Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

SPORTS >>Zebras concern Cabot

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers’ loss to Bryant last week puts them in a strange position for the playoffs. If Bryant wins one more game, it seals up the conference title and No. 1 seed in the playoffs. If Cabot wins out, it can finish as high as No. 2 and get a home playoff game with a 5-2 league record. If it loses just one and fnishes 4-3, everything is up in the air.

Standing between Cabot and that two seed right now is Pine Bluff, which visits Panther Stadium this Friday night. The Zebras’ record isn’t impressive, but the team is, and has shown considerable improvement all season.

“They haven’t won a game, and you go in there wondering how you’re going to beat ‘em,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “They got speed all over the place. They got good size on the line. They’ve just been finding ways to beat themselves. They’re getting better though. I wish we could have got them in the first couple of weeks.”

Pine Bluff’s best weapon is sophomore quarterback Claude Johnson. He leads the team in rushing, and has a good arm. The Zebras lost 32-31 to Russellville, and Catholic scored late in the fourth to win 21-14. They also have a 28-28 tie with Fayetteville on their record this year.

“Russellville was lucky,” Malham said. “They gave that one away. Catholic had a tough time with them. They tied Fayetteville, this is a good team that’s about as dangerous as anyone we’ve played. If we play like we did in the second half last week we’re not going to beat anybody.”

Cabot gave up 28 points in the second half against Bryant, losing a 14-10 halftime lead in the process and falling 38-14. The Hornets scored just before halftime on an inverted screen to the wideout. A play that should have been stopped for a short gain, but turned into a 22-yard touchdown pass.

“We missed three tackles on that play and sort of gave them the momentum at halftime,” Malham said. “We were still in good shape, we were ahead. We just didn’t play in the second half. We didn’t tackle well, didn’t cover some receivers. For some reason we got some linemen that didn’t want to block like they’ve been blocking. If all that keeps up, we’re in trouble.”

Cabot lost two more players in that game as well. Starting center ?? Phelps, and starting cornerback Joe Bryant were injured last week and will miss this Friday’s game.

Malham said Jeremy Wilson will finish the year at quarterback. Sophomore Powell Bryant, who stepped in at quarterback against Little Rock Central when starter Seth Bloomberg suffered a broken collarbone, will play in the defensive backfield.
“We’ll need some speed in the defensive backfield these next two weeks for sure, and Bryant runs a little better than Wilson.” Malham said. “Wilson’s been doing a good job for us. He runs hard and makes good decisions with the ball.”

The importance of winning these last two games isn’t lost on the team. Five teams in the 7A-Central still have winning conference records. Bryant is 5-0, Russellville is 4-1 while Cabot, Catholic and Central are all 3-2.

“Everything is big right now,” Malham said. “We’d like to get to play at home and 5-2 will probably get us that. You finish 4-3 you may not even get in.”