Leader Blues

Monday, September 10, 2007

SPORTS >>Panthers escape from Bears

Leader sportswriter

Cabot’s traditional creed of three yards and a cloud of dust was modified to six yards and a splatter of mud Friday night, as the Panthers rolled their way to a 23-8 win over the Sylvan Hills Bears at Bill Blackwood Field. The Bears had no answer for Cabot sophomore halfback Michael James. The stats on James list him as 5’11”, 185 lbs., but the youngster plowed his way through the SH defensive line like a 210-plus back in the first half.

James scored both of the touchdowns for Cabot in the first two quarters, along with a 28-yard field goal from senior kicker Steve Lamb for a 17-0 lead.

To the Bears’ credit, their second-half adjustments made it a game, as they rallied to score against the brutal Panthers’ defense for the first time all season. Sylvan Hills had three other trips to the red zone in the contest, but mistakes, combined with a steel beam of a defensive line for Cabot, held Bears senior quarterback Hunter Miller at bay whenever the dual-threat piloted the SH offense anywhere close to the Panthers end zone.

Panthers coach Mike Malham was pleased with the second strong game from his oversized defense, but was also complimentary of Miller and the Bears offense.

“The defense did good, but that Miller kid is tough,” Malham said. “He broke one a couple of times; he’s a threat. It makes you hold your breath every time he touches it. We gave up our first score of the year, but they have some talent over there too. Offensively, we did pretty good, we ate up a lot of time and controlled the ball in the first half. The second half, I don’t think we even had the ball that much. In the third quarter, we only had about three plays. They came back out and played tough in that second half.”

To be exact, it was 1:44 and four plays that the Panthers actually had possession in the third quarter, as Miller and company ate up almost seven minutes off the clock during the first possession of the second half.

It wasn’t a passing fan’s game for sure, but Miller did land a nice one during the opening second half drive on a play that nearly started out as a turnover. Another tricky snap had Miller juggling the ball with Cabot defenders closing in, but Miller somehow rifled it down the right side to wide receiver Deonte Davis for a 44-yard gain into Panther territory.

The Bears moved all the way down to the Cabot 8-yard line, but a 25-yard field goal attempt by Stephan Kettle was blocked by senior defensive tackle L.D. Tarrant and scooped up by Ethan Coffee. Coffee took off like a shot after picking up the free ball, scrambling all the way down to the Sylvan Hills 43-yard line.

The Bears stiffened up defensively to make their only stop on Cabot in the third quarter. Quarterback Seth Bloomberg handed off to Jordan Carlisle on fourth and two from the SH 36, but the Bears held him just short of the markers. The officials worked the yard markers hard, and when they signaled Bears football, a vocal number of the Cabot faithful cried foul.

The Bears never conceded defeat, and were even more determined to avoid being shut out. Sylvan Hills marched downfield on a seven play, 65-yard drive that resulted in the end of six quarters of scoreless football for the Cabot defense.

Miller started out the drive with a big run, going up the middle and cutting left as he crossed midfield. Cabot defender Joe Bryant finally dragged Miller down, but not after a 45-yard gain down to the Panthers 26-yard line.

Lawrence Hodges finally punched it in for Sylvan Hills on the second play of the fourth quarter for the score, and a faked extra-point attempt was converted into two points with a pass from SH backup quarterback and holder Casey Cerrato to Mark Turpin. That would make it a game at 17-8, but Chris Bayles’ second run of the second half on the ensuing Cabot possession would put it out of reach for good.

The Panthers were faced with fourth and one at the Sylvan Hills 33-yard line, but Bayles made moving the sticks unnecessary with a run down the right side all the way in for the score. Lamb’s extra-point attempt went wide right, keeping the score at 23-8.

Despite some difficulty in the second half, Malham was happy with the push up front offensively in the first half.

“Our offensive line has the potential to be one of the best around,” Malham said. “They’re all a bunch of young kids, most of them are juniors. The best thing about is that they’re all back (next year). They’re getting better, we have some more size, and that makes a huge difference. We’re just happy to get out of here with a win, it wasn’t an easy game.”

The momentum was much more cut and dry for the Panthers in the first half, as three possessions resulted in three scores for Cabot. The opening drive went 65 yards in 12 plays, highlighted with strong runs from Jordan Carlisle and James. The longest run of the drive would be a nine-yarder for James, and the shortest a three-yarder for Carlisle. James would punch it in from five yards out at the 7:22 mark, with the point-after from Lamb to make it 7-0.

The Panthers settled for three on their next possession, but James would strike again before the half. This time, it was a 19-yard run off tackle on the left side for the score with 2:49 left in the first half.

The drive was set up with a Sylvan Hills turnover when Miller, who struggled to bring down snaps in the second quarter, bobbled the first snap of the drive, and defensive end Callen Boris pounced on the ball for the Panthers at the SH 28-yard line.

James led the Panthers with 19 carries for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Carlisle carried 16 times for 58 yards, and Bayles had 15 rushes for 91 yards and a touchdown. Cabot finished with 279 yards of total offense, with six penalties for 45 yards.

For Sylvan Hills, Miller completed 7 of 12 passing attempts for 97 yards and two fumbles. He carried 14 times for 62 yards after no rushing yards in the first half. Hodges carried eight times for 32 yards and a touchdown, and Deonte Davis had three receptions for 67 yards. In total, the Bears had 202 yards of offense, and was penalized four times for 20 yards.

The grandedios non-conference schedule for the Bears continues next week with an away game at North Little Rock, while the Panthers will face Searcy, a 28-20 loser to Batesville on Friday, at home.