The Cabot Panthers had a good turnout, getting in plenty of work during spring football practice near the end of the school year.
Allowed two weeks of full pad practice during a three-week span, the Panthers’ coaching staff took advantage of the opportunity. Long known as one of the toughest teams in the state year after year, Cabot used full-contact drills with no letup.
While other teams around the state use spring practice to get a better grip on where the team stands for the next season, the Panthers are in a different situation.
Cabot was loaded with sophomores and juniors last season, meaning most of the starters will be back for the Panthers on both sides of the ball.
"We’ve been kind of looking forward to watching this group grow," said Cabot coach Mike Malham. "Those young guys have some experience now."
The Panthers did lose a few key seniors to graduation, like running backs Kyle Edgar and Max Carroll and lineman Brandon Boatright.
But with a stable of backs all seeing time last season, the Panthers have the pieces in place to be a major player next season. Kason Kimbrell returns at quarterback, while Chris Henry, Zach Launius, Jack Whisker, Holden Beasley and others all saw time with the ball in their hands last season behind what will also be an experienced line.
With all the returning talent on the Panthers, the team was able to work more on fine-tuning the offense and finding out what kind of depth they may have.
Other teams were putting in new plays and tweaking the offense. Cabot has been using the same offense since before anybody on the team was born. The Panthers’ offense relies on quick-timing with the backfield handoffs and the holes opening up at the right time.
While almost all of the backfield has experience running the offense, having more repetitions to find out what combination of player run it best will help the Panthers next season.
"Even though they know what they’re doing, you’re going to have days with missed blocks and bad snaps," Malham said. "A little extra work getting the little things right is a good thing."
The Panthers open the 2013 season Sept. 3 against the Jacksonville Red Devils at Panther Stadium.
The 7A/6A-East opener is Sept. 27 at North Little Rock.