Photos by Kevin Nagle
The Cabot Red Panthers eighth grade team had two fullbacks that were as big or bigger than any of their offensive linemen. They could run through a tackle but, the team’s offensive line was good enough that there were many times that they ran the ball against the Bryant Blue Hornets of Bethel Middle School where they weren’t touched until they were 5 yards past the line of scrimmage.
It was a tough assignment for the Hornets’ defense.
Still, Bethel was in the game until the Panthers scored a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half then drove for another score on the first possession of the second half. That turned a 15-6 lead into a 30-6 advantage that the Hornets just couldn’t overcome despite a second-half rally. Cabot Red held on for a 30-16 victory.
The loss for Bethel came despite the fact that quarterback Jake Meaders rushed for 129 yards on just seven carries. He also threw for a touchdown to Ethan Loomis. Dalen McDonald added 88 yards on 23 carries with a score.
Cabot Red put points on the board on each of its three first-half possessions then made it four in a row with the fast start to the second half.
Each of the two big fullbacks, Zachery Marshall and Hunter Horka, scored twice. Marshall finished with 129 yards on 14 totes. Horka picked up 88 on nine tries.
The muscular Panthers, running the Cabot dead-T, pushed down the field in five plays on their first possession. Four of the runs picked up first downs including Marshall’s 12-yard bolt into the end zone. He also ran in a two-point conversion.
After having gone three plays and out on the opening series of the game, the Hornets answered Cabot’s score despite two holding penalties. A pass interference penalty against Cabot Red offset one of those markoffs.
Meaders’ 34-yard scamper ignited the march. McDonald’s running included a pick up of 9 and another of 10. On a third-and-2 at the 4, he got to the 1. On the next play, however, he lost yards and, on third-and-goal at the 2, Meaders hooked up with Loomis to cut the lead to 8-6. A try for two was stopped short.
It took the Panthers seven plays to drive 69 yards for their second TD. This time, Horka rumbled into the end zone from 8 yards out. Rhett Thurman kicked an extra point to make it 15-6.
The Hornets went three-and-out on the subsequent series. On a punt attempt from their own 38, kicker Jonathan Giron was tackled before he could get the kick away. Cabot Red took over on downs with just :49 left in the half. But they were just 29 yards away from another score. The Hornets didn’t give way easily but, in five plays, the Panthers got the touchdown with Horka scoring from the 2 with :19.3 showing on the clock. He also ran in the conversion to make it 23-6 at the half.
The Panthers powered 51 yards in six plays to open the second half. Marshall carried in from the 2 and Thurman booted the extra point with 4:32 left in the third quarter.
Up to that point, the Panthers hadn’t even faced a third down in the game.
Gamely, however, Bethel answered even after a kickoff snafu left them at their own 6. With Cabot filtering in reserves until the Hornets got inside the 10, the Bethel offense went 94 yards in eight plays. McDonald started the drive with a 20-yard run. Meaders followed with a 40-yard keeper. He later added a 20-yard burst to convert a third-and-5 at from the Cabot 29.
Three plays later, McDonald was slicing into the end zone for the touchdown. Meaders threw to Ryan Reidmueller for the conversion to make it 30-14.
The Hornets’ defense stopped four Cabot rushes short of a first down. On fourth-and-2, the Panthers were stopped short and Bethel took over on downs with 6:13 left.
The Hornets made a bid to cut into the lead further. Meaders scrambled for 15 yards then a face mask penalty added 15 to a 3-yard run by McDonald. Brandon Barber broke a 14-yard run to the 9 and Cabot Red brought its starting defense back.
Though the Hornets made it to the 2, a fourth-down pass fell incomplete and Cabot Red took over on downs, denying a touchdown that couldn’t trimmed the margin to 30-20.
From the 2, the starting offense returned for the Panthers and rooted the ball out to the 31. The reserves returned and were stopped on third down. The Hornets got a chance to score again when a high snap to punter Case Bratton forced him back. But, instead of getting the punt blocker or being tackled in the field of play, which would’ve given the Hornets a very short field, he stepped into the end zone and out of the back of it for a safety with 1:04 left to play.
The Hornets received a free kick but time ran out on them as they drove into the red zone.
Now 3-4 on the season, Bryant Blue will close out the campaign at Benton on Tuesday, Nov. 3.