SPORTS >>Rockets hold on to hand Panthers first loss
To the wire doesn’t even begin to describe Cabot’s tough 35-28 loss to Little Rock Catholic Friday night at Panther Stadium.
Seth Bloomberg had one final shot to tie the game for the Panthers in the final three seconds, but on fourth down from the Catholic 6, he was sacked and Catholic held on for the win.
The Panthers had burned up all of their timeouts before the final minute, which left them scrambling to the line as the clock ticked. Chris Bayles converted a first down to take the ball into Catholic territory with 1:48 remaining, trying to reach the sideline.
The Catholic secondary didn’t allow that to happen, forcing Cabot coach Mike Malham to burn his final timeout.
“It was a funny game,” Malham said. “We got off to a good start, but we helped them out a little bit in the first half. They have a good team, we knew that coming in. I thought our defense played great at times, and then we had some letdowns. We had a pretty good night. We moved the ball pretty good, did a good job, but it just came down to right there at the end and didn’t get it done.”
The Panthers avoided a turnover on downs when Bloomberg hit Justin Wortman for a 25-yard completion that put the ball at the Catholic 10. The defense stiffened from there, keeping Cabot inbounds and out of the end zone.
“This has got to be big – we’re 2-0 in the conference,” Catholic coach Ellis “Scooter” Register said after the game. “We’ve got to take care of business one week at a time. My defense did a great job. (Springer) got hurt Tuesday in practice. He dislocated his elbow. He told me he was going to play – I knew he would. He couldn’t even raise his arm on Wednesday. I don’t know what his stats are, but that’s a gamer.”
It would have been the second improbable comeback for Cabot. Trailing 28-21 with 7:45 left in the game, Nick McTague fell on a Rocket fumble to give the Panthers possession at the Catholic 36, and a personal foul penalty against the Rockets moved the ball to the 21-yard line.
Bayles and Michael James took it from there in four plays, with James busting through the Catholic defensive line on fourth and 2 for a 13-yard touchdown scramble. Logan Spry’s extra-point knotted it up at 28-all, but his ensuing kickoff sailed out of bounds, giving the Rockets good field position at their own 35 with 5:56 left in the game.
Catholic quarterback Taylor Bartlett wasted little time in finding John Dominic III on a 36-yard pass down the right side on the fifth play of the drive to put the ball at the Cabot 1-yard line, and it only took two sneak attempts for Bartlett to push across the game-winner.
Cabot’s only lead came on its opening possession. The drive lasted 12 plays, with James’ number being called for the final seven. His biggest run was only five yards, but two of them were good enough to convert first downs. He capped it off with a 1-yard rumble with 4:24 left in the first quarter, with Spry’s point-after making it 7-0.
The Cabot secondary had its hands full all night with the Rocket receivers, namely senior John Springer. Springer put the Rockets on the board for the first time with a 42-yard reception down the right side with 40 seconds left in the opening frame.
Garrett Uekman was Bartlett’s best target on the next Catholic drive. He pulled down a 27-yard toss from Bartlett to set up the next score before Bartlett began to find Springer again on the Rockets’ last touchdown of the first half. Springer had back-to-back completions of 28 and 35 yards to push the ball in the red zone, and Aaron Chwalinski capped off the drive with a 5-yard run with 2:46 left in the first half.
James was able to answer one of those scores for Cabot with 5:32 left in the second quarter. The junior fullback bulled his way in from 1-yard out for the second of his four touchdowns to tie it at 14-14.
James led the way for Cabot with 22 rushes for 114 yards and all four Panther scores. Bayles added 89 yards on 13 carries. The Panthers had 331 yards of total offense. Spencer Neumann led defensively with 10 tackles.
For Catholic, Bartlett was 22 of 30 passing for 336 yards and two touchdowns. The Rockets had 400 yards of total offense.
The Panthers will host North Little Rock, an 18-10 winner over Conway on Friday. Catholic will host Van Buren, a 28-13 loser to Bryant.