BRYANT — The Cabot Panthers stayed alive in the playoffs Friday night thanks to a 28-21 win at Bryant.
Cabot showed off its stable of running backs in the win, using six backs to gain over 350 yards. The Panthers had four running backs with at least 10 rushing attempts in the game — a first this season.
Chris Henry had the big runs for Cabot this week, rushing ten times for 124 yards and a touchdown. His first carry of the night went for 38 yards, and he added a 22-yard touchdown later.
The first three possessions of the game ended with interceptions by the defense. Bryant had the ball to start the game and was moving the ball effectively before quarter Kyle Lessenberry was intercepted by Jake Ferguson. Ferguson had two interceptions on the night, and had a third called back on a late penalty flag. Jordan Burke grabbed an interception on Bryant’s next possession.
"Our defense played great tonight. They had a couple big plays, but I wasn’t sure we could slow them down at all," said Cabot coach Mike Malham. "If our defense can keep making plays like that, then I don’t know, maybe we have a chance."
Cabot’s first drive also ended with an intercepton. The next drive went much better for the Panthers, as Henry’s big gainer moved Cabot past midfield after starting on the 22-yard-line. Max Carroll had three carries on the drive, including a four-yard touchdown that gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead. Carroll would suffer an injury after a blow to the head later in the second quarter. Although he left the field on a stretcher, Carroll was awake and moving as the medical teams weren’t taking any chances. Carroll was later diagnosed with a concussion.
Bryant answered that scoring drive with a quick strike. A 31-yard pass helped set up a 27-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 7-7.
The Panthers went right back to work on the ground, answering with a score after five consecutive runs. Zach Launius made it to the corner and raced for a 28-yard touchdown run. Launius finished the game with 12 carries for 69 yards and a score.
After stopping the Hornets on downs, Cabot found the end zone again before halftime when Henry scored from 22 yards out with 3:40 left in the half.
Bryant was seemingly stopped three-and-out on its next possession, but a muffed punt allowed the Hornets the chance at a score. The Hornets made inside the red zone, where Lessenberry was held to a 10-yard gain on fourth-and-goal from the 11 to end the half.
The Panthers and Hornets traded turning the ball over on downs early in the third quarter. Lessenberry got his home crowd awake and to their feet when he found KJ Hill for a 68-yard touchdown pass on the first play of their next drive. Lessenberry completed 21 of 43 passes for 340 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Eight of those passes went to Hill for 180 yards and two scores.
After trading punts into the fourth quarter, Cabot caught a break when the Hornets called for a fair catch on a punt at their own one-yard-line. Three incompletions and a punt later, the Panthers had the ball on the Hornet 30-yard-line.
After one Henry and three Kyle Edgar runs, Edgar scored from two yards out to give the Panthers a 28-14 lead. Edgar did the short yardage work, finishing with 36 yards and a score on 10 carries. Quarterback Kason Kimbrell didn’t score, but did have 13 carries for 76 yards. Russ Rankin also had five carries for 33 yards.
"We ran a little more outside with Kason on the option, a couple more play-action passes tonight," said Malham. "It’s the playoffs, you gotta do what you need to win."
Bryant scored again through the air with just over two minutes remaining in the game. Cabot recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock from there.
"The guys overcame a really good team and a lot of calls that didn’t go our way," Malham said. "But that’s football and they hung in there and overcame that stuff."
Ian Thompson led Cabot with eight tackles. Matt Griffin had seven. Jake Vaughan, Seth Hoggard and Ferguson had six tackles each.
Cabot will travel to North Little Rock to take on the Charging Wildcats in the state quarterfinals Friday at 7 p.m. North Little Rock beat Cabot 33-14 in the 7A/6A-East opener in late September.