Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

SPORTS >> Panthers win big on the small screen

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Cabot was prepared for prime time, and Spencer Smith was ready for his close-up.

The Panthers junior fullback ran wild against rival Jacksonville with 22 carries for 110 yards and three touchdowns as Cabot won the anticlimactic sequel to the Backyard Brawl, 35-6, on Tuesday night at Panther Stadium.

It was the first live, commercially televised high school football game in Arkansas, and Smith took the spotlight early with four consecutive rushes that gave the Panthers their first score with 10:28 left in the first quarter.

It never got easier for the outmatched Red Devils. Handling Smith and shifty senior quarterback Seth Bloomberg proved difficult for the Jacksonville defense, and Cabot linebacker Spencer Neumann blitzed at will against the Devils offensive line.

“It’s a good start. We’re 1-0. That’s what we wanted,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “Of course, Jacksonville’s young. Some of their best players are sophomores. They’re going to get a lot better as they get experience. We had a little more muscle on the line than they did. But I was pleased on both sides of the ball.”

Jacksonville avoided a shutout with 6:22 left to play when junior quarterback Logan Perry found D’Vone McClure wide open at midfield. McClure cut back to the right to avoid the Panthers defensive backs and sprinted the rest of the way for a 67-yard touchdown.

“We were trying to get it on the edge and trying to hit some hot routes underneath,” Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley said.

“And we did a couple of times. We couldn’t stretch the field enough to overcome some penalties we got.”

Cabot kicker Logan Spry set the tone for the Panthers when he sent the opening kickoff into the end zone for a touchback. The Devils fumbled at their 19-yard line on the first play, and Smith took it in for the Panthers in four plays.

Smith increased Cabot’s lead with 8:45 left in the second quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run, and completed his hat trick with a 2-yard run up the middle with 10:13 left in the third period.

Sophomore Justin Willis and junior Jeremy Berry rushed for the other two Cabot scores.

Willis scored from 11 yards out on a pitch from Bloomberg to the left side with 3:21 left in the first half. Berry added Cabot’s final touchdown with 7:26 to play on a 3-yard run between the hash marks.

The Red Devil offense had flashes of momentum, but Neumann, Cabot’s 6-0, 195-pound wrecking-ball linebacker, put enough pressure on Perry to extinguish those flashes in a hurry.

Junior tackle Jared Dumais also got in on the action for the Panthers early in the second quarter with a sack on fourth and 14 that gave Cabot the ball at its 40.

The statistics revealed the disparity between the teams. Cabot had 328 total yards with 17 first downs while the Red Devils managed only 159 yards and five first downs.

Perry hung tough for the Red Devils despite constant pressure from Cabot’s defense. He completed 10 of 17 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. His biggest mistake came late in the third quarter when senior defensive back Joe Bryant intercepted him deep in Cabot territory.

Of the historic television broadcast, Whatley said he noticed no impact on the game other than the one-minute break after each score.

“I’m not sure this time of year that’s not a good thing anyway,” Whatley said. “Every other year I’ve seen us cramp, they’ve cramped, I didn’t see any of that tonight. It may be beneficial.