SPORTS >>Panther gifts lift NLR rot victory
By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor
Cabot knew it couldn’t afford two things Friday night against North Little Rock. It couldn’t afford to turn the ball over, and it couldn’t afford to give up big plays on offense, especially long passes over the top of the defense.
Cabot did both early, and fell into a hole it couldn’t get out of in a 26-7 loss to the Charging Wildcats on homecoming night at Panther Stadium.
The Cabot defense did its job in the second half. The final margin was set with six minutes left in the second quarter. The two teams traded long drives and good licks throughout the second half, but no one scored.
The two teams finished practically even in total yardage. North Little Rock gained 353 yards to Cabot’s 339, but the difference was the turnovers. The Panthers committed five, the Wildcats none.
North Little Rock coach Bryan Hutson didn’t mind that his team failed to score and put the game away in the second half. He was just happy to get a win.
“This is a good football team,” Hutson said. “They were 4-1 just like us and we’re just happy to get out of here with another win. The offense kept the ball a while, had some good drives and ran down the clock. That’s what we needed to get the win.”
It didn’t take long for the Wildcats to make the Panthers pay for their generosity. After receiving the opening kickoff, senior wingback Tamelle Jenkins took the second play from scrimmage 61 yards for the score with just 51 seconds elapsed in the game. The extra point was no good making it 6-0.
It wasn’t long after that before North Little Rock struck again. The Panthers were driving the ball on their first possession, but halfback Colin Fuller coughed it up on the Wildcat 27-yard line. The Wildcats struck again on the very next play when quarterback Maurice Phillips hit receiver Brett Moncrief over the outstretched arms of Cory Wade for a 73-yard touchdown strike.
The two-point conversion failed, leaving the visitors with a 12-0 lead.
Fuller put it on the ground again on the next drive, but the Panther defense was able to hold and force a punt.
Cabot took possession at the 49-yard line after a good return by Fuller. The Panthers survived two more fumbles on the drive, and punched it in on the first play of the second quarter when Fuller scored on first and goal from the 1-yard line.
The key play of the drive was a fourth and one conversion at the 31.
The extra point was good and North Little Rock’s lead shrank to 12-7 with 11:57 left in the first half.
North Little Rock answered the Cabot score, but not with a quick strike. The Wildcats showed they can sustain a drive as well, going 66 yards in 11 plays and overcoming 25 yards in penalties to score with 7:35 left in the half.
The drive’s key play was a 19-yard reception on second and 10 that gave NLR first and goal at the 7. Junior Tim Dunn did the rest on the next play and the extra point was good, giving NLR a 19-7 lead with 5:59 left in the half.
Cabot continued to put the ball on the ground, this time it was Carlisle that gave it up after taking a huge hit on the kickoff return.
Wildcat junior Wilson Walker covered it at the Cabot 25. Two plays later, Peterman hit Dokes for 25 yards and another Wildcat score.
The extra point was good again, and North Little Rock took a 26-7 lead with 5:59 on the clock.
Cabot went backwards on its next drive and punted after a three-and-out series, but the defense held NLR to three and out and got the ball back at the Cabot 20 after the NLR punt went into the end zone.
The Panthers blew down the field on the drive that started with 1:48 left in the half. After three plays left fourth and one, Fuller converted with a six-yard run to the 35. The Panthers then picked up four first downs on four consecutive plays, but things went wrong on first down at the Wildcat 32. No one blocked NLR’’s Clifton Williams, who caught Wade for a sack and a three-yard loss before he could even begin his rollout.
On second down, sophomore Vince Aguilar was wide open 15 yards downfield, but stopped on his route and the ball sailed over his head. Wade hit Aguilar for an eight-yard gain on third down, but Wade was forced to scramble on fourth and seven and picked up just two yards.
That gave NLR the ball back with three second left in the half, and the Wildcats knelt on the ball to take their 19-point lead into intermission.
Cabot got the ball to start the second half, but Wade lost his grip on the ball on the second play from scrimmage. The Wildcats covered, but got just one first down before losing a yard and missing a 42-yard field goal attempt.
The Panthers took the ball at the 20 and marched all the way to the Wildcat 3-yard line before stalling on downs. With a 19-point deficit, the Panthers didn’t have time to mess with field-goal attempts, and Wade was stopped for no gain on fourth and goal at the 3.
The Wildcats played field position the rest of the way. They drove out of the shadow of their own end zone, but were forced to punt from midfield. The punt was a good one, and pinned the Panthers at their own 5.
Cabot got just six yards before punting back to the Wildcats.
A few drives and a few punts later, Cabot put together another good drive, but it stalled at the Wildcat 15-yard line with two minutes left in the game.
One of Cabot’s highlights of the game came on the last drive. Wade threw deep to senior tight end Josh Clem. Clem was covered closely and the NLR defender knocked the ball high into the air as he slammed into Clem. Clem came down on his feet, and managed to haul in the deflected pass as he fell to the turf for a 33-yard gain to the 18-yard line.
Clem finished with four catches for 71 yards. Wade completed eight of 12 attempts for 105 yards and one interception, and ran 13 times for 98 yards.
Fuller carried 21 times for 98 yards and one touchdown.
Jenkins led all rushers with 127 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown.
Moncrief caught two passes for 89 yards and a score while Dokes caught three passes for 68 yards and a touchdown.
North Little Rock improved to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in conference play, while Cabot dropped to 3-2 and 1-2.
The Panthers will travel to Little Rock Central next week. The Tigers beat Conway last night 33-0.