Arkansas Class 7A high school football team previews: Cabot looking to replace talented players

SBLive previews Arkansas high school football teams from the top three classifications. Today we feature the 7A-Central Conference Cabot Panthers.

By Jeff Halpern | Photo by Jimmy Jones

CABOT PANTHERS

THE HEAD COACH

Scott Reed, fourth year, 22-13

2021 IN BRIEF

General assessment: 8-4

Report of the conference: 4-3

Playoff results: Def. Springdale Har-Ber, 53-7; Lost to Fayetteville, 34-27.

KEY DEPARTURES

WR Braden Jay, All-Star, Harding University signee

QB Grant Freeman

RB Masson Bell

OF Justin Sobczak, All-Star, Harding University signee

DT Eric Masterson, all states

DL Jose Lopez, Harding University signer

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Senior LT Caleb Shirron

Returning starter, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound senior caught the eye of the Arkansas center is a 3-year-old starter.

Senior C Jett Snyder

Returning as a starter, the 6-foot-1, 285-pound senior could switch to tackle and is a college prospect according to Reed.

Junior HB/TE Gavin Reardon

Returning as a starter, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound junior will play multiple positions for the Panthers. He caught 6 passes for 83 yards a year ago.

Junior TB Evion Jimmerson

Returning starter, the 5-foot-9, 190-pound junior rushed for 468 yards and scored 5 touchdowns as a sophomore.

Junior WR Hayes Cox

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound junior has a speed of 4.5 in the 40-yard dash and ran 72 yards on limited duty a year ago. Will also return kicks.

Junior WR Austin Ryals

The 5-foot-7, 150-pound junior is competing for a wide receiver spot and has a speed of 4.5 in the 40.

Junior WR Quinn Hawkins

The 5-foot-9, 155-pound junior went 15-11 in the pole vault during the track season.

Senior QB Abe Owen

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound elder has played big snaps as a substitute and is a running threat who has shown improvement as a passer.

Senior Lyonnais Nick Hazeslip

The 6-5 1/2, 290-pound senior is expected to start on the offensive line.

Junior OL Carson Gray

The 6-foot-0, 255-pound junior is expected to start on the offensive line.

Senior OL Gabe Staggs

The 5-foot-10, 255-pound eldest is battling for playing time on the offensive line.

Senior Lyonnais Nick Purdy

The 6-foot-0, 295-pound eldest is battling for playing time on the offensive line.

Senior DE Chris Leaks

Returning as a starter, the 6-4 1/2, 260-pound senior has attracted interest from NCAA Division II schools across the state and central Arkansas.

Senior DE Caden Mimms

A returning starter, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior had 15 tackles in 6 games and attracted interest from NCAA Division II schools around the state.

Junior LB Gavin Vest

Back as a starter, the 6-foot-0, 195-pound junior had 36 tackles, including 4.5 for sophomore losses.

Junior LB Logan Eason

Back as a starter, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior had 34 tackles as a sophomore.

LB senior Noah Yates

Back as a starter, the 5-9 1/2, 185-pound senior had 14 tackles as a junior.

Senior S Cole Flynn

Back as a starter, the 5-foot-7, 170-pound senior played in nine games and had 32 tackles as a junior.

Junior S Ross Baxter

Returning starter, the 5-foot-9, 175-pound junior had 37 tackles and 3 interceptions as a sophomore.

Senior CB Jayden Whaley

Back as a starter, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior had 4 tackles as a junior.

Senior TD Brock Jay

The 5-foot-9, 230-pound eldest worked part-time a year ago.

Junior DT DeKalb Rudolph

The 5-foot-9, 300-pound junior worked part-time a year ago and expected to split his time as defensive tackle.

Junior DT Brent Beene

The 5-foot-9, 265-pound junior is expected to split his time at defensive tackle.

OUTLOOK

The Panthers have plenty of talented players to replace from last year, like receiver Braden Jay, who caught 60 passes for 1,236 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 464 yards and 9 touchdowns; quarterback Grant Freeman, who threw for 2,044 yards and 23 touchdowns; and running back Mason Bell, who rushed for 794 yards and 8 touchdowns and caught 13 passes for 175 yards and 1 touchdown, but head coach Scott Reed believes his club will be in contention again for the playoffs.

He’s looking at an offensive line that has two returning starters in Shirron and Snyder, who are college prospects, Jimmerson, who rushed for 468 yards a year ago, two receivers in Cox and Ryals who have 4 speed .5 in the 40-yard dash and Owen, who is a common threat at quarterback.

On defense, the Panthers have eight players — Vest, Eason, Flynn, Baxter, Whaley, Yates, Leaks and Mimms — who started or saw significant action a year ago.

“We have a lot of kids (162 on the roster, including 34 seniors), but we need to replace some of our defensive line and offensive talent,” Reed said. “We will be different in the way we play, but we should be more balanced.”

Additionally, he cites a system he developed that requires depth that allows the Panthers to be able to replace a lot of players from the previous year.

“One thing I’ve learned is that when you play at a fast pace you need to have depth and when you practice you need to have multiple attacking units to be ready for the tempo and at the start of the season when it’s hot, you need to be able to rotate players because games now have 80 snaps without much time to recover.

What Reed hopes to do is break the deadlock at the top of the conference created by Bryant, North Little Rock and Conway, which handed Cabot three of its four losses a year ago.

“Two years ago we lost to North Little Rock in the semifinals and last year we lost to (state runner-up) Fayetteville in the quarterfinals,” Reed said. “We have to find a way to get past Bryant, Conway and North Little Rock.”

COACH SAID

“When I took over, coach (Mike) Malham developed a great tradition, and the kids were used to working hard and being physical. That part was easy because we have great kids who have a great work ethic and a great culture, which he’s developed, which includes blocking, tackling and fundamentals. Our culture is good and we have a lot of kids playing, which is great. —Scott Reed

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