Leader Blues

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

SPORTS>>Panthers hope to get offense going vs. Hall

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

Cabot is 2-0 and coming off a complete shutdown of a talented Sylvan Hills team, but all is not right in Pantherland.

The much bigger, deeper Cabot offense was able to generate just a little more than 200 yards of offense against the Bears in their 24-0 win. And they punted four times.

“The defense got the goose egg, but offensively, I don’t remember punting that many times in a while,” said Cabot head coach Mike Malham. “The line is not producing like we thought it would.”

Part of the problem is the loss of Jordan Gunn to North Little Rock and the loss of Les McGregor to a broken hip in Week 1.

What began as an experienced line now features three new starters. Malham hopes he canget it shored up in time for the Week 4 conference opener against Conway.

It might be tough to gage the progress of the line no matter how many yards the Panthers put up against Little Rock Hall.

That’s because Hall is a team that has struggled for quite a while now and figures to be no match for Cabot when the two teams tangle this Friday night at Panther Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

The Warriors have surrendered only 12 points in two games, though they came against a pair of struggling teams in Little Rock McClellan and Little Rock Mills. Hall followed its season-opening 38-6 win over McClellan with last week’s 6-0 loss to the Comets.

Hall has had some success offensively this season, but killed itself with penalties and turnovers against Mills.

“It was all human error last Friday,” said Hall head coach Travis Mann.

The Warriors have a couple of able backs in Roosevelt Harris and Sherodrick Smith, and some size up front with a pair of 260-pounders. Mann figures the Warrior line will have to play solid fundamentals to hang with Cabot in the trenches.

“We need to stay low and fire off the ball,” he said.

While getting the line up to expectations is a goal against Hall, Malham is hardly looking past the Warriors.

“They’ve got athletes and kids that can run,” he said. “We can’t blow any assignments. They’re going to mix it up but they’re basically an I-formation team that will run power out of it, option out of it and throwout of it.”

But Cabot has something this year it hasn’t always had: defensive speed to go along with its size. That defense limited Sylvan Hills to 54 total yards last Friday, including minus-24 yards on the ground one week after the Bears rumbled for more than 200 yards against Malvern.

Safety Joe Bryant had eight tackles, while Nick McTague and Jared Maxwell spent much of the night harassing Bears quarterback Jordan Spears into a 13 of 30 night.

“We turned McTague and Maxwell loose and they really got after it,” Malham said.

Now the key is to get the offense clicking and to hit the ground running when 7A Central play begins.

“It’s taking a little time to develop the line,” Malham said. “We missed some blocking assignments (against Sylvan Hills) and we’re just not getting after it. James is hard to bring down and he and Bayles are running hard, but they’re finding out it takes good blocking to make them look good. We’ve got a lot of improvement to do before the conference begins.”

Just as Malham is taking nothing for granted against Hall, Mann is conceding nothing to Cabot.

“We’re excited about the opportunity,” he said. “We’ve seen the films of both the Jacksonville and Sylvan Hills games (against Cabot) and we figure we’re not any better or worse than those two teams.

“I’m a big believer in hope, but we’re going to need more than hope on Friday.”