SPORTS >>Cabot makes most of miscues
By JASON KING
Leader sports writer
Pine Bluff — Cabot went lights out in the first half at Jordan Stadium on Friday night, taking advantage of three Zebra turnovers deep in their own territory on the way to a 28-0 shutout over Pine Bluff in a 7A-Central Conference matchup. A fumbled punt return, a fake punt that was fumbled and a fumble on a Pine Bluff pass play were all recovered by the Panthers in the first two quarters, and all three were converted into Cabot touchdowns.
The Panthers only gained 130 yards of total offense in the first half, but with drives starting at the Pine Bluff 42-yard line, 30 yard-line and 18 yard line, they didn’t have that far to go.
“They gave us a short field a couple of times,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “Anytime you’re on the road and you can get on top, like tonight, with the wind against you in the first quarter, you have to take advantage of that. The offensive line did a great job tonight; the backs ran hard. The short field definitely helped us, and we were able to take advantage of the breaks they gave us.”
After three first half touchdowns, the only offensive highlight in the second half was a 55-yard touchdown run from Colin Fuller down the left sideline at the 6:08 mark of the third quarter. Steve Lamb’s extra-point attempt would set the final margin at 28-0.
The turnover bug bit Pine Bluff very early on, during the opening kickoff, in fact. The kick from Fuller bounced off the shoulder pad of Martez Glass, and into the hands of the Cabot defenders. The Panthers’ offense went three and out off the gift, but Pine Bluff did the same to give the ball back moments later.
The next Cabot possession was another three-and-out stand, but the punt from Fuller on fourth down would be the start of a first half trend that would put the Zebras out of contention in the contest.
Fuller’s punt was squibbed by the fierce wind, and the Pine Bluff special teams once again fumbled the ball. Corey Wade landed on the loose ball, giving the Panthers possession at the Zebras’ 42-yard line.
Wade and the Panthers offense took advantage this time, going 42 yards in nine plays, capped off with a one-yard quarterback keep from Wade on the opening play of the second quarter for the score. Fuller added the point-after attempt to make it 7-0.
Pine Bluff went what appeared to be three-and-out on its next possession, but a fake punt on fourth and three was read all the way by the Cabot defenders. Junior Daniel Hille-nburg put a sack on Pine Bluff kicker William Wilson, jarring the ball loose. Sophomore Cody Myers fell on the loose ball, giving the Panthers excellent field position at the Zebras’ 18-yard line.
Two plays were all it took for Cabot on this drive, with Wade setting up first down and goal with a 16-yard scramble to the 2-yard line. Fuller punched it in on the following play, and added the extra point for a 14-0 Cabot lead.
Starting Zebras quarterback Cordara Frazier had a difficult time avoiding the Cabot defense in the first half.
Frazier was sacked three times in the short period that Pine Bluff had possession of the ball, including a sack that led to another fumble that gave the Panthers possession at the Zebras’ 18-yard line.
It was Fuller once again on the score, this time from two yards out with 4:48 left in the first half. He added his third point after of the night to give the Panthers a 21-0 lead at the half.
Cabot’s only major offensive mistake had little consequence in the game, but did prevent the game from going into mercy-rule status in the fourth quarter. With third and goal at the Pine Bluff 2-yard line, Wade handed the ball off to senior tailback Alec Tripp. Tripp fumbled at the line, and Pine Bluff came away with it.
Although backup Zebras quarterback Sebastian Stargell looked better then starting QB Frazier in the game, he still could not lead Pine Bluff into the end zone. Stargell proved to be a crafty scrambler, and hit receivers Kelsey Thomas and Jarvis Mayo on a number of occasions, but the Cabot defense stiffened whenever pushed back into its own territory. The Zebras’ only trip into the Cabot red zone came midway through the third quarter, but four straight incompletions from Stargell killed the drive, and the Panthers took over on downs.
Fuller led the Panthers offensively with 21 carries for 132 yards and three touchdowns. Wade kept for seven carries for 54 yards and one touchdown. For Pine Bluff, Stargell completed 7 of 14 pass attempts for 63 yards and carried four times for 30 yards.
Cabot’s chances of a playoff berth were all but thwarted last night with a Conway win over Russellville. The Panthers will close out the season next week with a home game against the Cyclones.