Editor’s note: This story was published prior to the postponement of all playoff games this weekend. The Class 7A state championship game is not set for Friday, Dec. 13, 7 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
Cabot coach Mike Malham took a gamble against North Little Rock and it paid off.
The Panthers (12-0) converted a two-point conversion in the second overtime to beat the Charging Wildcats 43-42 in the semifinals of the Class 7A state playoffs Friday night at Panther Stadium.
Cabot will face Bentonville for the state title this Friday at 7 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
In the second overtime, North Little Rock took a 42-35 lead on a 1-yard run by Deion Tidwell. Cabot pulled to within one on a 1-yard run by Zach Launius. Cabot kicker Trevor Reed, who was 5 for 5 on extra points, went on to the field to attempt the tying point. However, Malham called a timeout and decided to go for the two-point conversion and the win.
The decision paid off as quarterback Kason Kimbrell checked out of the called play and handed off to Launius, who broke the plane of the goal line with the ball, sending the Panthers to the state title game for the first time since 2000.
“We hadn’t slowed them down in overtime,” Malham said. “I thought I had something that would get in. They didn’t run it. Kimbrell called an audible. I had the option called to the outside. He saw something inside. Launius got in by the skin of his teeth. It worked out. If it hadn’t worked, he [Kimbrell] would have been in trouble.
“You’ve got to be good and have a little luck. It worked out. I don’t want to play them again,” he said, referring to the Charging Wildcats.
Launius rushed for 241 yards and 5 touchdowns on 46 carries.
Preston Jones had 56 yards on 12 carries. Kimbrell completed 2 of 6 passes for 39 yards and a touchdown. Chris Henry caught both passes.
Tidwell led North Little Rock with 196 yards rushing on 28 carries. Heath Land completed 10 of 14 passes for 130 yards.
Patrick Neyhart led the Panthers with 11 tackles. Jack Whisker and Brandon Arthur had nine apiece. Colby Ferguson and Brandon Marshall had seven tackles each. Jordan Burke, Jake Ferguson and Aaron Henry had six tackles each.
North Little Rock took a 7-0 lead when Land threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to KJ Hill with 1:12 left in the first quarter.
Cabot tied the game at 7-7 when Launius scored on a 21-yard run with 10:06 left in the first half.
North Little Rock reclaimed the lead at 14-7 at halftime when Payton Holmes scored on 1-yard run with 55 seconds left.
Cabot tied the game at 14-14 on the first possession of the second half, driving 65 yards in 14 plays. Launius scored on a 1-yard run with 5:42 left in the third quarter.
North Little Rock took a 21-14 lead when Tidwell scored on a 40-yard run with 5:12 left in the third quarter.
Cabot tied the game at 21-21 when Kimbrell threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Henry with 46 seconds left in the third quarter.
Cabot took a 28-21 lead with 4:09 left in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard run by Launius. North Little Rock then drove 65 yards to tie the game at 28-28 on a 4-yard run by Tidwell with 34 seconds left.
In the first overtime, Launius scored on a 1-yard run. North Little Rock tied it at 35-35 on a 1-yard run by Tidwell.