SPORTS >>Cabot rallies to beat Sylvan Hills
By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor
Sylvan Hills didn’t give up 34 second-half points against Cabot Friday like they did in week one’s victory over Catholic, but they didn’t have a 28-point lead either. The Bears led 13-6 at the half, but two Cabot scores in the second half proved to be enough as the Panthers prevailed in their home opener 20-13 to improve to 2-0 on the season.
The Cabot offense didn’t pass as much as in week one, and did pass as well, but the Panther defense scored one touchdown and stopped every Sylvan Hills’ threat in the second half.
Cabot coach Mike Malham expressed great pride in his young defense.
“When you start four sophomores on defense you’re not supposed to play that good,” Malham said. “We got some kids that are growing up, smart kids that are learning and getting better. What’s great is that we came out in the second half and we decided Fuller and Davis an Clem and some of those guys we were trying to play both ways, we said no you guys are on offense, these kids are going to play defense. And they came out and did a great job. They kept ‘em out of the end zone in the second half.”
The Panthers and Bears were tied at 13 apiece until midway through the fourth quarter. Cabot’s winning drive started on its own 30, and went 13 plays in just under six minutes. The biggest play of the drive was on fourth down and five yards to go at the Sylvan Hills 33-yard line. Cabot was 0 for 5 passing on the night, but called a rollout to the right. Sylvan Hills got pressure on a stunt, but Cabot’s sophomore fullback Vince Aguilar led the rollout for extra blocking. The pass rush broke up the original pattern, and senior halfback Colin Fuller turned up field. Wade let the pass fly, barely clearing the outstretched arms of two Sylvan Hills defenders and landing on Fuller’s hands at the 14-yard line.
Three plays later, Aguilar rumbled in from five yards out to give Cabot its first lead with 5:59 remaining in the game.
The fourth-down pass was the only attempt in the second half and the only completion of six attempts in the game. Malham didn’t mind the lack of passing too much, especially as well as the running game worked.
“The passing game didn’t look near as good as it did at Jacksonville, but Jacksonville wasn’t ready for it,” Malham said. “They saw it on tape and we just did what we do best. If we’re going to win ballgames, we’re going to have to control the ball and do what we do best.”
Sylvan Hills got on the board first, converting a Cabot turnover on the game’s opening drive into six points.
On the second play of the game, Cabot quarterback Cory Wade threw the ball into tight coverage down the field.
Sylvan Hills defensive back Shod Neely made the interception at the Cabot 28-yard line.
Two runs by quarterback Hunter Miller and two by tailback T.J. Shelton combined for 32 yards to give the Bears first down at the Cabot 40. Things momentarily stalled from there. An incomplete pass, a two yard run and a fumble for no gain left the Bears with fourth and eight.
Cabot even covered well and got pressure on Miller, forcing the junior QB to scramble to the left on fourth down. The problem for Cabot, and the fortune for Sylvan Hills, was that Miller had nothing but fake green grass between him and the goal line as he scampered 38 yards for the score with 8:09 left in the first quarter. Cabot jumped on the PAT, so Sylvan Hills decided to go for two from the one-and-a-half yard line. Cabot snuffed the reverse to Jeff Henderson, leaving Sylvan Hills with a 6-0 lead.
The game then became a defensive struggle. The two teams traded the ball six times without a score.
A 46-yard punt by Cabot senior Colin Fuller pinned Sylvan Hills on its own 12 with 8:29 left in the half. After two Miller incompletions, senior Panther linebacker Raul Gault picked off his second pass in as many weeks and returned it 19 yards for the touchdown.
The extra point snap was mishandled by Fuller, leaving the game tied at 6-6 with 6:56 remaining in the second quarter.
The Bears took advantage of another Cabot turnover for their second score. Fuller’s troubles handling the ball continued when he dropped a Sylvan Hills’ punt on his own 20-yard line. The Bears recovered, and two plays later Shelton rumbled 20 yards up the middle for the touchdown. The extra point was good, giving Sylvan Hills a 13-6 lead with 4:13 left in the half that carried into intermission.
Sylvan Hills got one first down before punting to start the second half. Cabot put together a strong drive on its first possession. The Panthers went 65 yards in 10 plays with the help of a Sylvan Hills’ personal foul. Fuller capped the drive with a two yard plunge and Steve Lamb added the extra point to tie the game with 4:24 left in the third quarter.
Cabot’s constant pressure finally got to Miller on the Bears’ next drive, and the offensive line began trying to get a jump on the pass rush.
Two procedure penalties cost the Bears 10 yards. Cabot junior Chris Blundell and sophomore Kyle Deblock teamed up to sack Miller for a one yard loss to set up third and 21.
Miller had Henderson open and streaking down the right sideline on third down, but slightly overthrew his fastest receiver.
Cabot got the ball back at its own 33 after a nice punt by Miller, and drove the ball well until a crucial unsportsmanlike conduct penalty thwarted the drive.
The UC penalty was a dead-ball infraction, and coincided with an illegal procedure call, turning what would have been third and four into second and 27. Cabot went backwards two yards on the next two plays and punted back to Sylvan Hills.
Again the defense stepped up. After giving up a 26-yard completion to Henderson, Sylvan Hills threw three consecutive incomplete passes and had to punt again, setting up Cabot’s game-winning drive.
Sylvan Hills got the ball back and made it exciting. Three plays put the ball at the Bear 43. Miller then hit Shelton 28 yards downfield, but the play was called back for holding with just under four minutes left.
A six yard run by Shelton and a 10-yard scramble by Miller set up fourth and eight. Miller then hooked up with Shelton again right at the yard marker. The chain crew measurement showed the spot was short of the first down.
Cabot took over with 2:31 left and ran out the clock to preserve the victory.
Cabot finished with 283 total yards while Aguilar accounting for 119 of those on 31 carries.
Sylvan Hills finished with 202 total yards, and only 49 through the air.
The Bears will host North Little Rock next week while Cabot travels to Searcy.