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Panthers, coach ready for year 2

by Donna Lampkin Stephens | August 30, 2020 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated August 30, 2020 at 12:00 a.m.
Cabot junior Ethan Roberts, left, avoids being tackled by senior Bryant Hiddle at a practice on Aug. 27. Head coach Scott Reed said he “really likes the work ethic of our team.”

Scott Reed learned a lot during his baptism in the 7A-Central last year, and his experience — and that of his Cabot Panthers — should help them all in 2020.

“The 7A-Central is tough,” said Reed, who last year succeeded as coach to the legendary Mike Malham, who retired after 38 years, 301 wins and 2 state championships. “I found out last year that there were a few teams that, physically, we had a hard time with.

“Conway could run the ball right at us. Then you’ve got Bryant and North Little Rock, who played for the state championship the past two years.”

North Little Rock, the 2017 state champion and runner-up to Bryant in ’18 and ’19, scored in the last minute to eke out a 37-36 win over the Panthers in the regular-season finale, 37-36.

“We had them beat, so we got better through the year,” said Reed, who won four Class 6A state titles during 12 seasons at El Dorado prior to being hired at Cabot. “I was pleased with how the season went, and I do think we’re going to be competitive this year, but there’s a little gap we have to close. But I think we are getting better.”

Reed’s first Cabot squad finished 6-5 with a 44-14 first-round playoff loss at Fayetteville. The Panthers finished 3-4 with wins over Fort Smith Southside, 12-0; Little Rock Central, 43-20; and Fort Smith Northside, 40-7; and losses to Little Rock Catholic, 28-26; Conway, 30-20; Bryant, 55-10; and NLR, 37-36, in the Central to tie for fifth.

Three starters return to run Reed’s Spread offense, which replaced Malham’s Dead-T scheme. Senior quarterback Tyler Gee (6-0, 192) threw for 2,425 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior. Senior wide receiver Kyler Carmack (5-11, 163) caught 18 passes for 325 yards and 5 scores. Junior wide receiver Braden Jay (5-8, 168) snagged 16 receptions for 274 yards and 2 TDS; he also returned a kickoff for a score.

Five starters return to man the 4-2-5 defensive scheme, including senior defensive ends Chase Gibson (5-8, 202) and Payson Woods (5-11, 190), who notched 33 and 16 tackles, respectively; senior cornerbacks Tyler Parks (5-9, 154, 27 tackles) and Houston Wiley (5-9, 165, 23 tackles, 1 interception); and senior defensive back Jaiden Ryals (5-10, 167, 43 tackles,

5 interceptions).

Other Panthers expected to contribute on offense include junior Riley White (5-11, 269), senior Grayson Shirley (5-11, 210), junior Landen Ashlin (6-0, 314), senior Hans Guenzel (6-0, 189), junior Michael Weaver (5-8, 241), junior Kolby Webb (6-0, 250), senior Gavin Brown (5-9, 229) and senior Aaron Tilley (5-10, 255) on the offensive line; senior Marlon Crockett (6-4, 202), senior Trey Birdsong (5-7, 144), junior Ashton Shurley (6-1, 158) and junior Chandler Carter (6-0, 174) at wide receiver; senior Donta Barker (5-8, 186), junior Mason Bell (5-8, 154), senior Romello Reid (5-5, 150), senior Jakob Parks (5-7, 170) and junior Ethan Roberts (5-6, 165) at running back; senior Conner Organ (5-11, 208), junior Hayden Phillips (6-0, 174), junior Matthew Oldham (5-9, 229) and Roberts at tight end/H-back; and junior Grant Freeman (5-9, 146) and senior Caleb Allen (5-9, 157) at quarterback.

Other defensive players expected to contribute include junior Justin Sobczak (6-4, 208), junior Jose Lopez (5-11, 238), junior Eric Masterson (6-0, 265), junior Josh Martin (6-1, 214), senior Ray Spinks (5-10, 204), senior Hewitt Helton (5-10, 196), senior Gabe Young (5-11, 171) and senior Van Ezell (6-1, 210) on the line; senior Chase Gibson (5-8, 202), junior Aaron Pouncy (6-7, 174), junior Will Bevis (5-11, 211), senior Jared Whitman (5-10, 174), senior Bryant Hidle (5-10, 175) and senior Blake Coats (6-0, 178) at linebacker; senior Landon Meek (6-10, 168), senior Justin Carnes (5-8, 156), junior Sam Falcinelli (5-9, 149) and senior Dave Cearns (5-2, 131) at safety; and junior Dylan Haynes (5-8, 142), junior Jackson Byrd (6-0, 149) and senior Hayden Hagar (5-5, 122) at the corners.

Senior Jack Tebutt (6-0, 170), senior Gabe Dickson (5-8, 155) and senior Dylan Sampson (5-7, 184) should handle kicking and punting duties.

Team strengths will be receivers, the quarterback, the secondary and the defensive line, the coach said. But the Panthers sustained multiple losses to graduation, including the entire offensive line.

“I really like the work ethic of our team,” Reed said. “Tyler and some of our other offensive skill players are a very good group. We will take one game at a time and believe we have closed the gap between the top teams in the 7A-Central. The entire league is tough. You have to be ready to play your best every week.”

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