Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

SPORTS >>Cabot facing toughest opponent on the road

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

Cabot’s offense moved the ball well against one of the best defenses in the state last week. Five turnovers went a long way in keeping the Panthers from converting all those yards they gained into points, but the mere fact that they moved the ball the way they did gives them hope heading into this week.

They’ll need all the confidence, all the execution and all the precision they can muster too, because this week they go from taking on one of the best defenses, to taking on the best defense when they travel to storied Quigley Stadium to take on undefeated Little Rock Central.

Stout defense has become synonymous with the Central Tigers the past few years. Even last year’s team that followed back-to-back state championship teams that failed to make the playoffs, still had one of the toughest defenses in the state.
This year, enough offense has been added to the stone fortress defense for the Tigers to be undefeated and in position for another conference championship.

Central has given up 21 points in six games, given up no more than seven points in any game, and held three opponents scoreless. Those are the same type of numbers the back-to-back state title teams put up. None of that is lost on Cabot coach Mike Malham. He is as much aware of how good Central’s defense has been the past few years as anyone. His Panthers are on an 0-3 streak to the Tigers over the past three years, only now it’s a conference game.

“They got a good defense there’s not question about that,” Malham said. “They sure haven’t given up much. They’re giving up three and a half points a game, they’ve got three shutouts. We’re just going to go in there and do what we do best. It’s going to be tough, but we’re going to shorten the game and try not to give up a big play.”

Central coach Bernie Cox doesn’t care much about Cabot’s 4-2 record or his team’s 6-0 record. He doesn’t care about his team’s three-game win streak against Cabot. He just cares about getting his team ready for the Panthers.

“They still bring that Cabot mystique into games and we’ve tried to make that point,” Cox said. “They better be ready because Cabot is never a team you can be unprepared for. No one runs what they run, and no one blocks like they block. They come off that line so low. We try to teach them to get the low pad, but that’s hard to do against Cabot. You at least have to be ready for that or they’ll push you up and down the field.”

Still, Cabot knows it has moved the ball well all season. It just haven’t stopped giving it away. If the Panthers can do that, they believe they will have a good chance this week. “We got away with those turnovers early in the year, but against these big teams we just can’t do that and expect to beat anybody,” Malham said. So the first thing we’ve got to do is hang onto the ball.”

Central has been on the other end of the turnover margin. They got six turnovers in week one to beat West Memphis, and got a few more in week two against Texarkana. The defense played well enough in those games to get the win while the offense improved. That culminated into a 33-0 win over Conway last week.

“We got six turnovers that first week or we never would have scored,” Cox said. “But our offense has improved to the point that I think last week’s game was our best, most complete game of the year. We’ve been very pleased, but there’s still a lot of things that we can do to get better. We haven’t been totally satisfied with everything.”

The injury situation isn’t good for Cabot either. Starters Josh Clem, Brian Frey, Logan Lucas and Jake Davis will all miss Friday’s game. That will leave the Cabot coaching staff with the task of shuffling the lineup, and playing a lot of sophomores.
“We’re probably going to end up play eight or nine sophomores,” Malham said. “We’re kind of a ragtag group right now, but we’re going there to win. We’re not going just to take a trip. If we do our thing, don’t put it on the ground, stay in position on defense, we might pull one out.”