BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Cabot went into last Friday’s game with unbeaten Conway looking to make a statement.
That statement was this is not the same team that started 5-0 last season and then lost to Conway and Bryant by a combined 60 points.
It was mission accomplished as head coach Scott Reed’s No. 4 and once-beaten Panthers whipped the host and No. 2 Wampus Cats 35-20 before a sold out crowd.
“I think it was about as clean as we can possibly play, except for a few penalties,” Reed said. “We didn’t have any turnovers and got four. We got ahead and we needed to get ahead and stay ahead. The things we thought needed to happen for us to win did happen.”
Conway (5-1, 2-1)) was averaging 47 points a game headed into the showdown while Cabot (5-1, 3-0), who hosts winless Little Rock Central this weekend, was giving up just 12 points an outing.
“They score 50 points a game so we needed the game to be in the 20s or 30s,” Reed said. “They can turn a 15- or 20-yard run not a 70 yarder and and that only happened once. The rest of the time we did a really good job in space.
“We were also able to run the ball, not when we just needed to, but when wanted to. So the things we needed to go the right way for us to win and we talked about all week, our kids did a good job of doing that.”
He believes it will be the same this week as Cabot hosts Little Rock Central (0-6, 0-3) ahead of facing Bryant (5-0, 3-0), the four-time defending Class 7A state champions, the following week.
“I really don’t worry about that with this group,” Reed said of overlooking the Tigers. “There was not that much expectation for us to start the year, but I think they are just really happy the way their season is going.”
Cabot opened the season with road wins over Fayetteville (31-28) and Bentonville West (32-10) before falling in Louisiana to Ruston (17-14).
The Panthers bounced back with a 37-6 thrashing of Jonesboro and a 41-0 win over Little Rock Southwest, currently 1-5 this season.
“The week we played Southwest, our kids were very focused and we didn’t have bad practices,” Reed said. “We just don’t have bad practices. They are very workmanlike, very steady, don’t get very high or low, just come to work every day.”
Cabot, 8-4 last season with a second-round playoff loss to eventually state finalist Fayetteville after leading by 21 oints, has transformed itself from a pass-first offense to a run-oriented one that has found balanced this season.
That has been done in part to better compete with a trio of teams that had lopsided losses last season – Bryant (57-21), Conway (57-21) and North Little Rock (41-27).
“The last three years, we have been able to throw it to the point of 300 yards a game, but when we played some Bryant, Conway and North Little Rock, we were not able to run it so we had no balance,” Reed said. “We made a conscious effort to work on that in the offseason and for me to be more patient and run it.”
That has thrown a bit of a curveball at foes these days per Reed.
“There are a lot of spread teams, but we are a run first team this season,” Reed said. “We are a team that will put a tight end or an H-back and we are not four-wide very much this year.
“I think our kids understand how we win games this year, they’ve bought in and it has paid off.”