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Panthers rout Red Devils in season opener

Cabot quarterback Kason Kimbrell gives the ball to Zach Launius against Jacksonville last week.Buy Photo
Cabot quarterback Kason Kimbrell gives the ball to Zach Launius against Jacksonville last week.
Cabot’s Jake Ferguson and Kason Kimbrell celebrate after the two connected for a touchdown pass late in the second quarter against Jacksonville in the season opener last week.Buy Photo
Cabot’s Jake Ferguson and Kason Kimbrell celebrate after the two connected for a touchdown pass late in the second quarter against Jacksonville in the season opener last week.
Cabot’s Preston Jones scores a two-point conversion against Jacksonville last week.Buy Photo
Cabot’s Preston Jones scores a two-point conversion against Jacksonville last week.

The Backyard Brawl rivalry between Cabot and Jacksonville came to an anticlimactic end last week as the Panthers dominated the Red Devils in a 42-0 win at Panther Stadium.

The Panthers scored on each of their first three possessions on the way to a 28-0 halftime lead. Cabot received the ball to open the second half and quickly scored to invoke the mercy rule.

“I was real pleased and a little shocked that we got out like that,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “That really went better than I expected. They’re a good team and they’ve got a lot of good players back from a team that played us close last year, so this surprised me.”

The Panthers have added an expanded passing attack this season, but stuck with their traditional ground game for most of their first three scores.

The first drive of the game ended with quarterback Kason Kimbrell diving in from short range after being set up by a big run from Zach Launius. Launius led Cabot with 70 yards on 12 carries as the Panthers shared the rushing load between eight different backs in the game.

Cabot’s second score came on Kimbrell’s first completion of the night as he found Launius for an 11-yard touchdown. Launius had a 20-yard reception on the following possession, helping set up Preston Jones for a 21-yard touchdown run that gave the Panthers a 21-0 lead. Jones carried six times for 39 yards and two touchdowns.

While the offense was moving the ball at will, the Cabot defense was playing just as well. Jacksonville was able to make one first down on its first two possessions, then didn’t make another first down the rest of the night other than one thanks to a penalty.

“We’ve got a pretty solid line, linebackers who get to the ball and some speed in the secondary, so I’m very optimistic about our defense,” said Malham. “Our biggest thing is staying healthy, because we’re not very deep. A couple injuries could decimate us.”

The rest of the first half was all Cabot as well, with Jake Ferguson ending a Jacksonville drive with an interception, then later breaking away for a 45-yard touchdown reception from Kimbrell just before halftime. Pat Neyhart also had an interception for the Panthers in the second quarter.

“We’ve got a few kids who can run this year, so we’re spreading it out just a little bit,” Malham said. “Jake has some speed and catches the ball really well out there.”

Cabot wasted little time putting the game away starting the third quarter, as Chris Henry had a 22-yard run on the first play of the half. Kimbrell hit Ferguson for a 16-yard gain, while Jones finished off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Henry finished his night with 58 yards on seven carries as Cabot rushed for 265 yards in the game. Kimbrell was 8 of 8 passing for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Ferguson had three receptions for 64 yards and a score.

The Panther second team played the next possession and marched down the field just as easily with Jack Whisker scoring from five yards out to set the final margin with 1:02 left in the third quarter.

Jacksonville’s offense had just one drive in Cabot territory, and that came after a muffed punt by the Panthers. Cabot held Jacksonville to 39 yards of total offense, including just four yards on 13 rushes.

Tristan Bulice led the Panthers with five tackles, including three for losses. Colby Ferguson had four. Holdyn Barnes,

Aaron Henry and Logan Melder had three tackles each.

The Panthers travel to War Memorial Stadium on Friday to play the Little Rock Catholic Rockets. Game time is 7 p.m.

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