SPORTS >> Panthers pop Pointers
By RAY BENTON
Special to The Leader
The dive was the call, 11 in the box was defensive strategy and Matt Bayles was the main beneficiary in Cabot’s comfortable, 55-14 victory over Van Buren Friday night at Panther Stadium.
The Panther senior halfback shredded the Pointer defense for 191 yards and four touchdowns in just the first half, and he did it on just nine carries.
Once Bayles broke past the initial line of defense, he had open field in front of him and no one who could catch him from behind.
The 5-10, 170-pound senior scored on runs of 7, 71, 86 and 1 yards, but he wasn’t the only one to reap the benefits of the play that is one of Cabot’s standards.
Junior halfback Jeremy Berry got just three carries, but he scored on two of them, once from 9 yards out and again from 55 yards away.
Heavily favored despite a big loss last week and looking for a solid performance, Cabot got what it was after. Coach Mike Malham wanted to see his team come out focused and intense after suffering a sloppy 35-7 loss at Bryant, and he was pleased with what he saw.
“It was good to see us show up tonight ready to play,” Malham said. “Last week we were beat from the word go, but we came out a little bit more focused and executed the offense. I thought the defense played well too. They’ve got a pretty good offense that’s been putting some points up against some pretty good teams. We were able to slow that down and keep them out of the end zone.”
Cabot compiled 520 yards, all on the ground. Smith also went over 100 yards for Cabot, totaling 112 yards on 11 carries.
The victory lifts Cabot to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in 7A-Central play. It also sets up a showdown with Russellville in week 10 for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and at least a share of the conference championship.
Cabot had seven possessions in the first half and scored seven touchdowns, taking a 48-7 lead into intermission. Van Buren got on the scoreboard in the first half only after falling behind 35-0, but did so with an impressive four-play, 76-yard drive.
Turnovers helped put the Pointers into an early hole. Cabot defensive back Joe Bryant intercepted a Tyler Spoon pass on the game’s second play and returned it 26 yards to the 9.
Berry then scored on Cabot’s first play, giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead just 21 seconds into the game.
It would only take another 32 seconds before Cabot got the ball back, this time on a fumbled option pitch that was recovered by Hunter Sales at the Pointers 21.
It took Cabot five plays to get the needed yardage, with Bayles getting the last 7 for the score with 8:47 left in the first quarter.
Van Buren finally held onto the ball long enough to punt, but it only set up Berry’s 55-yard scoring run on the first play of the ensuing drive.
After another Pointer three-play series, Bayles got his second score on yet another one-play drive.
Van Buren then put together a decent drive that went 57 yards, but Powell Bryant put an end to it when he tipped a pass and intercepted it in the back of the end zone and ran it out to the 5-yard line.
An off-sides penalty got the Panthers to the 10, and two Spencer Smith runs put it at the 14 to set up Bayles’ 86-yard carry that made it 35-0 just 13 seconds into the second quarter.
After Van Buren’s first touchdown, Cabot marched 65 yards in eight plays, with the final 43 yards coming on Smith’s run up the middle for a 42-7 lead with 5:54 left in the half.
A long kickoff return by Joseph Snapp gave Van Buren the ball at the Cabot 26, but the Pointers gained 3 yards before turning it over on downs.
From there Cabot embarked on its seventh scoring drive of the half.
The Pointers scored first in the second half with a 13-play, 93-yard drive, and Cabot capped the scoring with a 32-yard run by sophomore Austin Alley with 9:37 left in the game.
Van Buren finished with 348 total yards.