Leader Blues

Thursday, October 04, 2007

SPORTS >>Youthful Wildcats improving for Cabot

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports staff

The Cabot Panthers stay on the road this week in 7A-Central play when they travel to North Little Rock. The Charging Wildcats are a young team that has suffered several close setbacks so far this season. Most recently, the Wildcats dropped a disappointing 10-7 decision to Conway to fall to 0-2 in conference play. They lost their conference opener 20-7 to Russellville.

First-year North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding knew his young team would suffer some growing pains, and hopes a few things are beginning to work themselves out.

“We’ve only got two seniors on offense and two returning starters,” Bolding said. “In fact, we’ve only got two people starting on offense that had ever been on the field for one snap on a Friday night up until this season, so we knew we were going to have some growing pains there.”

Offsetting the inexperienced offense is one of the state’s best defenses. The 28 points given up to Texarkana and the 20 to Russellville are deceiving numbers. A number of turnovers and penalties put the defense in tough situations. Overall, Bolding is pleased with his defense.

“We’ve played pretty well defensively,” Bolding said. “We match up with people pretty well and we haven’t given up much. If we can maintain that kind of play and the offense can come along, we think we can be a pretty good football team.”

It hasn’t been all bad for the NLRHS offense. Without the turnovers and penalties, the team has moved the ball fairly well. It had two touchdowns called back for penalties against Russellville, and another called back against Texarkana.

“We’ve done pretty good on offense, we just have to cut out the mistakes,” Bolding said. “A lot of that goes back to inexperience. I hate to make excuses, but that has been a problem for us this year. You just can’t make mistakes like that and beat good teams. Experience does have its advantages and we’re getting better with every minute these guys are on the field.”

This week Bolding’s squad will face another good team, that may have a chip on its shoulder after losing its first game of the season last week against Catholic High.

The Panthers also have several inexperienced players starting, and that may have played a role in the four turnovers and three personal foul penalties that thwarted drives that were otherwise going well.

Bolding isn’t counting on Cabot continuing to play like they did last week.

“Cabot isn’t a team that usually makes a lot of mistakes,” Bolding said. “They’re usually very sound fundamentally. They do what they do, there are no surprises, and they do it well. We have to be ready for the best possible Cabot team.”

The Panthers’ style, though, shouldn’t be a problem for North Little Rock. Although this is Bolding’s first year, he knows Cabot and NLR play each other from junior high on up.

“The thing about this team is they know Cabot, they’ve played Cabot about ever year,” Bolding said. “They know they have to get low, get under the shoulder pads. They know Cabot is going to come off that line hard, and they know they have to match that.”

North Little Rock’s defensive line is big and athletic. Bolding, though, is concerned with about his small offensive line.
“We probably have the smallest offensive line in the conference,” Bolding said. “That’s definitely a concern for us. Their defense though, isn’t as big as their offense, and I feel like we match up pretty well with them with our defensive line. What we have to do is just get ready to get down and dirty with them, be ready to get our knuckles bloodied and go to battle.”