Leader Blues

Saturday, October 18, 2008

SPORTS>>Panthers play keep-away, beat Central

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

Possession, they say, is nine-tenths of the law.

For Cabot on Friday night against Little Rock Central, it was about eight-tenths of the game.
The Panthers ran a whopping 77 plays to just 29 for the Tigers and held the ball for nearly 32 of 48 minutes to keep Central winless with a 31-7 victory at Quigley Field. Cabot improved to 6-1, 3-1 in 7A-Central play. With North Little Rock pummeling

Little Rock Catholic 49-20 on Friday night, Cabot moves into a tie for second place behind unbeaten Russellville.

The Panther defense limited the hapless Tigers to just 130 total yards and four first downs — only one after halftime.

“We think we have a pretty good defense,” said Cabot head coach Mike Malham. “We’ve got some speed this year and we run to the ball real well.”

In addition to the time-of-possession domination, Cabot also benefited from interceptions by Joe Bryant and Justin Wortman as well as outstanding field position almost the entire night. The Panthers began three of their seven drives inside Tiger territory and two more outside of their own 40.

Wherever they started their drives, they pretty much did the same thing: pound it up the gut and off tackle and occasionally throw the ball to good effect. Quarterback Seth Bloomberg completed 8 of 11 passes for 68 yards. Michael James led Cabot’s ground attack with 104 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.

The game looked initially to be the breeze it ultimately turned out to be when Cabot took the opening kickoff and went 73 yards on 13 plays. But the Panther offense stalled on its next two possessions and Central struck to tie it late in the first half on Cherard Grant’s one-yard run.

The big play was Adam Meek’s 47-yard pass to a wide open Kameron Finney down to the Cabot 4.

“Our safety kind of went to sleep on that play,” Malham said. “That’s youth for you.”

Spencer Neumann set Cabot up in good shape with a 38-yard return of the kickoff out to the 43 with 4:47 left in the half.

James converted a fourth and three to the Central 34 with less than two minutes remaining and Bloomberg completed passes to Neumann and Ben Wainwright to reach the 12.

Three plays later, Bloomberg vaulted into the end zone to complete a 5-yard touchdown run and Cabot took a 14-7 lead into intermission.

“It was important to get that touchdown at the end of the half,” Malham said. “If we go in tied 7-7, they’re all fired up.”

In the second half, it was all Cabot. The Panthers added to their lead after a 48-yard, 11-play drive ended with another James’ 1-yard touchdown with 5:11 left in the third. The big play on the drive came on third and goal from the nine when Wortman caught a pass in the right flat and fought his way down to the one.

The Panthers’ next possession resulted in Logan Spry’s 35-yard field goal after Cabot ate another six-and-a-half minutes off the clock to make it 24-7 midway through the fourth period.

By the time Cabot scored its final touchdown on Jason Sled’s 1-yard run with 1:31 left in the game, Central had run just nine offensive plays in the second half. Their lone first down in the half came on their final possession with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game.

In addition to James’ 104 yards, Wesley Sowell added 64 on 14 carries and Chris Bayles had 53 on 12.

“Our two halfbacks do are doing a real good job for us,” Malham said. “We did a good job of spreading it around tonight. And the offensive line did a good job against a pretty good defense.”

Matt Bayles picked up 25 yards on five carries. Cabot rushed for 285 yards on 66 carries. Neumann caught three passes for 32 yards. The Panthers finished with 23 first downs and 353 total yards.