Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

SPORTS >>Bears, Panthers rolling after one

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

It wasn’t considered to be that big of a matchup before the start of the season, but now that both Cabot and Sylvan Hills are coming off of huge wins to start their seasons, people are now taking a closer look at the two programs. The Bears struggled through a 4-6 season last year, while the Panthers finished an unheard of 1-9.

Sylvan Hills re-established itself as a contender with a big win over Catholic last week to start the season. Cabot got a much-desired win over longtime foe Jacksonville on the road in front of a rowdy crowd. The reason for many of the woes for both teams last year was also wound by a common thread– lack of offense. In fact, last year’s game between the two teams was one of the most hopeless defensive struggles witnessed in many years. The only score in the entire game was made off a field goal for the Bears with less than 20 seconds remaining. The rest of the game was a three-and-out trade back affair, or decent drives negated by senseless turnovers.

Nothing is further from the truth this season. Cabot’s long-standing running game was proven revitalized last week during its pounding of the Jacksonville defense. Sylvan Hills showed a new hand of passing; although its junior quarterback Hunter Miller displayed that he could do both with ease, even against a strong defense such as the Rockets. Miller racked up a total of 343 yards against Catholic last week, 196 of them through the air and 147 on the ground for a very balanced attack.

The similarities between the two programs just don’t end there. Both teams have long standing tradition with their coaches. Ron Sebastian has been head coach at Sylvan Hills for 20 years now, while Mike Malham has been head Panther for a quarter of a century as of this season. Malham knows the road isn’t any easier this week. His biggest concerns are with some of the inexperience for his team defensively, and how they will respond to the Bears’ wide-open attack.

“We’ve got four sophomores on our defense,” Malham said. “There were times last week when we had six of them out there. That’s a lot of inexperience on the field at one time; hopefully they can grow up fast. “Sylvan Hills showed they could be explosive last week; they have a lot of weapons. That Miller kid, he’s the real deal. He is probably the best quarterback we will face all year.”

As far as momentum goes, Malham is confident that his team can carry in some from their big win at Jacksonville last week, but is leery of the momentum that the Bears posses after their win over the Rockets last week. “Anytime you win to start out the season, it gives you confidence,” Malham said. “We didn’t know what to expect going into last week. We knew we had worked hard in our two-a-days and our kids had put up a good effort, and it turned out to pay big dividends.

“I’m sure they are going to be confident after beating the second ranked team in the state. Anytime you put 36 on Catholic, you’ve obviously got some talented skill people. If it was a track meet, they would definitely beat us, but someone is going to be 1-1 after Friday night.”