SPORTS >>Cabot dominates Conway
Leader sports editor
The Cabot Panthers had little trouble getting their foot on Conway’s neck Friday night at Panther Stadium, but there was a little trouble finishing the kill. In the end, it was still a sound Cabot victory, as the Panthers came away with a 28-9 win over the rival Wampus Cats in the 7A-Central opener for both teams.
When Cabot fullback Michael James scampered 44 yards for a touchdown just one minute into the second quarter, it put the Panthers up by three touchdowns and Conway never really threatened to make a game of it.
“The defense did a pretty good job of keeping everything in front of them,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “The Jackson kid scared me every time he touched it. With him you just hold your breath. We did a good job containing him. When you run it sideways we have a chance. It’s when they tried to pop him up there through the middle that scared me most, but the defense did a good job.”
After stopping Conway and forcing a punt, Cabot was marching for a fourth score first-half score when a fumble at the Conway 9-yard line was picked up by Dustin Hopper and returned to Cabot’s 39-yard line, where the Wampus Cats took over with 2:55 left in the first half.
Two rushes and two passes got Conway a first down at the Cabot 9-yard line. A seven-yard reception by Isaiah Jackson made it second and goal at the 2, and an off-sides penalty offset a two-yard loss by Jackson to make it third and goal at the 2.
Cabot pushed Conway backwards from there. Quarterback Ryan Kotch tried a keeper to the left side, but was brought down by a host of Panthers for a three-yard loss. Out of timeouts and the clock ticking down to zero, Conway lined up quickly and got the snap off just in time. Kotch rolled left and hit tight end Chris Harris in the end zone, but Cabot’s Zach Coy jarred the ball loose with a big hit before Harris came down. That preserved Cabot’s lead heading into the lockeroom at 21-0.
Conway’s best drive of the game opened the second half, but even it needed some help from Cabot.
Facing third and seven at their own 48-yard line, Conway’s Kotch threw hastily under heavy pressure. His pass, intended for Jackson, was picked off by sophomore Joe Bryant at the 22 yards to the Conway 43. But the play was nullified by a penalty for roughing the passer, which also gave the Wampus Cats 15 yards and an automatic first down at the Cabot 37.
Seven plays later, Jackson ran up middle for the final six yards. The extra point made it 21-7 with 4:30 left in the third quarter.
When Cabot finally got the ball back – Conway held it for the final three minutes of the first half and first eight of the second – it was back to business as usual. The Panthers plowed through the Conway defense for 67 yards on 11 plays. The big play of the drive was a 24-yard run by James on third and four. James also got the final carry, a five yarder that made it 28-7 with 10:34 left in the game.
Conway’s next drove got to the Cabot 25, but was taking too much time. Facing fourth and 15 from the Cabot 30, Kotch hit receiver Mike Askew, but for only eight yards. Cabot took over with five minutes left in the game, and gave Conway two more points.
A fumbled pitch lost 15 yards on third and seven. A high punt snap sailed out of the back of the end zone for a safety with 2:59 left.
Conway committed its first turnover on the first play of the next drive, and Cabot ran out the clock for the win.
Conway coach Kenny Smith was worried most about Cabot’s front line on offense, and his worries were realized last night.
“the difference in the whole deal is Cabot’s offensive line,” Smith said. “They have a tremendous offensive line. We knew that all week long. They did a fantastic job tonight. Defensively, they’re going to send 11 red helmets to the football. That’s coach (Randall) Black’s style, and they really were all over us in the first half. We made some adjustments in the second half and moved the football a little bit. But they’re a good football team. Their interior is just some big strong kids and they made the difference.”
Senior halfback Jordan Carlisle led the attack in the first half. He carried 11 times for 93 yards in the first two quarters, including one for a touchdown.
The Panthers took the ball to start the game and marched 79 yards in 13 plays to go up 7-0 with 6:43 left in the opening quarter. The key play of the drive was a fourth and three conversion. Sophomore quarterback Seth Bloomberg kept on an option for 10 yards to keep the drive alive.
Michael James got the final carry, the first of his three touchdowns in the game.
Cabot forced a three and out, then bulled its way 55 yards on nine plays to go up 14-0 with 1:16 left in the first.
The first seven plays covered 23 yards, the last two were 16 apiece by James, and then Carlisle for the touchdown.
After forcing a second three and out, Cabot wasted little time with what amounted to the kill shot. Spencery Neuman returned the punt to the Conway 47-yard line. Junior halfback Chris Bayles ran three yards, and James did the rest. He bounced off one tackler, put his hand on the ground, popped back up and outran the Conway defense the rest of the way for a 44-yard touchdown run. Kicker Steve Lamb hit the third of his four extra points to make it 21-0 with 10:59 left in the half.
Cabot finished with 312 total yards to 159 for Conway. Cabot had 246 total yards in the first half.
James led all rushers with 119 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. Carlisle added 117 yards on 17 carries and one score.
The win lifts Cabot to 4-0 overall and 1-0 in conference play. Conway dropped to 1-3 and 0-1.
The Panthers will travel to Catholic next week while Conway will host North Little Rock.