SPORTS > > Panthers wallop ’Cats
Special to the Leader
There are usually fireworks when 28 points are scored in the final 1:43 of a football game. In the case of Cabot’s 34-21 homecoming victory over North Little Rock last night, the final 21 were academic.
The Panthers scored with 1:43 left in the game to take a commanding 27-7 lead when senior halfback Wesley Sowell scampered around the right side for 21 yards and the score. It capped a dominant second half for the home team after the two squads battled to a 7-7 deadlock at halftime.
“I thought the offensive line did a good job,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “Defensively we gave up a few yards here and there, but boy we held them a couple times down there around the 20. When we finally got the ball with the lead in the second half and I started feeling a lot better.”
From that point, North Little Rock marched 80 yards in 43 seconds against Cabot’s prevent defense to make it 27-14. Panther cornerback Joe Bryant then scooped up the onside kick, raced around the right side of the Wildcat front line and ran 48 yards for the Panthers’ final touchdown. North Little Rock got the ball back with 48 seconds left and scored again with eight seconds remaining after a rapid 75-yard drive to set the final margin.
“We backed off too much,” Malham said. “You can’t back off that much, you got to be in the ball park, but everything worked out. We got a conference win, we’re 2-1 and we’re a lot better off than we were last week.”
The Wildcats threatened to score on the opening drive of the game, marching 59 yards in five plays to the Panther 21. North Little Rock hurt itself with a fumbled handoff exchange on first down. After one incompletion, Bryant knocked down a pass to set up fourth and 12. The Wildcats called timeout to discuss the situation, and decided to go for it. The Panthers were expecting pass and sent the kitchen sink after NLR quarterback David Hope. Three Panthers, senior linebacker Ethan Coffee and junior linemen Jared Maxwell and T.J. Bertrand, converged on Hope simultaneously and took him down for a 12-yard loss.
Cabot took over and marched 60 yards in eight plays with fullback Michael James capping the drive with a 1-yard plunge. Sowell kept the drive alive on fourth and one from the 49 with an 18 yard burst off right tackle.
North Little Rock came right back, marching down the field again, only this time without the late mistakes. The Wildcats again faced a fourth down, but this time they were at the Cabot 3-yard line and needed just two yards for the first down. After another timeout, running back Michael Tillman got just enough to keep the drive alive. A play later, he scored to tie the game.
That’s the way the half ended, although the Wildcats threatened again. Taking over on its own 36 with just 1:07 left in the half, NLR got to the Cabot 10 and a half-yard line with the help of a Panther pass interference call. The Wildcats lost five yards on a fumble and missed a 33-yard field goal to close the half.
The Panthers got the ball to start the second half and went on a 14-play, 71-yard drive to take the lead for good. James again did the honors, scoring from seven yards out on second and goal. The Panther defense then held NLR to three and out, but fumbled it away after reaching the NLR 14-yard line.
The gift was returned two plays later when Hope, facing heavy pressure from Cabot senior defensive tackle Cody Myers, let go an ill-advised pass that went right to senior defensive end Nicholas McTague. McTague returned it eight yards to the Wildcat 17. Four plays later, quarterback Seth Bloomberg kept on the option read from five yards out to put the home team up 20-7.
The Panther defense bent again on NLR’s next drive, but again didn’t break. The visitors drove from their own 23 to the Cabot 8-yard line. Three straight pass attempts were knocked out of the air by Bryant, Nathan Byrnes and Spencer Neumann, setting Cabot up for its final scoring drive.
North Little Rock finished with 409 total yards, with 155 of those came in the last 1:43 of the game. The Panthers amassed 349 total yards, 341 on the ground.
James led all rushers with 153 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. All of Cabot’s backs had good games. Bloomberg rushed six times for 60 yards and a score, Sowell had 11 carries for 77 yards and a score and Chris Bayless toted it 13 times for 74 yards.
Hope did the work for NLR, completing 21 of 35 pass attempts for 323 yards and two touchdowns. He spread it out well, hitting six different receivers. Senior Donald James led four receivers with 60-plus yards with seven catches for 92 yards.
Cabot improved to 5-1 and 2-1 in the 7A-Central while North Little Rock fell to 4-2 and 1-2. Cabot travels to Little Rock Central next week while NLR hosts conference leader Catholic.