Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

SPORTS >>Panthers' hopes still alive

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

Cabot is coming off a tough loss last week that saw the offense put up its worst output of the season. All appearances suggest they are getting a break after three straight weeks against conference unbeatens, but Cabot coach Mike Malham and the Panthers aren’t looking at this Friday’s trip to Pine Bluff in that way.

The Zebras are 1-7 overall and 1-4 in conference play, but have shown signs of being a dangerous team. Malham says they still have the same kind of athletes that have made them one of the most storied programs in the state. Things just haven’t gone well for them. “They’re 1-7 but they don’t look like they should be,” Malham said. “They’ve got everything. They’ve got all the ingredients, they just hadn’t put everything together for some reason.”

Malham points to their dominating win over Little Rock Catholic as evidence that the Zebras are dangerous when they play well. The Zebras beat Catholic 20-12 with a potent ground game. Cabot needed overtime to get past the Rockets in week five. That was also the Panthers’ last win. “They looked good against Catholic when they just ran their wishbone and the I and just pounded it at them,” Malham said. “With our luck they’ll play their best game of the year this week.”

Pine Bluff also had a 14-0 lead against Russellville, and led 14-12 in the fourth quarter before a major collapse allowed the Cyclones to escape with a 34-14 win. “They were doing the same thing to Russellville, but then just mistaked their way to a loss in that one. We can’t count on people making mistakes. You have to prepare for their best.”

Cabot’s offense moved the ball at times during its 7-0 loss to Bryant, despite only picking up 140 total yards. Lack of offensive firepower had more to do with eight offensive penalties than with an inability to move the ball. “I think that was the worst we’ve looked on offense in a long, long time,” Malham said. “I don’t think we had the ball one time that we didn’t get a penalty. You just can’t play like that. We’ve got six guys that were starters for us at the start of the year that aren’t playing now because of injury. So we’re shuffling people around, playing a lot of sophomores and playing people in places they hadn’t played before. It catches up to you sometimes, so I guess it just caught up to us.”

The defense played very well against an offense that had put up a lot of points in recent weeks. Malham hopes he continues to get that kind of effort in the last two weeks. “The defense played pretty good. We gave up some ground in the middle of the field, but we kept them out of the end zone. We just didn’t help ourselves any on offense.”

Cabot still has an outside shot at making the playoffs. The Panthers will need to win out against Pine Bluff and Russellville, and hope that Conway loses out to Russellville and Catholic. Little Rock Central, North Little Rock and Bryant have already secured three of the 7A-Central’s four playoff spots.