North Little Rock is primed for a run at the Class 7A state title, advancing to the state semifinals after beating the Cabot Panthers 28-0 on Friday at North Little Rock Stadium.
The Charging Wildcats (10-1) will face defending state champion Fayetteville in the semifinals this Friday. Cabot ends its season at 7-5.
"They’ve gotten a lot better since the first time we played them," North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding said, referring to the Panthers, whom his team beat 33-14 earlier in the season. "We’ve got to be really excited about the way our defense played. We shut them out and that is a really good football team that we just played and held them to no score."
Cabot coach Mike Malham said his team got "whipped" in the second half after trailing only 7-0 at halftime.
"In the first half, we played pretty good," he said. "The defense help up pretty good. The defense kept us in it.
"I felt good at halftime. We’re getting the ball. But in the second half, I don’t think we stopped them and I don’t think we made a first down until that last drive."
Malham said North Little Rock is a "senior team."
"They’ve got seniors at every position," he said. "They’ve got size and speed. Basically, they wore us out in the second half."
The Panthers finished with 150 yards in total offense with only 42 yards in the second half.
"We did some stuff they hadn’t seen in a couple of years," Bolding said of his team’s defense. "We started slanting a little bit on defense."
Malham said he’d like to see North Little Rock win state. A team from central Arkansas hasn’t won the state title in the largest classification since the state went to seven classes seven years ago.
"Hopefully, they’ll keep playing well," Malham said. "They’ve got some talent."
The Charging Wildcats got the ball to start the game but the Panthers forced a punt, getting the ball at the Cabot 47.
The Panthers drove the ball to the North Little Rock 22 but turned it over on downs following an incomplete pass by halfback Chris Henry.
North Little Rock had a chance to get on the board on its next possession, which included a 32-yard pass from Heath Land to Aaron Adams but the drive stalled at the Cabot 28.
The Panthers picked up one first down on their second possession but eventually had to punt and it led to North Little Rock taking a 7-0 lead with 9:54 left in the first half. Juan Day scored on a 29-yard run and Sandy Burks kicked the extra point.
Cabot’s next possession ended with a punt but the Panthers got the ball back at their own 28 with 5:06 left in the half. They picked up two first downs and had a 14-yard run by Kyle Edgar but the drive stalled at the North Little Rock 39, where Cabot turned the ball over on downs.
In the second half, the Charging Wildcats scored on their first three possessions to put the game way.
Land threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Adams with 6:28 left in the third quarter. Altee Tenpenny scored on an 11-yard run with 1:04 left in the third quarter. Day scored on an 11-yard run with 9:54 left in the game.
About the only thing North Little Rock did wrong in the second half was throw an interception at the goal line late in the game. Cabot’s Jake Ferguson picked off his second pass of the game with 5:32 left in the fourth quarter.
Tenpenny led North Little Rock with 144 yards rushing on 20 carries. Day had 122 yards on 13 carries.
Land completed 8 of 15 passes for 93 yards.
Deion Tidwell caught 4 passes for 52 yards. Adams caught 3 for 51 yards.
Edgar led the Panthers with 57 yards on 14 carries. Russ Rankin had 42 yards on nine carries.