The Cabot Panthers ran away with one as they topped the Pine Bluff Zebras 35-14 Friday night at Cabot.
For the third year in a row, the Panthers have defeated the Zebras in the season-opening game, but this was by far the biggest margin of victory. The Panthers stuck to their traditional Dead-T offensive attack, and it gave the Zebras fits all game long.
The Pine Bluff offense, led by junior quarterback Tyler Foots couldn’t stay in front of the chains enough on offense to keep the Panthers on their heels. Anytime Cabot would get Pine Bluff in a 3rd and long situation, they would shift from their original 5-2 scheme to a prevent defense.
Zebras Head Coach Bobby Bolding eluded to the fact that they didn’t want to try to run it up the middle of the Cabot defense constantly because in past years, they pretty much loaded the box. Pine Bluff came out mixing it up on offense by passing and running the ball.
Pine Bluff got on the board first after a multiple play drive. To keep that opening drive going, Foots hit his wide-out Berkarion Black for a first down completion on 3rd and long. On the next play, Foots connected with another wide-out, Isaiah Mays to put the Zebras in Panther’s territory.
Pine Bluff senior running back Kemariea Wilkins, who sat out last season due to injury, showed he’s healthy again. Wilkins burst up the middle of the Cabot defense for a 19-yard run to put Pine Bluff in the red zone. With 8:40 to play in the first quarter, Wilkins capped off the drive with a four-yard rushing touchdown.
The player that stood out on the scouting report for Cabot offensively was senior running back T.J. Rogers. Bolding said he was aware of Rogers ability to escape and it was on display all night. Cabot scored on their first drive of the game as Rogers broke out into open field to put them inside Pine Bluff’s 10 yard line. Panther’s senior quarterback Jessie Windemaker orchestrated their attack and he handed it to senior running back Brad Morales for a one-yard touchdown run to knot the score at 7-7.
Penalties were a problem for the Zebras at costly times during the game, and they piled up quickly to negate two big runs by Pine Bluff senior running back Braylon Moody.
After the Cabot defense forced the first punt of the game, Rogers opened their second drive with a 27-yard run to put Cabot in the red zone. Cabot junior running back Graham Turner scored Cabot’s second touchdown on an 11-yard touchdown run to give them their first lead of the game.
Foots led the Zebras' offense back on the field and after a face mask penalty was called on the Panthers, Pine Bluff made them pay. Foots hit senior wide-out Michael Johnson for a 60-yard reception to put Pine Bluff in scoring position. Foots then showed his ability to tuck it and go as he recorded a 16-yard rushing touchdown to knot the score.
Both defenses produced their first stops of the game. Cabot forced a turnover on downs with 3:40 to play in the first half, and that would be enough time for them to score again.
A face mask penalty called on Pine Bluff put Cabot across the 50 yard line. The option attack was a problem for the Pine Bluff defense all night long as Windemaker scored on a one-yard quarterback keeper with a little over a minute remaining in the second quarter.
Cabot got the ball coming out of halftime, and a high kick by Pine Bluff allowed Justin Holland to catch it quickly and advance the ball 40 plus yards to the Zebras' 12 yard line. On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Turner scored on a 12-yard rushing touchdown to put Cabot up by two touchdowns.
After the offense wasn’t able to produce, Pine Bluff’s defense got a stop to stay alive, turning the ball back over to the offense.
However, after starting the drive deep in Cabot’s territory because of a special teams mishap, the Zebras weren’t able to produce points. Foots threw an interception to Cabot safety Mikeah Silver on 4th and long.
For Cabot, Turner consistently ran hard to compliment the slippery Rogers, while Morales was used in certain situations. All of their backs caused problems for Pine Bluff, and Cabot only had to throw the ball one time the entire game.
There were a lot of missed and arm tackles by the Pine Bluff defense, and Cabot’s offense simply wore them down.
The Panthers scored a late touchdown, and in what has been announced as Cabot’s Head Coach Mike Malham’s final season of his 38-year coaching career.