Leader Blues

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

SPORTS >> Panthers beat the heat

Leader sportswriter

After a week of cooler, overcast weather, the sun was out in full force on Monday — just in time for the first day of two-a-day football practices at Cabot.

The Cabot Panthers, the team Hooten’s Arkansas Football picked to repeat as 7A-Central Conference champions in 2009, began on Monday morning with a two-hour workout, and later met for a two-and-a-half hour afternoon session.

The Cabot coaching staff dealt with the rising temperatures with leaky water hoses wrapped around the crossbars of both goalposts at Panther Stadium.

“I thought the kids worked pretty good,” said head coach Mike Malham, who will be entering his 28th year at the Panther helm this fall. “If they’re not enthused about it on the first day, they’re not going to be. We had a really good morning workout and we came back.

“It got a little hotter. It really hasn’t been that hot, but it’s hotter than it has been. I thought they worked pretty good. You’ve got to persevere, and if they can keep up the effort day after day, we may have something.”

Cabot had 84 players dressed out for day one, with 23 seniors, 20 juniors and 41 sophomores.

The Panthers return plenty of experience in most of their skill positions, including senior quarterback Seth Bloomberg, who led the varsity offense through afternoon scrimmage drills. Powell Bryant backed him up and took a few snaps.

Fellow seniors Michael James, Spencer Neumann and Matt Bayles also add to Cabot’s level of experience.

But with a lot of new faces on the line, Malham said fundamentals will be the key in preparation for the Panthers’ annual scrimmage with Lake Hamilton on Aug 24.

“You always have new kids,” said Malham. “You always start from step one. You want to be fundamentally sound. You don’t take shortcuts. It just makes it even better – the more experience you have back, the faster they pick it up. But you still don’t want to take shortcuts, so we’re staying with our system. We’re not going to rush it, just take it a day at a time.”

The end of August will be busy for the team, with picture day and the traditional community pep rally on Aug. 20, which is also the first day of classes at Cabot High School.

The red-white game will kick off the following Friday on Aug. 28, but with the season opener against Jacksonville the following Tuesday, Malham said not to expect a lot of playing time from his varsity units.

As for conditioning, the majority of the team looked a bit leaner than in recent years, but also displayed more quickness. The long summer of weight training showed on many of the players’ physiques, and most of the team still had energy to spare for sideline-to-sideline gasser drills at the end of the afternoon session.

“They should be in decent shape because they’ve been working out all summer,” said Malham. “They have to come in twice a week for weights and running, so it’s not the like old days when they were gone all summer and hadn’t done anything. They’re in decent shape. Now, there are some of them that didn’t push themselves as much.

“Of course now, instead of a two-hour workout, you’re out here two times a day for five-and-a-half to six hours. The time frame for them is a little longer now. But being in condition definitely helps. For the most part, we’re in pretty good shape.

We’ll be in full pads on Thursday, and let the hitting begin.”