SPORTS >>Cabot falls short to Zebras
Leader sports editor
Missed conversions after touchdowns told the story Friday night at Panther Stadium. Cabot rallied from a 27-7 halftime deficit against Pine Bluff, only to fall 27-25 when fullback Michael James was upended at the 1-yard line with 48 seconds remaining on a two-point attempt that would have tied the game. The attempt came after a James seven-yard run that capped off a 12-play, 46-yard drive and gave the Panthers their third unanswered touchdown of the half.
It was Cabotís fifth possession of the half that was completely dominated by the Panthers in every aspect except plays after touchdowns.
Cabotís keep-away brand of football worked to perfection, as the Panthers held the ball for 19 minutes and eight seconds of the final 24 minutes.
Cabot still put the ball on the ground, and none was more crucial than one with 5:30 left in the game. On second and five from the Pine Bluff 8-yard line, James fumbled after a 2-yard gain and the Zebras recovered on the their own 6.
Two plays later, linebacker Spencer Neumann intercepted a Claude Johnson pass at the 46 to set up the Panthersí final touchdown drive.
Trailing 27-7 at halftime, the Panthers took the opening possession and went 77 yards in 17 plays and used over seven minutes of the clock. The drive ended on a quarterback keeper by Jeremy Wilson for 4 yards and the score. The extra point attempt was no good and left the Panthers trailing 27-13.
Pine Bluff went three and out on its next possession. On third and five, defensive end Callen Boris sacked Zebra quarterback Jarvis Mayo for a 4-yard loss and forced a punt.
Cabot took over on its 30 and went 11 plays, but a 9-yard loss on third and 5, and an illegal procedure penalty left the Panthers with fourth and 19 on the 34. Cabot tried a throwback to the opposite field, but the Zebra defense snuffed it out and stopped the play after just a 1-yard gain by Les McGregor.
The Zebras took over and went backwards. New quarterback Claude Johnson was dropped for a 4-yard loss on first down, and threw incomplete on second down. On third and 14, he slipped and fell while trying to escape pressure for a loss of nine yards. A short punt set Cabot up at the Pine Bluff 47, and Wilson covered all that distance on the very first snap of the drive.
Wilson kept on the option to the left side, and raced untouched for 47 yards and the score. Cabot set up for another extra point, but Pine Bluff jumped off sides, moving the ball inside the 2-yard line. Cabot opted to go for two from that distance, but James was stopped short, leaving the score 27-19 with 10:11 left in the game.
Pine Bluff got its first and only first down of the half on its next possession. The Zebras were one yard short of another first down and faced third and one at the Panther 40. They went for it all on third down, but the pass was knocked down in the end zone by Cabot senior Hunter Hess. On fourth down, senior L.J. Tarrant exploded through the line of scrimmage and blew up a draw play, nailing tailback Christian Owens as soon as he took the handoff for a 4-yard loss to give the Panthers possession and set up the drive that ended with the fumble inside the 10.
The first 24 minutes belonged to the Zebras. Cabot could not find an answer for the Pine Bluff passing game, even when Pine Bluff had to have big yardage. The Mayo to Jonathan Frasier connection was virtually unstoppable in the first half.
On their first possession, the Zebras converted a third and 19 when Mayo and Frasier hooked up for the first time for 29 yards to the Cabot 3. Owens stepped it in from there to give Pine Bluff a 7-0 lead with 8:01 left in the first quarter.
Cabot got 14 yards on its first play, but punted after three more plays and gave Pine Bluff the ball at its own 18.
Facing third and nine, Mayo and Frasier hooked up again, this time for 33 yards to the Cabot 48. On first down, Owens broke loose for a 45-yard gain to the 5-yard line. Pine Bluff was called for clipping on first down to set up first and goal from the 16. An incomplete pass was followed by a sack by Boris that set up fourth and goal from the 24. Thatís when Mayo and Fraiser hooked up again. Another jump ball to the corner was won by Frasier for the score and a two-touchdown Pine Bluff lead with 2:47 left in the first quarter.
Cabot fumbled on the first play of its next possession, and Pine Bluff covered it on the Cabot 37. This time the Zebras tried to pull out another third and long, but senior Michael Reitz picked off the pass on the Cabot 11.
Cabot drove out to the 36, where it had to punt on fourth and nine.
The punt put Pine Bluff on its own 32, and it covered all that distance in one play. Predictably, it was another Mayo to Frasier connection, this time it was on jump ball. Mayo faked his defender into biting on hitch and ran alone down the left sideline, where Mayoís pass hit him in stride for the score. The extra point made it 21-0 with 9:16 left in the first half.
Cabot got good field position when Neumann returned the kickoff 46 yards to the Pine Bluff 44, and scored in nine plays to make it 21-7 with 5:14 left in the half. Wesley Sowell got the payoff from six yards out.
Pine Bluff took the ensuing kickoff to the Cabot 49, but another clipping penalty backed it up to the 40. From there, three Mayo completions to three different receivers put the Zebras back up by three scores. The final pass was to Kelsey Collins and covered 23 yards. The extra point was no good, and Pine Bluff never threatened to score again.
Cabot put together another good drive, and had first down at the Pine Bluff 24 with 44 seconds and all three timeouts left, but Wilson fumbled the ball and Pine Bluff covered it and ran out the clock to end the half.
Statistically, the two halves look like two different games.
Pine Bluff finished with 293 total yards, with 291 coming in the first half. Cabot picked up 402 total yards, with 137 in the first half and 265 in the second.
Mayo finished with eight completions in 11 attempts for 219 yards and three touchdowns. Frasier had five receptions for 168 yards and two scores, all in the first half.
James led all rushers with 36 carries for 164 yards, including 25 carries for 114 in the second half. Wilson carried 15 times for 127 yards, 123 of which came in the second half.
The loss drops the Panthers to 6-3 overall and 3-3 in conference play, while Pine Bluff improved to 1-1-7 and 1-5 in league play.
Cabot will travel to Russellville next Thursday while Pine Bluff battles North Little Rock, another upset winner. The Wildcats got their first conference win of the season, upsetting top-ranked Bryant.