Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

SPORTS >>Story lines collide at Beebe

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers have likely their toughest test to date when they travel to Little Rock to take on Catholic High Friday night in War Memorial Stadium. The 4-0 Panthers will be the favorites against the 2-2 Rockets, but than .500 record could be deceiving.

Catholic has played a tougher schedule that Cabot so far, and both of its losses have been against 7A teams that are currently undefeated. After starting 2-0 against 6A teams Sylvan Hills and Benton, Catholic dropped a very close game to Fort Smith Northside, then lost its conference opener 35-14 to top-ranked Bryant last week.

Cabot hopes to leave the Rockets with an 0-3 record against the undefeated, but head Panther Mike Malham isn’t expecting anything easy.

“This is just another one of those games you have to get ready to play or you could end up beat,” Malham said. “They’re playing a lot better than they did last year. They were playing a lot of young kids last year and they’ve got a lot of kids back, so we’d better get ready to play.”

The Panthers and Rockets played to a 7-7 tie in regulation last year. Both teams scored a touchdown in the first overtime, but Catholic missed its extra point, giving Cabot a 14-13 overtime win.

The Rockets lost their best offensive player from that team to graduation, but still has some good hands that should have Cabot’s attention come Friday.

“That quarterback they’ve got is a good hand,” Malham says. “They do a few different things on offense and he’s pretty good at all of them. He can run a little bit and he can throw it pretty well.”

Catholic runs mostly out of the power-I formation, and will be the first team to do so that Cabot has played. Their new look isn’t something that concerns Malham as much as making sure his team sticks with the fundamentals of its own defensive scheme.

“I think our defense has done a good job for the most part,” Malham said. “They just have to keep playing proper technique and they should be ok.”

The injury bug finally crept up on the group of Panthers that started the season. Starting halfback Chris Bayles will be out indefinitely with a cracked bone in his leg.

His injury, though, comes just as Vince Aguilar, last year’s starter at fullback, returns from a knee injury. He played sparingly last week against Conway for the first time this season. He played mostly defensive end, but did line up at running back a few times and got a few carries late.

Junior Wesley Sowell will also see lots of time at halfback. He has carried a few times this year as well with good results.
“Sowell is the quicker of the two,” Malham said. “He’ll probably start back there.”

There were no major areas of concern after last week’s performance against Conway. Late in the game there was a fumble on an option play and a bad punt snap, but Malham was pleased with the team’s overall effort.

“(Sophomore quarterback Seth) Bloomberg is getting more comfortable and you can see that,” Malham said. “He hasn’t had to do much passing, but he’s running the option well and making good decisions. We just can’t put the ball on the ground and give up the big play. Overall I was pretty pleased with things last week. We’re just trying to get better at everything we do, a lot of repetition and make sure we have the fundamentals down.”