Leader Blues

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

SPORTS>> Panthers get untracked

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

For those who like to keep score, it was a 45-26 win for the Cabot Panthers over Lake Hamilton during their annual scrimmage game at Panther Stadium on Monday night.

But for coach Mike Malham, it was all about getting the offense in gear after a slow start.

“It was kind of a defensive struggle until there at the end,” Malham said. “We finally came out and looked like we knew what we were doing. But (Lake Hamilton) has everybody back, and their defense looked pretty good. We couldn’t just go out there and have our way with them.”

Junior fullback Michael James closed out the night with some strong running. He had only two rushes for six yards during the varsity offense’s first 15-play series, but picked things up later on, carrying eight times for 68 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown run up the gut during the second series for the first team offense.

“The defenses played good, which is encouraging,” Malham said. “Offensively, I thought we looked a little better there at the end when we went with the 20-in (drives). We finally started doing what I thought we could do. James was running a little harder, and maybe they just woke up finally. We needed that. Just to get out under the lights and hit somebody.

“They were a state runner up in 6A with everybody back, and projected to get there again. They are a good team. They could play in our conference very easily.”

There was also competition going on for the second-team running backs. Senior Leonard Mitchell broke a 28-yard touchdown run late in the scrimmage on a pitch from QB Nathan Byrnes.

That left the Panthers with two more plays in their 15-down allotment, and junior Matt Bayles took advantage of one of those plays with a 75-yard scamper down the left side for back-to-back Cabot scores.

“I think I’m happy with the effort,” Malham said. “I thought we looked a lot better defensively than we did offensively until right there at the end I thought we finally woke up and looked like we were doing a little bit better.”

Defensively, senior lineman Kyle Deblock had several tackles inside, and Ethan Coffee looked strong in the secondary with a number of break-ups. Jason Sled pulled down an interception for the second-team defense, and Joe Bryant picked up on special teams where he left off last season with a pair of blocked field goal attempts.

Penalties were a problem for the Panthers, especially early on. There were a few pass interference and personal foul penalties, but the majority of the flags against Cabot were simple motion and encroachment infractions.

“That’s another thing,” Malham said. “When you’ve got experienced guys back, you shouldn’t have all those offsides penalties and in motion and stuff like that. When you’ve got everybody back, that shouldn’t happen. That’s why I’m thinking ‘Where’s our brains at? Where’s our concentration and focus?’

“We think we’re just going to step out on the field and they’re going to lay down for us, but it doesn’t work that way. We have to come ready to play, so hopefully they woke up a little bit.”

The Panthers will hold their Red-White game on Friday before opening the season at Jacksonville on Tuesday.