Panther’s Bittersweet Battle

Kathryn Bland, Editor

The Cabot Panthers played the Bentonville Tigers in their second playoff game of the 2022-2023 season. Bentonville only had one conference loss against Conway, which Cabot won 35-20. The Panthers went into the game with high hopes as their attendance at the State Championships depended on the outcome of this game.


The first quarter was a blur, with both felines fighting for points. While there were some impressive plays from both teams. #20 Evion Jimerson was a prime target, getting sacked almost immediately after receiving the ball multiple times. #13 Austin Ryals made even more of a name for himself with a good catch at 6:30 while in double coverage. The team began feeling the pressure though with #12 Abe Owen beginning to falter and Jimerson being targeted. At the end of the first quarter, neither team had points on the board.


The Tigers dealt the first blow of the game, scoring a touchdown in the second quarter at 9:30 left on the clock. Their extra point, however, was not good. The panthers struggled immensely with their offensive plays until the 53-second mark of the second quarter when a new sense of determination and grit allowed the Panthers to run the ball to the 20-yard line with an attempt at a touchdown with Jimerson receiving, but it was overthrown. A 36-yard attempt was then made by #84 Kade Martin, it devastatingly went too far right at 9 seconds left of the first half. The Panthers headed to the locker rooms with a score of 0-6.


At 10:28 the Tigers upped the score by 0-9 with a field goal. Pressure mounted on Cabot to score which culminated in a fumble by Owen that allowed Bentonville to recover the ball at 8:51 left of the third quarter. Bentonville took their opportunity and ran, inching closer and closer to the endzone. At 5:46 Bentonville kicked yet another good field goal upping their score by 2 points, 0-12. The Panther team took that personally and finally upped their offensive game with a territory encroachment, finally crossing the 50-yard line and using their absolute tank of a running back, Jimerson, to break through the Bentonville defensive line. While Cabot was not able to score any points they did leave the third quarter within the 10-yard line hoping for a touchdown.


Panthers started the fourth quarter with a bang, with Jimerson scoring the first Panther touchdown of the night within 3 seconds. Martin was able to follow with a good extra point. Panther fans erupted in excitement, as the game was so tense and full of nail-biting, teeth-clenching moments. With State Championship attendance on the line, the Panthers dug deep to find even more of a reason to not let the score slip away from them. At 6:54 Owen took a hard hit and was pulled out with an injury, but at 2:31 left he was able to come back into the game for a last-minute miracle, allowing Cox to rush in the Panthers’ second touchdown of the night. The Panthers tried for a two-point conversion, but Owen got sacked last second leading to only a 6 point increase. With Bentonville only 1 point behind, and gaining possession the outlook for the Panthers was grim. With under 20 seconds remaining Bentonville kicked a field goal, raising the score 13-15. Bentonville Tigers won the game. 


The Panthers had an amazing season, and while unable to attend the championship game, they still performed better than they have in years. Friday’s game was bittersweet with players such as Owen and Jimerson playing the last game of their high school career, while others such as Cox and Ryals still have next season to look forward to.