Leader Blues

Thursday, October 11, 2007

SPORTS >>Cabot’s foe has tougher defense

Leader sports editor

Cabot’s task gets no easier this week, and that’s saying a lot on the heels of a narrow escape with a 21-20 win over North Little Rock last Friday. This week, Cabot hosts Little Rock Central. The Tigers have struggled on offense all season, but have shown signs of improvement the last two weeks. The Tiger defense, however, started the season strong, and shows no signs of weakening after six games.

“They’re good,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “North Little Rock’s defense is tough, but I think Central’s is even better. Nobody has been able to do anything with them. They’re big and athletic up front. They’re fast at linebacker and in the secondary. We’re going to have to try and figure out some way to beat ‘em.”

Central’s offensive woes reached their peak two weeks ago in a 23-0 loss at Russellville. Russellville got a help from its defense with those 23 points, but the shutout was the surprise. As badly as Central has struggled, it hadn’t been shut out in a game this season. The goose egg appears to have lit a fire. The Tigers scored 21 last week in a 21-14 win over Conway.

Again, the defense yielded nothing. Conway scored on defense and special teams. Texarkana also scored two special teams touchdowns against the Tigers in a 13-7 win.

“That defense just hasn’t given up anything,” Malham said. “The defensive line is the scary thing. They’re big and move really well. That tackle they got, I don’t know how we’re going to block him.”

Magnifying Malham’s concerns about Central’s defense is the way his offense has played recently. It moved the ball very well in the first half last week as it took a 21-0 lead into halftime. In the second half, however, penalties, fumbles and busted plays were the main story line as the Panthers held on for dear life.

The week before, Cabot lost four fumbles in a loss to Catholic.

“We’re going to have to be smarter and take care of the ball,” Malham said. “If we keep making all these mistakes and putting the ball on the ground, we’re going to get beat because we’re not good enough to do that. I thought we moved it pretty well in the first half, but yards are going to be tougher this week. We’re going to have to put drives together, so there are going to be more opportunities for mistakes. We’ve got to have that mind right and play smarter than we played in the second half last week. Every time we got it we went the wrong way, called the wrong formation, jumped off sides, had a busted play. Those are drive killers and we can’t afford that this week.”

Central’s athleticism is a key reason that Cabot can’t afford mistakes. Limiting opportunities and keeping those athletes contained will be the name of the game for the Panthers.

“If we let them loose we’re beat because we can’t catch ‘em,” Malham said. “We’ve got to be sure and take good solid angles and bring them down when we get to them. We’ve got to tackle. The best thing we can do though is keep it out of their hands as much as possible.”