Leader Blues

Saturday, October 03, 2009

SPORTS >> Cabot tops LR Catholic, stays unbeaten

Leader sports editor

War Memorial? How about War memorable?

The Cabot Panthers avenged last year’s 7A-Central loss to Little Rock Catholic and remained perfect with a 21-16 victory over the Rockets at War Memorial Stadium on Friday.

“It has been a war, a great ballgame, every time we’ve played them,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said.

The run-oriented Panthers got some mileage out of their passing game and survived a late turnover to improve to 5-0, 2-0 at the mid-point of the season.

Cabot set the final margin with Logan Spry’s 32-yard field goal with 10:01 left in the fourth quarter then turned in a defensive stop, but the Rockets’ Jordan Hartnedy intercepted Panthers quarterback Seth Bloomberg with 3:29 to go.

Cabot’s Ethan Covington batted down a Taylor Bartlett pass then intercepted Bartlett at the Panthers 4 on the next play and returned it 49 yards with 2:10 left.

The Panthers overcame a false start penalty and picked up a first down on a 3-yard gain by workhorse fullback Spencer Smith to the Catholic 28, and got another first down on an 11-yard gain by Matt Bayles and were finally able to run out the clock.

“We can sit back and rest for about a half a day and enjoy being 2-0 in the conference,” Malham said as he looked to next week’s game. “And then here’s North Little Rock right on top of them.”

Cabot led 11-8 at halftime then turned in a standard Panthers possession to open the second quarter. The Panthers marched from their 24, ate up 6:57 and scored on Smith’s 1-yard run to make it 18-8.

Cabot, which passed for a season-high 120 yards, got first-down completions of 23 and 29 yards, both to tight end Rod Quinn, on the drive.

“We definitely had to mix it up tonight,” Malham said.

Catholic (3-2, 0-2) came right back with a 48-yard kickoff return by Charley Gardner followed by a 47-yard scoring possession. Bartlett had a first-down completion of 13 yards to Tate Seachris, kept for 18 yards, and the Rockets scored when Bartlett hit Garrett Uekman with a 5-yard pass with 3:16 left.

Chase Miller came in to complete a jump pass to Uekman for the conversion that made it 18-16.

But the Panthers drove for Spry’s second field goal of the night that capped the scoring.

Smith gained 134 yards on 42 carries, none over 10 yards, to help Cabot with the ball control end of things while Bloomberg had his best passing night despite the interception.

“He got pounded,” Malham said of Smith. “Forty-two carries? That’s child abuse right there.”

“We’re going to try to run the ball every time,” Bloomberg said. “We don’t want to pass. That’s not our intention coming into the game. But if we need to pass it, that’s what we had to do. Spencer is a great ball carrier.”

Catholic racked up 173 passing yards in the first half and 10 first downs to Cabot’s 87 total yards and five first downs, but it was the Panthers who took the halftime lead thanks to a field goal by Spry and Bloomberg’s 1-yard touchdown sneak following an interception.

All of Cabot’s first-half points were set up by Catholic miscues. Forced to punt on their second possession, Catholic suffered a fumbled snap by punter Matt Morris, and Ethan Covington dropped him at the Rockets 21.

The Panthers gained just 3 yards and settled for Spry’s 35-yard field goal with 3:46 left.

The Rockets put together a 63-yard scoring drive spanning the first and second quarters and went ahead on a 38-yard, tackle-breaking catch and run by Quinta Thomas with 10:40 left in the half.

Bartlett, who hit Thomas with the touchdown completion, added the conversion pass to Seachris make it 8-3.

Catholic appeared to have the momentum, but Cabot snatched it away when Spry intercepted Bartlett’s pass intended for Brian Anderson at the 31 and returned it to the Catholic 39 with 3:35 to go.

“That little quarterback is good and they’ve got some good receivers out there,” Malham said. “I thought our D-backs, I don’t know how many picks we had. I think we had two, but they were big.”

Quinn had a reception and ran over Catholic’s Eric Redmon for a 19-yard gain. Smith picked up 8 yards on a pitchout to the left and Bloomberg cut up and in for a 2-yard gain to give the Panthers first and goal at the 1.

Bloomberg snuck in for the lead on the next play and made it 11-8 when he hit Matt Bayles with the conversion pass with 1:54 to go.

Powell Bryant ended the Rockets’ next drive with a deflected interception at the Cabot 37, but the Panthers could only reach the Rockets’ 48 and the drive ended on Blaine Tanner’s interception as the half ended.