Leader Blues

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

SPORTS >>Cabot keeps streak alive versus Lions

Leader football writer

CABOT – If the Searcy-Cabot series involved a traveling trophy, the Cabot Panthers might be looking to give it a permanent foundation.

The Panthers (3-0) wrapped up their nonconference season here Friday night with a 35-0 win over Searcy, the 12th consecutive time Cabot has beaten the Lions dating back to 1992.

Searcy, which hasn’t won since the final week of the 2005 season, fell to 0-3 with its 13th consecutive setback, tied for the fifth longest losing streak in Arkansas.

Cabot physically dominated the smaller Lions, holding Searcy to just 29 yards of offense and three first downs. The Panthers, meanwhile, didn’t attempt a pass and didn’t need to. Cabot ran the ball 59 times for 364 yards against a Searcy defense that kept the Lions in the game thanks to several first-half turnovers by the Panthers.

Cabot led just 13-0 at the half. After the Panthers scored on their first two possessions, they fumbled the ball away on their next three, including one deep inside their own territory. Jarrod Overstreet recovered for Searcy with just more than a minute to play in the first half at the Cabot 4-yard line. Two carries by fullback Aaron Lynch moved the ball to the 2, where Trace Madden was stopped for a one-yard loss. Ryan Wilbourn then missed wide left on a 20-yard field goal attempt.

“That goal line stand was big,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said afterward. “We were planning on going down and scoring and being up three scores at the half. If they score right there, then all of a sudden it’s a one-possession game.”

It was the best chance Searcy would get to crack the scoreboard. The Lions got the ball just four times in the second half and punted on three of those, never leaving their side of the field. Searcy also had the ball when the clock ran out.

Searcy coach Bart McFarland had a simple answer for the Lions’ offensive woes.

“They’re a good defense, that’s what the problem was,” McFarland said. “Everything we tried, they were all over us. That’s a playoff team right there.”

One possession after Cabot opened the second half by punting – for their only time in the game – the Panthers found some cushion when fullback Michael James bulled his way in from two yards out. Quarterback Seth Bloomberg’s two-point run gave Cabot a 21-0 lead with 2:43 left in the third quarter.

James, like Bloomberg a sophomore, led the Panthers’ attack with 130 yards on 21 carries. Chris Bayles, a junior, added 90 yards on just 10 carries.

“We’re a young football team,” Malham said. “The offense did a great job tonight. If we can continue that into conference play, we’ve got a chance to be in the thick of things.”

Senior running back Jordan Carlisle stretched the Cabot lead to 28-0 with a two-yard TD run with 6:22 to play and Wesley Sowell capped the scoring with a 6-yard run with 1:11 left.

McFarland stopped well short of praising his team’s effort against the Class 7A Panthers.

“We’ve played some good teams in nonconference, but we really need some confidence right now,” he said. “Next week is a new season for us. We’ve got to regroup and get ready for it.”

Cabot was dominant to begin the game, scoring quickly on its first two possessions.

After a snap over the punter Wilbourn’s head on the Lions’ first possession, the senior ran down the ball and avoided the rush to get away a kick, something Wilbourn found himself doing most of the game.

It took Cabot just five plays before James ran the final 22 yards for a 6-0 lead with 8:46 left in the first.

After another bad snap on another Searcy punt, the Panthers drove 82 yards in just six plays with Bayles getting the final 44 untouched through the left side for a 13-0 lead.

Searcy begins 6A-East play at Marion next Friday. Cabot hosts Conway in the 7A-Central opener for both teams.