Leader Blues

Saturday, September 20, 2008

SPORTS>>Panthers roll right over Hall

For The Leader

The Cabot Panthers overcame a slow start here at Panther Stadium on Friday night and overwhelmed the outmanned Little Rock Hall Warriors, 42-6.

The Panthers improved to 3-0 with the victory and will travel to Conway to open 7A-Central conference play next Friday. Hall, a member of the 6A-South, dropped to 1-2 and will host league power West Memphis next week.

A week after a less than stellar performance in a 24-0 victory over Sylvan Hills, the Panthers started slowly again against Hall. Cabot fumbled on its first possession and was in jeopardy of trailing the Warriors as late as the second quarter.

Defensive back Joe Bryant made a big stop on Hall running back Stephon Watson on a 2-point conversion try, though, and the Panthers were never threatened again. Cabot coach Mike Malham used 14 different ballcarriers as the Panthers rolled up 338 yards on the ground in the victory. The Panthers scored three times in the second quarter to put the game out of reach.

“We kind of had our way with them offensively,” Malham said afterward. “The defense looked great last week and the offense really struggled. This week, it was just the opposite. Hall really had us on our heels there when they scored and they had the 2-point conversion that would have put them ahead. You never know what’s going to happen in a football game.”

On paper, it didn’t look like the game should amount to much. By the time the second half began, reality had set in for the Warriors, who ran just 19 plays in the second half, including a punt.

Leading just 7-6 with 9:54 left in the second quarter, the Panthers calmed the angst of the home crowd by driving 66 yards in 12 plays and taking more than five minutes off the clock before senior Chris Bayles burst through the left side for an 18-yard TD run. Joshua Luna added one of his five PAT kicks to make it 14-6.

After forcing a quick Hall punt, Cabot marched 38 yards to add another score. A 12-yard scamper by Bayles and fullback Michael James’ 7-yard run set up quarterback Seth Bloomberg’s 1-yard TD.

The Panthers’ Logan Spry then got the ball back with a pooch kick that was recovered by Justin Wortman at the Warrior 33 with 59 seconds left until the half. James ripped off nine yards on the ground before Bloomberg hit Bayles on an out-and-up for a 24-yard TD. Cabot attempted just two passes on the night, both completions from Bloomberg to Bayles, totaling 31 yards.

Luna’s PAT gave the Panthers a 28-6 lead at the half.

Backup quarterback Nathan Byrnes opened the second half by directing the Panthers on a 63-yard scoring drive, capped by James’ 6-yard run for a 35-6 lead with 8:07 left in the third.

On Hall’s next possession, Warrior quarterback Myron Jackson was sacked by a trio of Panthers on 3rd-and-10 and Cabot took the ensuing punt and started yet another scoring march. Malham used a rotating parade of backs the remainder of the game, with five different backs touching the ball during the Panthers’ final drive. Mitchell Leonard ran two yards with 2:06 left in the third to make it 42-6.

Cabot’s Wesley Sowell started the scoring for the Panthers, capping a 77-yard drive on their second possession of the game with a 39-yard TD run.

Hall matched the touchdown on its next possession when Jackson hit Marland Smith for a 44-yard touchdown.

Each of the Panthers’ starting running backs topped 70 yards in the game. Sowell led the way with 81 yards on 7 carries while Bayles finished with 79 on 11 carries and James carried 13 times for 77 yards. The Panthers used four different quarterbacks in the game.

There’s not much time to celebrate for Cabot, which is ranked second in the state’s largest classification.

“Conway has played better competition so far than we have,” Malham said, “so I don’t think they’re going to be in awe of us or anything. They didn’t play real well the first week (42-3 loss to Bentonville) but they came back and played much better last week (19-7 loss to Fort Smith Southside).

“It’ll be a step up in competition for us, so we’d better be ready to play.”