the 3 yards needed for the conversion and the nine-point lead.

“I knew we had to go for it,” Malham said. “If we hadn’t, we’d be in overtime right now. They can score. They put 35 up on Har-Ber, and Har-Ber has three shutouts in their other three games.

“Our offense played pretty good, too. It was an offensive game. I knew what they were doing letting us score, and I had just told the kid to get three yards and go down. But that’s kids. We got another good conference win. We’re 2-0 in conference, and we’ll try to regroup and get another one next week. There are no easy ones in this conference.”

It looked early like Cabot might win in a blowout. Cabot got the ball first and scored quickly. On the fourth snap, fullback Bradley Morales broke three tackles and cut back from the sideline to the middle of the field for a 65-yard touchdown run just 1:32 into the game.

The defense stopped Southside’s first possession, and on the first play of the ensuing drive, halfback T.J. Rogers got his own 65-yard touchdown run. Ben McCullough’s extra point made it 14-0 with 6:58 left in the first quarter.

Cabot stopped the Mavericks next drive as well, but could only manage one first down before facing fourth and 2 on its own 30.

The Panthers (4-1, 2-0) faked the punt and snapped to Morales, but he was dropped for a 1-yard loss. Four plays later, Southside was in the end zone on an 11-yard pass from Gatewood to Jordan Jackson with 10:56 left in the second quarter.

The Panthers didn’t take long to answer. Halfback Noah Sorrell got 23 yards on the first play of the ensuing drive. Four plays and 22 yards later, John Wiens took the tight end counter handoff 22 more yards to the Southside 2-yard line. Morales got the rest for a 21-7 lead with 8:45 to go until halftime.

Southside initially went backwards on the next possession, but converted third and 18 from its own 12 with a 21-yard catch by Jackson.

Another penalty backed Southside up again, but Gatewood answered with a 15-yard completion to Tyrese Solomon, and an offsides penalty gave the Mavericks the first down. Two Jackson catches later, one of 13 and the other of 42, put the Mavs in the end zone again, making it 21-14 with 5:53 to go.

The Mavericks then surprised Cabot with an on-side kick that No. 80 covered easily at the Cabot 47. Gatewood went to his favorite target again on the very next play, and connected with Jackson for 44 yards.

The converted RB carried it in himself on the next play and the extra point tied the game with 5:17 until intermission.

The Panthers put together a nice drive after that, going 85 yards in nine plays without facing a third down. A 24-yard run by Morales set up first and goal, and Rogers got the last 2 yards for a 28-21 lead with 1:42 on the clock.

Gatewood continued to shred Cabot’s defense on the first drive of the second half. A holding penalty negated a 14-yard gain, and led to fourth and 15, but Southside converted.

Gatewood hit Solomon for a 23-yard gain to the Cabot 32. The safety had dropped back deep for a quick kick, leaving a huge hole in the middle of the field for the easy conversion.

Gatewood then hit Mason Love for 28 yards to the 4, and then went to Love again for the score to tie the game with 10:01 left in the third quarter.

Southside then had a chance to take the lead after stopping Cabot on downs. The Mavericks drove from their own 9-yard line to Cabot 34. John Wiens and Jansen Hubanks finally got some pressure on Gatewood, and he threw as he was being hit.

The pass was under thrown, and Zhane Harper picked it off at the 25-yard line. He returned it 31 yards, but an illegal block was called on Hubanks, and Cabot started at their own 38.

This time the Panthers barreled down the field, overcoming an 11-yard holding penalty when Rogers took the counter handoff 32 yards on second and 17 to the Southside 11. He went 9 yards on the same play and Oaks sneaked it in from there.

McCullough’s PAT made it 35-28 with 42 seconds to go in the third.

Cabot had a chance to put it away after stopping Southside’s next possession, but more penalties and a fumble made it third and 16, and Oaks threw an interception under pressure. That set up Southside’s fourth-quarter touchdown and missed extra point.

Both teams went over 500 yards of offense. Southside had 593 total yards to 520 for Cabot. Gatewood did it all for the Mavs. He completed 23 of 41 pass attempts for 359 yards and three touchdowns. He also carried the ball 23 times for 182 yards and three more scores.

All of Cabot’s offense came on the ground. Rogers carried 17 times for 194 yards and three touchdowns. Morales carried 11 times for 169 yards and two scores. Sophomore Graham Turner added 70 yards on eight carries for the Panthers.

Cabot will travel to Conway next week. The Wampus Cats (3-2, 1-1) lost 24-14 at North Little Rock last night.