The Cabot Panthers were on the road against the state’s top team, who have more size and more speed. Conventional wisdom said that the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats should have been able to handle the Panthers.
So much for conventional wisdom.
Cabot handed North Little Rock a 48-32 loss Friday night, leading 41-18 at one point.
"Starting conference 1-0 and doing it against a team like that is big," said Cabot coach Mike Malham. "We’ve beat some good teams and are playing with confidence. Now we have to keep playing at that level and not have a letdown."
Last week, Malham talked about missing fullback Zach Launius and his big play ability when he was held out against Conway after still suffering effects from an earlier slight concussion. Launius was welcomed back to the field by having his number called again and again to the tune of 39 carries for 223 yards and four touchdowns.
North Little Rock got on the board first with a field goal for a 3-0 lead. Cabot answered with a solid drive capped off by Kason Kimbrell scoring on a 9-yard run and a 7-3 lead. Kimbrell finished his night with eight carries for 81 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers rushed for over 450 yards against the vaunted North Little Rock defense.
Cabot’s defense held tough again on the following possession, using a goal line stand to force the Cats to settle for a short field goal.
Launius scored from five yards out on Cabot’s next drive, but the kick was off as the Panthers took a 13-6 lead.
The Wildcats scored on a short pass, but failedthe conversion, as Cabot still held a 13-12 lead. North Little Rock took the lead for the last time after forcing a punt and KJ Hill hauling in an 88-yard touchdown pass. Launius showed he could break away as well, scoring on a 46-yard run before halftime to give the Panthers a 21-18 lead heading into the break.
The Panthers scored the next three touchdowns to take control of the game in front of the shocked Wildcat crowd. Launius ran in touchdowns from 23 yards and one yard in the third quarter. Chris Henry broke free for a 52-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter as Cabot took a commanding 41-18 lead. North Little Rock scored two more times through the air in the fourth, but never really threatened Cabot’s lead. Jack Whisker got the final touchdown for Cabot, plunging in from short yardage.
Cabot’s defense gave up 381 yards through the air, but stuffed the Wildcat running game. Jake Ferguson added another interception to his total, while Tristan Bulice recovered a fumble that set up a touchdown in the third.
Cobly Ferguson led Cabot with 11 tackles. Jordan Burke had 10. Patrick Neyhart had seven. Jake Ferguson, Brian Marshall and Bulice had six tackles each.
Cabot will host Marion for homecoming Friday night. Game time is 7 p.m.