Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

SPORTS >>Cabot expecting best from Lions

By RAY BENTON AND JASON KING
Leader sports staff

On paper, Cabot’s week-three matchup at home against Searcy should be its easiest to date. Searcy is mired in a long losing streak while Cabot appears to be on the road back to contender status in the state’s largest classification.

None of that seems to matter much to Cabot coach Mike Malham, who knows that there are two factors working against that point of view.

The first is Searcy played its best game of the season last week, in losing a second-half lead and falling 28-20 to Batesville. Though still a loss, it was a step in the right direction for a team that’s searching for signs of improvement.

The other factor is that no matter the situation, Searcy always plays Cabot well.

“This is a big game for them and they always come ready to play,” Malham said. “Last year they might’ve gone 0-10, but they were ahead of us going into the fourth quarter. They always play us tough and I’m not expecting anything easy. We’re not good enough to do that. We’re the kind of team, if we come ready to play and execute and don’t make mistakes, I think we can beat anybody. But we can also be beat by just about anybody if we show up thinking we’re going to win just for showing up.”

Searcy’s last outing was a vast improvement from its week one loss to Vilonia, and from its scrimmage game against Bryant two weeks before the season. Searcy coach Bart McFarland sees Friday’s close loss with Batesville as something that can serve as a foundation to be built on. The head Lion believes that the strong performance against the Pioneers can do wonders for team morale, as long as it was a legitimate sign of things to come, and not just a one-game wonder.

“This will improve the attitude of the team, no doubt,” McFarland said. “But we have to continue that. We can’t just go out there and play strong for one week and expect everything else to just fall into place, we have to find a way to take this and turn it into wins.”

McFarland says that being prepared for the Panthers on Friday means being ready for the size that the offensive and defensive line for Cabot possesses.

“They’re big up front,” McFarland said. “They come off the ball really hard; they’re just fundamentally sound. We’ll see if we can find any holes in their armor or not, but they are definitely solid.”

While most everyone would rather have an easy win than a tough one, in a way Malham is glad that Searcy’s outing last week was better.

“You can see the improvement they’re making in the Wing T,” Malham said. “They played a lot better, and I’m glad they did it last week. Hopefully that’ll mean our guys will get ready to play and we won’t have to worry about being overconfident. We don’t want to be the team they get it all going against.”

Cabot’s win in week two, a 23-8 victory at Sylvan Hills, wasn’t as dominant as its 42-0 win in week one, but Malham was still pleased with the overall outing.

“Well I thought we did what we needed to do,” Malham said. “Most of the credit for it being close goes to Sylvan Hills. We didn’t really make a lot of mistakes, they just played tough and didn’t give up. It would have been really easy for them to lay down going into halftime down by three scores, but they didn’t. I thought we played pretty good defense. On offense we only had six possessions and scored on four of them. One we turned it over on downs and one we ended the game with, so the offense did its job for the most part. Sylvan Hills just played us a tough game.”

The Panthers did get senior Jake Davis back last week. He missed most of preseason with an injury. When he went down, he was the projected starting fullback, but he played defensive tackle last week, which is where he is likely to remain.

“He did a good job for us on defense and having him there on the line gives us a few more options in other places,” Malham said. “Whether he’ll play any running back I don’t know. The ones we have there now are doing a pretty good job.”

Cabot and Searcy will kickoff from Panther Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday.