The Cabot Panthers are one step away from playing in the Class 7A state finals next week. The last hurdle away from War Memorial Stadium in a huge one that the Panthers know all too well.
Cabot (11-0) will host North Little Rock (10-2) in the Class 7A state semifinals this Friday at Panther Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Both teams are members of the 7A/6A-East. The Panthers beat the Charging Wildcats 48-21 in the conference opener in September. Since then, North Little Rock has reeled off eight consecutive wins
“North Little Rock is as talented as any team in the state,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “We had a good game against them the first time and I hope we can repeat and have a chance to win the ballgame Friday night.”
Malham said his team can’t help out the Charging Wildcats.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball and not give up the big play and I think we will be in it,” he said.
Malham said it’s hard to tell what type of game they will have this week.
“The last time we played them it was a high scoring game,” he said. “They scored 32 and we were lucky enough to score 48. Who knows what’s going to happen. It may be a low scoring game. Since we beat them in that fourth date, they haven’t even had a contest.”
The closest game that North Little Rock has played since Cabot’s win was the Charging Wildcats 28-7 win over Bryant in the second round of the playoffs last week.
“They are just very talented,” Malham said. “Hopefully, our kids will get ready to play. I don’t know if lightning can strike twice in one year but we’re going to do the best we can.”
In the first meeting at North Little Rock, Cabot fullback Zach Launius rushed 39 times for 223 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Malham is glad the Panthers are playing at home.
“I didn’t care who we played,” he said. “If we play here, we play pretty hard and well in front of our home crowd. We’re looking forward to the challenge. At this point of the year, there are only four left and we’re one of those four.
“Anyone left can win this thing. It’s who takes care of business, doesn’t make mistakes and takes care of the football.”
North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding said there is a revenge factor for his team this week.
“We got whipped,” he said, referring to Cabot’s win in Week 4.
“In a way we are kind of thankful because it woke our guys up,” Bolding said. “It really helped us. You learn a lot more from losing than winning. We learned a lot about ourselves and who we are as a team.”
Bolding said the keys to winning will be scoring when they get in the red zone, and not turning the ball over on offense and getting a couple stops on defense.
“You’re not going to shut down Cabot,” Bolding said. “We’ve never just totally shut Cabot down.”
The winner of Cabot-North Little Rock will play the winner of Bentonville-Conway in the Class 7A state championship game Friday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
Bruce Guthrie contributed to this story