SPORTS >>Big Rockets stun Panthers
Leader sports editor
The Catholic Rockets were underdogs, but they were tailor made to give the Cabot Panthers fits, and that’s exactly what they did Friday night at War Memorial Stadium. The Panthers outgained their hosts, but the Rockets were much more steady and opportunistic, cruising to a 30-12 win over Cabot.
Cabot lost three fumbles, threw one interception and committed three personal-foul penalties that helped stall good drives.
The Panthers have struggled with turnovers in other games this year, but couldn’t overcome them against a gigantic Catholic team that could match them physically.
“They’re a big, strong team and we helped ‘em out a bunch,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “You don’t help yourself any when you turn it over four times. We have a lot of sophomores out there and they’re making some mistakes. Catholic’s a good team and we didn’t play very smart. You can see how that turns out.”
The two offensive lines controlled the line of scrimmage in the first half, but Catholic got a few more stops and a few more breaks in taking a 17-6 lead into intermission.
The Rockets started their second possession of the game after stopping Cabot halfback Wesley Sowell on fourth and one.
The ensuing Rocket drive, which started at the Cabot 38, was easy. Tailback Chris Rose got 25 of it on the first two carries. Three plays later, Taylor Bartlett found receiver Tate Seachris at the 1-yard line for a first and goal. Two plays later, Bartlett made his way into the end zone. The extra point was good, giving Catholic a 7-0 lead with 6:11 remaining in the first quarter.
Cabot drove from its own 20 to the Catholic 12 on its next drive, but things stalled on downs again. The Panthers went for it on fourth and sxi from the 12, but Bloomberg was topped after picking up just one yard on an option keeper.
Catholic started at its own 11 with 10 second left in the first quarter, and put together a Cabot-esque drive, marching 85 yards in 16 plays. 42 of those yards came through the air, including a 28-yard pass and catch from Bartlett to Paul Drake on third and 15 that gave Catholic first and goal at the 6.
The Cabot defense held from there, and forced Catholic to attempt a field goal, which was good from 21 yards out and gave the home team a 10-0 lead with 5:51 left in the first half.
Cabot failed to convert another fourth down on its next possession and gave Catholic the ball with good field postion, but the defense again held and forced a punt.
That’s when disaster struck for the first time. A busted play on second 10 got Bloomberg drilled behind the line of scrimmage. He fumbled the ball, and Catholic’s Andrew Coppola scooped it up and scampered 40 yards for an easy touchdown.
The extra point made it 17-0 Rockets with 1:59 left in the half.
Cabot answered with a badley-needed score. The two teams traded personal fouls on the ensuing drive. Cabot’s negated a 24-yard pickup by Bloomberg, but Catholics gave that yardage back, and gave the Panthers first and goal at the 9.
Carries of 14 and 13 yards by James also aided the top downfield, and Les McGregor caught a 4-yard pass from Bloomberg with 13 seconds left in the half to make it 17-6.
The Panthers were driving on the opening possession of the second half, but a Bloomberg pass was picked off by John Ukadike at the 10-yard line to put an end to a 70-yard drive.
Cabot almost scored three plays earlier on a throwback pass from Bloomberg to Blake Carter. Carter and teammate LJ Tarrant were the only two players on the left side of the field when Carter caught the pass near midfield. But Carter out-ran his blocker and was brought down by John Ukadike at the 15-yard line.
The Rockets were forced to punt from near midfield, and Cabot again took over on its own 20.
This time the Panthers weren’t stopped, and didn’t stop themselves. The drive covered the 80 yards in 15 plays, that included two big fourth-down conversions. The first was a 9-yard gain by Bloomberg on fourth and six, the second a 4-yard gain by James on fourth and two from the 16-yard line.
Three plays later, James scored from four yards out. A two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the score 17-12 with 10:31 remaining in the game.
Cabot gave up one first down, but put Catholic into a third and short situation when the Rockets struck lightning. Scatback Maybom Peters took a wraparound handoff 60 yards for a touchdown. A failed extra point made it 23-12 with 7:56 left.
Cabot again drove the length of the field only to fumble inside the Catholic 20-yard line. This time James coughed it up while struggling for extra yardage on the Rocket 14.
Catholic iced the game a few plays later when tailback Chris Rose broke loose for 52 yards with 1:46 remaining.
Cabot got the ball back, but fumbled it for the final time with 10 seconds to go.
Cabot finished with 431 total yards to 352 for Catholic.
James led all rushers with 245 yards on 33 carries. Chris Rose led the Rockets with 20 carries for 140 yards.
The loss drops Cabot to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in league play, while Catholic improves to 3-2 and 1-1.
The Panthers stay on the road next week when the travel to North Little Rock to take on the Wildcats, which lost 10-7 to Conway.