SPORTS >> Panthers keep race in conference tight
By JASON KING
The first half of play in the 7A-Central Conference has resulted in a logjam near the top of the boys soccer standings.
The Cabot Panthers kept themselves in the fight with a 2-0 shutout over Van Buren on Thursday night at Panther Stadium.
Junior forward Logan Spry struck both times for Cabot with straight-ahead breakaways at the 18- and 35-minute marks of the second half.
With the winner of Friday’s match between Russellville and Conway taking sole possession of first place at 6-1, the loser would join the host of teams locked in second place with two losses, including Cabot (6-2-1).
“Anytime you get a conference win, it’s big,” Panthers coach Clark Bing said. “We played a lot better in the second half than we did in the first half. Van Buren was fast early on, but the heat — well, I think the heat affected everyone a little bit, but I felt like it ended up playing into our hands.”
The Pointers attacked offensively in the first 15 minutes of the second half, but once Spry took the assist from Riley Schack and sophomore Eric Silva for Cabot’s first goal mid-way through the period, the Panthers controlled the ball for most of the duration.
Defensively, William Hildago and sophomore Reed Harrell prevented breakaways by Van Buren in that time after the Pointers had a few shot attempts when the game was still scoreless.
But junior goalkeeper Jason Sled held off the early attempts, including a free-kick save at the nine-minute mark and a stop at the 13-minute mark.
Classmate Charles Mantione took over for Sled in the late going after the Panthers secured their two-goal cushion.
“Jason is a football guy and Charles is a basketball guy,” Bing said. “But both of them are learning the game more all the time.”
Spry got his first shot at the 15-minute mark when sophomore Hayden Heverling tried to set him up in front of the goal with a left-side drive and feed into the middle, but Van Buren’s defense penetrated the play. Hildago had a chance to score less than a minute before Spry’s first goal, but his attempt was too high.
Sophomore Eric Silva did a solid job of working the middle in the physical match, but drew the ire of officials with 16:27 left and drew a yellow card for roughness.
Spry’s second shot, a 25-yarder just off the middle to the left, caught Van Buren’s goalkeeper out of position and gave Cabot the two-score lead with less than six minutes to play.
Spry, who kicks and plays defensive back on Mike Malham’s Panther football team and is a sixth man on Jerry Bridges’ basketball team, plays just as pivotal a role for Bing on the soccer field.
“Logan is what you’d find if you look up athlete in the dictionary,” Bing said.
“He’s just well rounded. If the game involves a ball, he can play it. You don’t see a lot of big, stocky guys like him out on the soccer field.”