Leader Blues

Thursday, October 18, 2007

SPORTS >>Panther QB’s getting better

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers can play themselves into a first-place tie with a victory over undefeated Bryant this week in Saline County. The Panthers (6-1, 3-1) are a game behind the Hornets (6-0-1, 4-0) and in a three-way tie for second place with Russellville and Catholic, both of which suffered conference losses to Bryant.

Cabot will enter this week’s matchup against the state’s top-ranked team with a backup quarterback. Cabot’s quarterback troubles started just before two-a-days when Nathan Byrnes, the junior projected starter, suffered a broken nose. He came back two weeks ago, but was lost for the season with a knee injury at North Little Rock. Sophomore Seth Bloomberg stepped in and ran the offense very well, but he suffered a broken collarbone in the second quarter against Little Rock Central last week.

The Panther offense bogged down at that point and failed to score again, but Cabot coach Mike Malham believes things will be better this week.

“When Seth went down it limited us on what we could do,” Malham said. “We got out of sync. We put another sophomore, Powell Bryant, back there. We started working him there a few weeks ago and it’s a good thing too. He didn’t even play quarterback last year, but we were getting pretty thing, and when Seth went down, we had to throw the fourth of fifth guy out there, it threw us off.”

Bryant hasn’t put up the gaudy offensive statistics like some of its teams in the past, but the defense has been outstanding all season. Catholic’s 14 points is the most give up to a conference team this season. That could mean trouble for an inexperienced Panther quarterback, but Malham feels confident in the two players he has working under center this week.

“We’re going to start either Powell Bryant or Jeremy Wilson,” Malham said. “Whichever one doesn’t stay at defensive back, will play quarterback. We’re getting pretty thin over at defensive back too. Wilson has made some plays over there for us this year, but we’ll have to see how things work out at quarterback.”

Bryant will likely get the start, but Wilson will have to be ready to step in on the spur of the moment. Senior Jordan Sperry will also take snaps this week.

With Wilson and Bryant taking most of the snaps, Malham hopes it will help the team’s fluidity.

“I think that will be better,” Malham said. “Again when Seth went out, we started wasting plays and getting procedure penalties. We didn’t get off five or six plays in a row without a miscue, and a lot of that had to do with having a guy under center that hadn’t been there before. When we waste a play and give ourselves two downs to go 10 yards, that’s not good for our offense. Giving these quarterbacks a whole week should help that. It should be better than it was when we just had to put a guy out there that hadn’t had a whole lot of work.”

Bryant’s offense hasn’t been staggering, but it has been solid. The Hornets more run-oriented this season and play smart football. They have an effective passing attack, that is generall used to set up the strong running of #33. They did hit a couple of big pass plays against Central, so Cabot’s defensive backfield, another area hit by injuries, will be tested.

“They look like an undefeated football team,” Malham said of the Hornets. “Their quarterback can throw the ball well, the running back is solid and runs hard. Nobody has scored on them really. They just don’t do anything to beat themselves.”

With Cabot’s injuries mounting and more and more sophomores forced into action, not doing things to beat yourself will be a focal point this week, but the head Panther is confident in his team.

“I feel good. If we can get somebody who can just run the option a little bit, and just not make the mistakes, we’ll be alright.”