Little Rock Central gave top-ranked Cabot a bit of a run for their money when the teams met the first time during the regular season. Not so much in the playoff quarterfinals Friday night, when the Panthers beat down the Tigers 35-7 to advance to the semifinals this week.
The Tigers passed for close to 250 yards in the first meeting, but were held to just under 180 total yards as the Panthers dominated in every phase. Central had 47 of those yards come on their lone touchdown pass late in the third quarter.
"The defense really had a good night tonight," said Cabot coach Mike Malham. "Other than the one big play, we shut them down pretty well. That’s something, because they’ve got a lot of athletes over there."
Cabot isn’t without its own share of athletes this season, as Zach Launius showed off in the playoff setting. The Panther fullback rushed for 207 yards on 24 carries, and had touchdowns runs of 3, 6, 3, 4 and 50 yards. With Chris Henry averaging big yards as well with six carries for 64 yards, the Panthers rolled up over 400 yards of offense.
"Gosh, Launius had a good night," Malham said. "We certainly didn’t do anything different from what we do, it was just working. He’s got speed and he has a chance to go whenever he has the ball."
A fumble and a few uncharacteristic false start penalties were the only things to stop Cabot’s offense in the first half as they built a 21-0 lead by halftime.
Cabot received the kickoff to begin the second half and marched down the field on a classic Panther drive to take a 28-0 lead. Quarterback Kason Kimbrell picked up a first down on fourth and three during the drive. Launius capped the drive with a four-yard score.
After trading punts, Little Rock Central finally got on the board when Logan Moragne took a swing pass all the way for a 47-yard score. Moragne had most of the Tigers yards, picking up 132 combined rushing and receiving.
The Tigers didn’t keep that momentum for very long, as two plays later Launius was racing past everyone on his way to a 50-yard touchdown that set the final margin early in the fourth quarter.
Jack Whisker led Cabot with 10 tackles and an interception. Patrick Neyhart had nine tackles. Tristan Bulice had eight. Colby Ferguson and Jake Ferguson had seven tackles each.
With home field advantage throughout the playoffs, Cabot will host the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats on Friday. The Panthers beat the Wildcats 48-32 in Week 4 when North Little Rock was the top team in the state at the time.