Panthers battle, fall to Jackrabbits

Heber Springs’ Nathan McKee returns the opening kickoff against Lonoke Friday. McKee finished with 207 all-purpose yards in the Panthers 47-31 setback at Lonoke. Also pictured, Heber Springs’s Conner Riddle (6) and Gus Hannah (7) and Lonoke’s Drake Aycock (15). PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

LONOKE — Heber Springs lost to Lonoke in the 2-4A Conference football opener 47-31 Friday, but the Panthers earned the respect of head coach Todd Wood for their reaction to adversity in the second half.

Heber Springs (0-1 conference, 1-3 overall) led 6-0, 12-7 and 19-14 before the Lonoke (1-0 conference, 3-1 overall) finished the second quarter by scoring three consecutive touchdowns for a 35-19 halftime lead. The Jackrabbits maintained a two-score advantage throughout the second half.

“We are never going to give up,” Wood said. “I told the players after the game they made me proud of how they played late in the game. We had a few letdowns, but we picked it up at times and played aggressively. We played with a lot of fire in the fourth quarter. We need to play that way for the entire game.”

Heber Springs’ Matthew Cook. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Heber Springs reached the 300-yard passing mark for the second straight game. Matthew Cook completed 23-of-42 passes for 293 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions. Hunter Kent connected on 2-of-3 passes for 66 yards and one touchdown.

Nathan McKee led the receivers with eight receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns.

“We have been working on the new plays for three weeks,” Wood said. “We got an opportunity to show what we could do with the new plays. But the fun part is we didn’t show everything.”

Lonoke freshman Bradon Allen started at quarterback in place of Spence Pepper. Allen rushed 23 times for 74 yards and scored three touchdowns. He completed 6-of-19 passes for 210 yards and one touchdown.

Ja’coree Womack led the Jackrabbits’ running game with 20 carries for 115 yards and scored two touchdowns.

Wood said the defense had some good moments.

“We received a boost with the return of Preston Roberson at defensive end,” he said. “(Kenan) Sneed made good plays. Jackson West did a fantastic job of getting into Lonoke’s backfield and made things happen.”

Heber Springs received the opening kickoff and scored on the game’s second play from scrimmage. Cook lateraled to Kent, who suddenly stopped and connected on a 56-yard touchdown pass to Isaac King for a 6-0 lead with 11:17 left in the first quarter.

Lonoke earned its first lead after Deon Campbell’s interception set up a first down at the Heber Springs 43. The Panthers forced the Jackrabbits later into a fourth-and-one at the 18. Womack broke free and scored with 6:31 left in the first quarter. Tom Boatright kicked the extra point, giving a 7-6 lead to Lonoke.

Heber Springs regained the advantage on Kent’s 2-yard touchdown carry, which capped an 8-play, 60-yard drive, for the 12-7 with 3:27 to go in the quarter.

Lonoke converted a fumble recovery at the Panther 38 yard-line into its next score, Allen’s 22-yard run. Boatright’s successful kick returned the lead to Lonoke, 14-12, with 11:44 left in the first half.

Heber Springs struck back quickly, taking the lead three plays later. McKee caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Cook. Gus Hannah kicked the extra point for a 19-14 lead with 10:02 remaining in the first half.

“The game went back and forth early,” Wood said. “We got the lead, then lost the lead, and we got the lead back.”

Lonoke seized momentum by scoring three touchdowns before halftime, two after fourth-down stops and a pick six before halftime.

Womack scored on a 22-yard run with 7:21 left, and Anthony Parks ran for the 2-point conversion. Parks returned an interception 100 yards for a score, and Boatwright kicked the extra point. Allen’s 5-yard run finished the scoring flurry as Lonoke held a 35-19 halftime lead.

“Two of the touchdowns was because of our tackling,” Wood said. “We had a letdown during the final three minutes because of frustration and fatigue. I challenged them at halftime that we would come back and overcome those things.”

Lonoke took a 41-19 lead midway through the third quarter on Allen’s 35-yard pass to Chaston Dockery. The Panthers scored before the end of the quarter on Cook’s 32-yard pass to Diego Rubio.

Heber Springs trailed 41-25 going into the fourth quarter.

Each team scored a touchdown during the final quarter. Allen had a 2-yard scoring carry with 11:51 left for Lonoke. McKee caught a 52-yard touchdown pass from Cook for the Panthers.

HIGH SCORING GAMES

Friday night's game between Lonoke and Heber Springs produced the third most combined points in the series between the two schools.
2011 - 109 (Heber Springs 63, Lonoke 46)
2013 - 97 (Lonoke 63, Heber Springs 34)
2020 - 78 (Lonoke 47, Heber Springs 31)
1992 - 77 (Lonoke 49, Heber Springs 28)
2016 - 69 (Heber Springs 48, Lonoke 21)
2008 - 68 (Lonoke 47, Heber Springs 21)
2014 - 64 (Heber Springs 40, Lonoke 24)
2017 - 63 (Heber Springs 41, Lonoke 22)
1942 - 56 (Lonoke 53, Heber Springs 3)
2007 - 53 (Lonoke 35, Heber Springs 18)
Heber Springs’ Chris Benton. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

GAME STATS

SCORING   
Heber Springs (1-3, 0-1)          12   7  6  6 - 31 
Lonoke (3-1, 1-0)                  7  28  6  6 - 47 
FIRST QUARTER   
Heber Springs, Hunter Kent to Isaac King 56-yard pass (run failed), 11:17
Lonoke, Ja'coree Womack 18-yard run (Tom Boatright kick), 6:31
Heber Springs, Matthew Cook to Kent 1-yard pass (run failed), 3:27 
SECOND QUARTER   
Lonoke, Bradon Allen 22-yard run (Boatright kick), 11:44
Heber Springs, Cook to Nathan McKee 44-yard pass (Gus Hannah kick), 10:02
Lonoke, Womack 23-yard run (Anthony Parks run), 7:21
Lonoke, Parks 100-yard interception return (Boatright kick), 4:33
Lonoke, Allen 3-yard run (run failed), :32
THIRD QUARTER   
Lonoke, Allen to Chaston Dockery 35-yard pass (run failed), 7:58
Heber Springs, Cook to Diego Rubio 32-yard pass (pass failed), 1:58
FOURTH QUARTER 
Lonoke, Allen 2-yard run (kick failed), 11:51
Heber Springs, Cook to McKee 52-yard pass (pass failed), 6:07

TEAM STATS   
First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 5, Lonoke 9 
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 10, Lonoke 5  
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 0, Lonoke 2 
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 15, Lonoke 16 
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 1/12, Lonoke 3/13
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 3/6, Lonoke 3/7 
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 1/2, Lonoke 3/3
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 22:06, Lonoke 25:54
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 4/3, Lonoke 4/2
Turnovers: Heber Springs 6, Lonoke 2       
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 6, Lonoke 21  
Penalties: Heber Springs 5/42, Lonoke 6/42  
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 66/377/5.7, Lonoke 69/340/4.9
Rushing: Heber Springs 24/18/.8, Lonoke 50/211/4.2
Passing: Heber Springs 23/42-359-5/3, Lonoke 6/19-129-1/0
Sacked/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 3/24, Lonoke 1/11  
Punts: Heber Springs 2/63/31.5, Lonoke 3/82/27.3
Inside 20: Heber Springs 0, Lonoke 0

INDIVIDUAL STATS   
OFFENSE     
RUSHING: Heber Springs, Hunter Kent 3/27, Nathan McKee 1/23, Diego Rubio 3/10, Isaac King 1/8, Matthew Cook 15/(-14), Team 1/(-36). Lonoke, Ja'coree Womack 20/115, Bradon Allen 23/74, Anthony Parks 3/27, Latrell Burnett 1/2, Landon Jones 3/(-2), Team 1/(-5).
PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 21/39-293-4/3, Hunter Kent 2/3-66-1/0. Lonoke, Bradon Allen 6/19-129-1/0
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 8/162, Hunter Kent 5/67, Isaac King 4/73, Diego Rubio 3/39, Matthew Cook 1/10, Gus Hannah 1/8, Kenan Sneed 1/(-1). Lonoke, Landon Jones 3/63, Chaston Dockery 1/35, Anthony Parks 1/23, Ja'coree Womack 1/8.   
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 279, Hunter Kent 93, Nathan McKee 23, Diego Rubio 10, Isaac King 8. Lonoke, Bradon Allen 203, Ja'coree Womack 115, Anthony Parks 27, Latrell Burnett 2, Landon Jones (-2).
PUNT RETURNS: Heber Springs, Hunter Kent 1/17  
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 3/30, Nathan McKee 2/22, Hunter Kent 1/34, Kenan Sneed 1/9. Lonoke, Romel Rankin 2/22, Latrell Burnett 1/7, Deon Campbell 1/0, Cody Amato 1/0.
FUMBLE RETURNS: None   
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Lonoke, Anthony Parks 1/100, Deon Campbell 1/34 
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 207, Hunter Kent 145, Isaac King 81, Diego Rubio 79, Gus Hannah 8, Kenan Sneed 8, Matthew Cook (-4). Lonoke, Anthony Parks 150, Ja'coree Womack 123, Bradon Allen 74, Landon Jones 61, Chaston Dockery 35, Deon Campbell 34, Romel Rankin 22, Latrell Burnett 9
SCORING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 12, Diego Rubio 6, Isaac King 6, Hunter Kent 6, Gus Hannah 1 (1/1 XPA). Lonoke, Bradon Allen 18, Ja'coree Womack 12, Anthony Parks 8, Chaston Dockery 6, Tom Boatright 3 (3/4 XPA)
DEFENSE    
PUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 2/63/31.5. Lonoke, Ayden Rowton 3/82/27.3
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook .5/11, Hunter Kent .5/11. Lonoke, Latrell Burnett 1/9, Dalynn Waits 1/8, Seth Sherman 1/7.
Fumble Recoveries: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook, Chris Smith. Lonoke, Tayler Coffey, team 2.
Interceptions: Lonoke, Anthony Parks, Deon Campbell, Chaston Dockery.

GAMEDAY: Heber Springs opens conference play at Lonoke

Heber Springs’ Thad Bray and Diego Rubio bring down Dover’s Dawson Branch in action last week at Panther Stadium. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs lost to two of the state’s top-ranked 3A teams in non-conference, but that will not have an effect on the 2-4A Conference football opener Friday.

The Panthers (1-2) will start the chase for a conference championship at Lonoke (2-1). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

“I told the team after last week’s game (a 42-6 win against Dover) we will start with a clean slate against Lonoke,” Heber Springs head coach Todd Wood said. “We used the non-conference games as a learning experience. Winning the conference title is our goal. It is a new season, and we hope to put things together like last week.”

Heber Springs broke out of its offensive slump. The Panthers more than doubled its total offense and committed no turnovers. Heber Springs had eight turnovers in the first two games.

Matthew Cook completed 16-of-22 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns in his first start at quarterback. Heber Springs rushed for 134 yards with six receivers catching passes.

“Scoring on our first drive gave us confidence,” Wood said. “Hopefully, it will grow and we keep improving. We challenged the players before the Dover game to execute better, and they did.”

Heber Springs sophomore Isaac King flips the ball to an official after scoring last week against Dover. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Wood said the decision to start Cook at quarterback was one of the keys to the success of the offense.

“Cook will get better at quarterback,” Wood said. “Matthew passes well, and he is also a good runner. Cook did a good job of throwing to more than one receiver.”

Wood also said the offensive linemen showed improvement.

“The line played better,” Wood said. “We did a better job of protecting the quarterback.”

Quarterback Spence Pepper and running back Ja’coree Womack lead Lonoke’s offense. The Jackrabbits played Newport even for three quarters before the Greyhounds pulled away by scoring four fourth-quarter touchdowns.

“Lonoke has a lot of good athletes and speed like Newport and Harding Academy,” Wood said. “We will be playing a well-coached team again. Playing those teams helped in preparing for this game.”

The defense also had its best performance. Dover gained 65 of its 110 yards on the final drive. Wood said lineman Thad Bray, inside linebacker Kenan Sneed, cornerback Easton Cusick and safety Conner Riddle led the way.

Wood said the defense is ready for the challenge against Lonoke.

“The quarterback is not only a good runner, but a good passer,” he said. “Lonoke tries to balance its offense between the run and pass. It is going to be a challenge for our defense. We must stop big plays, keep them contained and tackle well.”

“I am on the different end of this one. I don’t think it has hit me yet. Matter of fact, I had one of the coaches come up to me and whisper in my ear and say ‘congratulations on your first win’. It hasn’t hit me yet so when I walk off the field and think about that I have been doing this for 27 years and this is the first time. I’ve been a head baseball coach and been a part of some great teams in that situation, but I’ve always been an assistant coach for football so to finally get my opportunity to be out here and be the leader of a young group and to be able to get a win is something that about and you sit back and soak in the feelings. It’s a great night for everybody.”

Heber Springs coach Todd Wood after getting his first win as a head coach last week against Dover
  • Kickoff: 7 p.m. at Lonoke
  • Admission: $5
  • Radio/Streaming: Billy Morgan with handle the play-by-play with Lance Hamilton providing color on KSUG 101.9 The Lake. Panther Pregame begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by the game.  You can listen live here.

CONFERENCE SCOREBOARD WEEK 3

  • Heber Springs 42, Dover 6
  • Central Arkansas Christian 32, Carlisle 6
  • Dardanelle 34, Clinton 14
  • Trumann 27, Southside Batesville 0
  • Valley View 56, Bald Knob 24
  • Newport 47, Lonoke 19
  • Stuttgart, Covid canceled with DeWitt
  • Little Rock Mills, bye

CONFERENCE SCHEDULE WEEK 4

  • Heber Springs (1-2) at Lonoke (2-1)
  • Southside Batesville (1-2) at Stuttgart (2-0)
  • Bald Knob (2-1) at Little Rock Mills (1-2)
  • Central Arkansas Christian (3-0) at Clinton (0-3)

The Series: Lonoke leads the all-time series, 14-10

The two teams first meet in 1931, a 25-0 victory by the Jackrabbits in Lonoke. The schools would play eight times between 1931 and 1942 with the Panthers lone victory coming in 1933, 19-0. The two teams wouldn’t meet again for almost 50 years when the two schools were both part of the 5AA-North conference for the 1991-92 cycle with the Jackrabbits winning both of those conference contests. Fourteen years later in 2006, Heber Springs and Lonoke would again be placed in the same conference (the 4A-2). Since 2006, the Panthers have won nine out of 14 contests, including five straight in the series before Lonoke won last season.

Heber Springs golf team readies for conference tourney

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

The Heber Springs High School girls’ and boys’ golf teams survived the challenge of an altered schedule because of COVID-19.

The two teams are ready for the next step, the 4-4A Conference Tournament at the Morrilton Country Club Tuesday. The top two teams will advance to the state tournament.

“We played 10 matches because of COVID and weather,” Heber Springs coach Gaye Stark said. “We didn’t play multiple teams because of COVID and only competed against four conference schools all season. We hope to play well and see what happens.”

Seniors Hope Evans and Ellie Riddle lead the Lady Panthers. Freshmen Megan Bull and Macy Evans are the other two golfers.

“Hope and Ellie have been good mentors to the younger golfers,” Stark said. “They took them under their wings and showed them what they needed to do at the tournaments.”

Stark believes the team will challenge for a state tournament berth.

“Clarksville and Ozark are the teams to beat,” she said. “I’m pleased with the progress of all four golfers. We will see how it goes at the tournament.”

Senior Cooper Schalchin, sophomore Easton Cusick and freshman Ladd Choate will compete on the boys’ team.

“Cooper is the leader for the other golfers,” Stark said. “We will face tough teams at the tournament. I’m not sure how we stack up going into the tournament, but I expect us to play well.”

Panthers break nonconference streak

Heber Springs’ Jackson West (23) and Kenan Sneed (15) bring down Dover quarterback Kaleb Williams Friday night at Panther Stadium. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

BY LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs followed a formula of good execution with no turnovers and opened the door for success.

The Panthers doubled the total offense of the first two games and committed no turnovers in a 42-6 win against Dover at Panther Stadium on Friday and in the process ended an eight game, regular season nonconference losing streak.

Heber Springs (1-2) completed the nonconference schedule and will switch its focus to the 2-4A Conference opener at Lonoke next weekend.

“Good execution has been our goal every game,” Panther head coach Todd Wood said. “We can be a good team when putting things together. We wanted to play a complete game and answered the call. Sometimes when a team is 0-2, it will shut down, but we didn’t do that against Dover.”

Heber Springs gained 444 yards — 134 rushing and 310 passing — and converted 7-of-8 third-down plays.

“We have not done anything on first drives in the first two games and that was important to start this game,” Wood said. “It was a big relief for the team when we did that. We also learned what can happen when you hang onto the ball.”

Wood decided early last week to give senior Matthew Cook his first start at quarterback. Cook had been the backup for the first two games. He completed 16-of-22 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns against the Pirates.

Heber Springs senior quarterback Matthew Cook passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

“I challenged Matthew,” Wood said. “We put him in there and proud of his efforts. He gave our offense a different look.”

Cook admitted a case of the nerves in the beginning, but but he said it went away quickly.

“I never started at quarterback before, but I knew I was ready after a good week of practice,” Cook said. “All of the credit goes to my offensive line and the receivers.”

Six Heber Springs receivers caught passes (Hunter Kent 6-44, Nathan McKee 5-80, Diego Rubio 3-66, Isaac Smith 3-29, Easton Cusick 2-79 and Kenan Sneed 1-12).

“It was nice to spread the ball around and not just throw to one or two players,” Wood said. “We want to spread the joy around and be balanced. We wanted to make the defense defend the entire field.”

Cook said the short-range passing game helped him to be more comfortable and sent the offense in motion.

“Scoring on the first drive showed what we can do when we stick together,” he said. “I was looking to throw to all of my receivers.”

Wood also said he was pleased with the play of the defense.

“We played more aggressive on,” he said. “We started the game too flat, and I challenged them to become hitters and take it to Dover.”

Heber Springs sophomore Isaac King attempts to fight off the tackle attempt of Dover’s Tristen Reynolds. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Heber Springs took the lead with an 11-play, 90-yard drive for its first touchdown. The Panthers overcame two holding penalties as Kent scored on a 14-yard run with 4:37 left in the first quarter.

A fourth-down stop set up another touchdown before the end of the quarter.  Isaac King caught a 10-yard scoring pass and Cook ran for a 2-point conversion, increasing the Panthers’ lead to 14-0 going into the second quarter.

Heber Springs struck again as Cook scored on a 2-yard carry with 6:27 left in the first half. Cook’s touchdown capped a 5-play, 80-yard drive. Chandler Webber kicked the conversion for a 21-0 lead.

The Panthers finished the second quarter with a 10-play, 78-yard touchdown drive. Diego Rubio caught a 36-yard scoring pass from Cook as Heber Springs led 27-0 at halftime.

“It was better atmosphere at halftime than the first two games,” Wood said. “I told them the game was not over. We didn’t want to be satisfied by playing only well only in the first half.”

Heber Springs sent the sportsmanship rule into motion by scoring on a 4-play, 64-yard drive following the second half kickoff. McKee caught a 17-yard touchdown pass with 10:46 remaining in the third quarter. Kent ran for a 2-point conversion.

Rubio’s 19-yard scoring run provided the Panthers’ fourth-quarter touchdown.

Dover avoided a shutout when Kenny Ketcherside scored on a 37-yard run with 3:41 to play.

Due to COVID restrictions, only 100 fans from Heber Springs will be allowed to attend. Those wanting to attend the game in Lonoke must pick up a voucher at the school and then pay at the gate in Lonoke.

Heber Springs senior Hunter Kent attempts to outrun a pair of Dover defenders, Jon Greathouse (14) and Dawson Branch (1), Friday night at Panther Stadium. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

STATS

SCORING  
Dover (0-4)           0   0  0  6 -  6
Heber Springs (1-2)  14  13  8  7 - 42
FIRST QUARTER  
Heber Springs, Hunter Kent 14-yard run (pass failed), 4:37
Heber Springs, Matthew Cook to Isaac King 10-yard pass (Cook run), 7.4 
SECOND QUARTER  
Heber Springs, Cook 2-yard run (Chandler Webber kick), 6:27
Heber Springs, Cook to Diego Rubio 36-yard pass (kick blocked), 50.9
THIRD QUARTER  
Heber Springs - Cook to Nathan McKee 17-yard pass (Kent run), 10:46
FOURTH QUARTER
Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 19-yard run (Webber kick), 11:40
Dover, Kenny Ketcherside 37-yard run (run failed), 3:45

TEAM STATS  
First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 6, Dover 5 
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 10, Dover 0 
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 0, Dover 0
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 16, Dover 5 
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 7/8, Dover 4/8
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 1/1, Dover 0/1
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 5/5, Dover 0/0 
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 23:57, Dover 24:03 
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Dover 1/0 
Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, Dover 0      
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, Dover 0  
Penalties: Heber Springs 7/70, Dover 5/55  
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 44/444/10.1, Dover 29/110/3.8
Rushing: Heber Springs 22/134/6.1, Dover 25/113/4.5
Passing: Heber Springs 16/22-310-3/0, Dover 2/4-(-3)-0/0
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Dover 0/0 
Punts: Heber Springs 0/0, Dover 4/171/42.8 
Inside 20: Heber Springs 0, Dover 2

INDIVIDUAL STATS  
OFFENSE    
RUSHING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 9/42/4.7, Hunter Kent 3/32/10.7,  Matthew Cook 5/23, Nathan McKee 2/19, Jackson West 2/15, Isaac King 1/3. Dover, Kaleb Williams 15/55/3.7, Kenny Ketcherside 5/45/9, Dawson Branch 5/13.  
RUSHING RUNS OF 30+: Dover, Kenny Ketcherside (1)
RUSHING RUNS OF 20+: Dover, Kaleb Williams (1)
RUSHING RUNS OF 10+: Heber Springs, Hunter Kent (2), Diego Rubio (1) 
PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 16/22-310-3/0. Dover, Kaleb Williams 2/4-(-3)-0/0
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 5/80, Diego Rubio 3/66, Isaac King 3/29, Easton Cusick 2/79, Hunter Kent 2/44, Kenan Sneed 1/12. Dover, Dawson Branch 2/(-3)  
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 333, Diego Rubio 42, Hunter Kent 32, Nathan McKee 19, Jackson West 15, Isaac King 3. Dover, Kaleb Williams 52, Kenny Ketcherside 45, Dawson Branch 10.
PUNT RETURNS: Heber Springs, Hunter Kent 2/35.   
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Hunter Kent 1/40, Easton Cusick 1/0. Dover, Jon Greathouse 4/27, Brantley Craig 1/12, Jeremiah Mercer 1/7, Kaleb Williams 1/7  
FUMBLE RETURNS: None  
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: None
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Hunter Kent 151, Diego Rubio 108, Nathan McKee 99, Easton Cusick 79, Isaac King 32, Matthew Cook 23, Jackson West 15, Kenan Sneed 12. Dover, Kaleb Williams 62, Kenny Ketcherside 45, Jon Greathouse 27, Brantley Craig 12, Dawson Branch 10, Jeremiah Mercer 7.  
SCORING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 12, Matthew Cook 8, Hunter Kent 8, Nathan McKee 6, Isaac King 6, Chandler Webber 2 (2/3 XP/XPA). Dover, Kenny Ketcherside 6
DEFENSE   
PUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20: Heber Springs, None. Dover, Kaleb Williams 4/171/42.8/2

Pirates, Cox return to Panther Stadium

Heber Springs senior running back Diego Rubio gets a block from teammate Hunter Kent(1) in last week’s loss at Harding Academy. Also picture, Harding Academy’s Cooper Welch (45). PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

BY LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

It’s not a one-game football season, but Friday’s nonconference finale may set the tone going into conference play.

Heber Springs hopes to take a step forward and build momentum for the 2-4A Conference opener with a win against Dover at Panther Field. Kickoff is scheduled at 7 p.m.

The Panthers (0-2) played two of the top ranked Class 3A teams in the first two games — No. 1 Harding Academy and No. 4 Newport.

Dover (0-3) lost its first three games by a combined score of 126-22 to Hector, Atkins and Salem.

“We will be looking for growth against Dover,” Heber Springs head coach Todd Wood said. “We want to settle into the way we want to play on offense and defense during the conference games. We want a win and also show improvement in all areas.”

Dover head coach Will Cox said it was mixed emotions coming back to Panther Stadium. Cox coached the last two years at Heber Springs and was the interim head coach last season.

“Three coaches I worked with closely are still on staff,” Cox said. “I was very close to coach (Drew) Lawrence, (E.G.) Dew and (Hunter) Davis. It will be different being on the other side of the field. But it’s going to be exciting to be back in Heber.”

Cox said emphasis is on the game against the Panthers.

“Our focus will be on ourselves and  building the Dover program in the right way,” he said. “It probably helped with preparation because I coached some of Heber’s players in the past. Those guys can make plays. I’ve got a lot of respect for all of those guys and know what they are capable of doing.”

Heber Springs is averaging 150 yards of offense and four turnovers through two games. Wood plans more personnel changes for Friday’s game, in an attempt fore more production.

“We must have better execution,” Wood said. “We have not had it for an entire game yet. You can’t give up the ball as many times we did in the last two games (eight turnovers) and win.”

Wood noticed more positives in practice and hope it carries over to the game.

“We had good practices,” he said. “We are continuing to learn and trying to figure everything out. It was a positive week.”

Heber Springs senior Matthew Cook at quarterback last week against Harding Academy. Cook is expected to start at quarterback tonight against Dover. Also pictured for Heber Springs is Tristan Thissen (56) blocking a Wildcat defender. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Wood said Matthew Cook, who was the backup for the first two games, will start at quarterback. Sophomore Conner Riddle, who completed 6-of-7 passes for 47 yards against Harding Academy in the second half, also is expected to play.

“Conner played well, but he still has a long way to go,” Wood said. “He is still learning the offense.”

Sophomore Isaac King, who started at safety, played receiver in the second half and may play a bigger role against Dover.

“Isaac stepped in for Nathan McKee at safety and also caught passes (6-47),” Wood said. “He will probably start again at safety and at receiver.”  

Wood said changes are planned for the  offensive and defensive line.

“We don’t have much depth and the injuries are affecting us,” he said. “(Preston) Roberson will probably not play because of a bad back for the second straight week.”

The injury list increased with the loss of Gus Hannah, and Wood said Chris Smith is questionable on the line. Payton Owens is expected to play against Dover, along with the return of McKee.

Dover will depend on Dawson Branch and Brantley Craig from its version of a winged offense. Craig is expected to start at quarterback. The Pirates also will utilize the talents of Jon Greathouse.

“It has been a juggling act,” Cox said when asked about Dover’s offense. “Dawson and Branley have played quarterback. Branley is a dynamic player with speed and settling into the offense.”

Cox said one of the keys to the game will be the play of Dover’s defense.

“We need to tackle well and create turnovers,” he said. “We need to do what is necessary to pick up a win.”

Wood said the Panthers played balanced offenses in the first two games, but Dover will be a different challenge with emphasis on the running game.

“Dover established its running game,” Wood said. “We must do a better job of going to the ball and play more aggressive on defense.”

NOTEBOOK

RADIO/VIDEO STREAMING: 101.9 The Lake. Billy Morgan will handle play-by-play with Lance Hamilton providing the color commentary. Pregame begins at 6:45 with kickoff at 7 p.m. 

Heber Springs vs. Dover 
The Series 
Dover leads 6-3
LAST MEETING: 1997 in Heber Springs, Heber Springs 32, Dover 7
LAST WEEK: Heber Springs lost to Harding Academy, 45-6; Dover lost to Salem, 46-0
TONIGHT: This will be the 10th time these two teams have played each other. The first meeting was in 1987, a 20-14 nonconference victory for Heber Springs. The teams would split four nonconference games from 1987-90, with Dover winning in 1988 (13-7) and 1989 (14-6) and the Panthers winning in 1990, 40-0.
OLD CONFERENCE FOES: The next time Dover and Heber Springs would meet on the gridiron would come in the 1993 season when the Panthers and Pirates meet as members of the 4AA-East conference for three seasons, with Dover winning all three. The two teams would remained paired in the new 5AA-North conference for two seasons (1996-1997) with the teams splitting those two games. 
HIATUS: Tonight's game is the final nonconference contest for the Panthers and Pirates. Newport and Dover replaced Greenbrier and Clinton (now in the same conference). Heber Springs has lost to Newport (45-6) and Harding Academy (45-6) while Dover has lost to Hector, 30-8 in week 0; Atkins, 48-14, in week 1; and Salem, 46-0 in week 2. Dover is idle next week after conference-foe Subiaco Academy opted to play 8-man football this season giving the Pirates the opportunity to play four nonconference games.  
NONCONFERENCE WOES: Heber Springs has lost eight consecutive regular-season nonconference games. The Panthers last regular season nonconference win came on Sept. 15, 2017, at Panther Stadium against Harding Academy, 35-14. 
LOSING STREAK: Dover has lost 13 consecutive games. The Pirates last win came on Nov. 1, 2018 with a 46-42 victory over Waldron.  

-- Notes by Philip Seaton

AAA releases COVID-19 basketball guidelines

2020-21 Arkansas Activities Association COVID-19 Basketball Guidelines 

In accordance with the Directives Regarding Large Outdoor Venues/Large Indoor Venue Plans for School Sponsored Team Sports, all athletic events must follow the requirements linked below.

DIRECTIVES FOR LARGE OUTDOOR/INDOOR VENUE PLANS

Facility Modifications

  • Family groups must be spaced 6 feet apart. 
  • Have a separate entrance and exit point for facilities to avoid congestion and aid in social distancing.
  • Create and display COVID-19 information signage throughout the venue.
  • Use tape, paint, and signage within the bleachers and around the facility to mark areas where spectators may gather to maintain social distancing. Specify where spectators and participants may sit.
  • Everyone inside the facility is required to wear a mask at all times, except players that are actively participating. 
  • Appropriate social distancing must be maintained on sidelines and benches during contests and events. Bench personnel must sit with a minimum distance of 6 feet apart and must be separated from the audience by a minimum of 12 feet. 
  • Appropriate locker room space should be provided to officials for social distancing (i.e. larger room or separate rooms). The space(s) must be sanitized prior to arrival.
  • Each player should use their own towel and water bottle to avoid sharing.

Modifications to Regular Season 

  • BENEFIT GAMES – will only be allowed between two teams. 
  • NO MULTI SCHOOL EVENTS IN OR OUT OF STATE – such as tournaments, classics, showcases, etc. This does not preclude two schools junior and senior high teams participating at a venue. 
  • NUMBER OF COMPETITIVE EVENTS:
    • Non Football schools are allowed:
      • 34 high school varsity games 
      • 28 junior high school varsity games
    • Football schools are allowed
      • 26 high school varsity games
      • 24 junior high school varsity games
  • Junior varsity limitations remain the same as listed in the 2020-2021 AAA Handbook for high school and junior high school (except no tournament)
  • Save the last week before the regional tournament for 1A-4A schools and the last week before the state tournament for 5A-6A schools for a conference tournament if needed. 

Return to Competition

  1. Basketball Rules Considerations
  • Pregame Protocol (2019-2021 NFHS Officials Manual, page 16, 1.8
    • Limit attendees to the referee and the head coach from each team with each coach standing on the center circle on each side of the division line.
  • All individuals maintain a social distance of 6 feet or greater at the center circle.
  • Suspend handshakes prior to and following the Pregame Conference.
  • Team Benches (1-13-1) Includes: Coaches, players, and managers
    • Social distancing should be practiced when possible. Below are some suggestions.
      • Limit the number of bench personnel to observe social distancing of 6 feet or greater.  
      • Consider limiting game rosters to 15 students.
      • Additional chairs or rows may be added to allow bench personnel to observe social distancing of 6 feet or greater. 
      • Create separation by a minimum of 12 feet between the team bench and spectator seating behind the bench.
      • Limit contact between players when substituting.
      • Personnel not in the game shall wear face coverings. 
  • Officials Table (2-1-3)
    • The host should sanitize the table before the game and at half time.
    • Place officials table sufficiently away from the sideline to allow for additional space for substitutes.
    • Limit seats at the table to essential personnel which includes home team scorer and timer with a recommended distance of 6 feet or greater between individuals. Other personnel (visiting scorer, statisticians, media, etc.) may not be deemed essential personnel and consider an alternate location for them.  
    • Table personnel shall wear face covering.
  1. Pre- and Post-Game Ceremony
  • Suspend the pregame introduction handshakes.
  • Suspend post game protocol of shaking hands. 
  1. Basketball Rules Interpretations
  • Equipment and Accessories
    • Sanitizer should be provided by the host team at the table.
    • Cloth face coverings are permissible for players.
  • Officials Uniform and Equipment
    • Long-sleeved shirts are permissible. 
    • Officials should not be required to wear jackets during pregame court/player observation.
    • Electronic whistles are permissible (supplies are limited). 
      • Choose a whistle whose tone will carry inside.
      • Check the market for choices                              
    • Cloth face coverings are permissible.
    • Gloves are permissible.
  1.  Other Considerations
  • Throw-in
  • Officials may stand 6 feet or greater away from a player making the throw-in and bounce the ball to that player on a front court throw-in.
  • Free Throw Administration 
  • The lead official shall stand on the end line and bounce the ball to the free thrower.

Time Out

Coaches should limit the number of individuals in huddles during time outs.

Junior Panthers sink Pirates

Heber Springs’ Parker Brown brings down Dover’s Draxton Mediano. Heber Springs held Dover to minus 8 yards in the first half. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By PHILIP SEATON

Heber Springs finished with more than 400 yards of total offense and held Dover to negative yards in the first half in a 30-8 road victory.

Liam Buffalo was 14 of 21 passing for 291 yards and two touchdowns with Parker Brown catching two of Buffalo’s passes for 99 yards and a score and Dalton Yancey catching three balls for 91 yards and a score for the Panthers.

While the offense was efficient, it was the defense that kept the Pirates at bay, especially in the first half where Dover recorded zero first downs on one of five passing for minus seven yard and for a one-yard loss on nine rushing attempts.

Dover avoided the shutout with a 3-yard touchdown run by Draxton Mediano 31 seconds left in the contest.

“We started playing real sloppy in the second half,” Heber Springs coach James Ortiz said. “Wish we could have left the goose egg up there, but we tried to get some more guys out there and for some others to get some reaps. 

“Overall the defense was great. We came out with confidence and excitement, and played great.”

The Panthers got on the board with 3:31 left in the first quarter when Dalton Yancey scored his first-ever touchdown with a 3-yard run. Buffalo connected with Yancey for the 2-point conversion.

Heber Springs’ Gideon Tate. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

After holding Dover to a three-and-out, Heber Springs marched 81 yards on seven plays. Buffalo found Weston Warden for a 12-yard pass completion on first down from the Panther 19. On third down from the Panther 35, Warden ran for 17 yards followed by an 18-yard pass completion to Yancey and a 28-yard strike to Brown to put the ball on the Dover 2. From there, Brown carried the ball over to make it 16-0 with 7:09 left in the half after the 2-point conversion pass from Buffalo to Brown.

The Panthers went up 23-0 with 4:08 left in the quarter after Buffalo connected with Yancey on a 70-yard pass play. Gideon Tate kicked the PAT.

Heber Springs threatened to score again right before the half before the clocked ended the drive at the Dover 14.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Panthers added another score when Buffalo connected with Brown for a 71-yard touchdown. Tate kicked the extra point to make it 30-0 with 5:52 left.

“Our offense was spectacular,” Ortiz said. “We got bogged once or twice, but those are very fixable problems.”

Yancey finished with 135 all-purpose yards for the Panthers while Brown had 125 all-purpose yards and added a sack on defense.

Heber Springs will host Lonoke at 7 p.m. Thursday in the 2-4A conference opener.

“We are going to be ready for it,” Ortiz said. “We’ll be prepared for our conference and it’s just a matter of getting them prepared and ready to go.”

Heber Springs’ Dalton Yancey. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

GAME STATS

HEBER SPRINGS AT DOVER
Junior High Football 
September 17, 2020  
Heber Springs     8  15   0   7 - 30 
Dover             0   0   0   8 -  8 
FIRST QUARTER 
Heber Springs, Dalton Yancey 3-yard run (Liam Buffalo to Yancey pass), 3:31
SECOND QUARTER 
Heber Springs, Parker Brown 2-yard run (Buffalo to Brown pass), 7:09
Heber Springs, Buffalo to Yancey 70-yard pass (Gideon Tate kick), 4:08
FOURTH QUARTER 
Heber Springs, Buffalo to Brown 71-yard pass (Tate kick), 5:52
Dover, Draxton Mediano 3-yard run (Landon Meador run), :31

TEAM STATS 
First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 6, Dover 7
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 9, Dover 0 
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 0, Dover 0 
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 15, Dover 7
Penalties: Heber Springs 5/40, Dover 3/20 
3rd-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 3/5, Dover 2/8 
4th-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 1/2, Dover 1/2
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 1/1, Dover 0/0 
Sacked/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Dover 1/9
Total Offense: Heber Springs 422, Dover 91
Rush/Yards/Avg: Heber Springs 14/112/8, Dover 23/76/3.3
Passing (A/C-Yards-TD/Int): Heber Springs 15/22-310-2/0, Dover 5/14-15-0/1
Punts: Heber Springs 0, Dover 4/153/38.3
INDIVIDUAL STATS 
OFFENSE 
Rushing: Heber Springs, Dalton Yancey 3/44, Gideon Tate 4/28, Parker Brown 3/26, Weston Warden 4/14. Dover, Draxton Mediano 11/60, Drew Masters 7/12, Landen Canfield 1/2, Talvin Leavell 4/2.
Passing: Heber Springs, Liam Buffalo 14/21-291-2/0, Zachary Parker 1/1-19-0/0. Dover, Talvin Leavell 5/14-15-0/1.
Receiving: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 2/99, Dalton Yancey 3/91, Weston Warden 4/42, Bryce Seigrist 2/35, Xander Lindley 2/25, Hud Haggard 2/18. Dover, Landen Canfield 1/11, Colton Shuffield 3/2, Draxton Mediano 1/2.
Kickoff Returns: Heber Springs, Corbin Jones 1/0. Dover, Colton Shuffield 2/65, Landen Canfield 2/20
Punt Returns: Heber Springs, Xander Lindley 1/13
Interceptions: Heber Springs, Liam Buffalo 1/0 
Total Offense: Heber Springs, Liam Buffalo 291, Dalton Yancey 44, Gideon Tate 28, Parker Brown 26, Zachary Parker 19, Weston Warden 14. Dover, Draxton Mediano 60, Talvin Leavell 17, Drew Masters 12, Landen Canfield 2
All-Purpose Yards: Heber Springs, Dalton Yancey 135, Parker Brown 125, Weston Warden 56, Xander Lindley 38, Bryce Seagrist 35, Gideon Tate 28, Hud Haggard 18. Dover, Draxton Mediano 62, Colton Shuffield 62, Landen Canfield 33, Drew Masters 12, Talvin Leavell 2.
DEFENSE 
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 1/9 
PUNTS: Dover, Talvin Leavell 4/153/38.2 
KICKING: Heber Springs, Gideon Tate (2/2 XP) 

Panther seventh-graders top Dover for first win

Heber Springs’ Joel Atwood carries the ball as Dover’s Preston Shuffield gives chase in seventh-grade action. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Jacob Haskett scored four times and Emmett Dwyer threw a pair of touchdown passes as the Heber Springs seventh-grade team claim a 36-8 victory at Dover on Thursday.

The win improved the Panther Cubs to 1-1 on the year.

Heber Springs struck early. After a Dwyer intercepted a Dover pass attempt, Haskett would later score on a 31-yard run to make it 6-0 with 16:10 left in the first half. Dwyer connected with Seth Dudeck for the 2-point conversion.

Heber Spring’s Emmett Dwyer looks downfield as Dover’s Jonas Story purses him. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

The Panthers would score on their next possession as Haskett raced 39 yards for the score with 8:10 left in the half. Dwyer connected with Gavin Widner on the 2-point conversion to make it 16-0.

Heber Springs scored one more time in the first half to lead 22-0 at the break. After a Widner interception, Haskett would carry the ball from 37 yards out with 18 seconds left in the half.

The Panthers got the ball to start the second half and didn’t waste any time getting another score as Dwyer connected with Haskett on a 70-yard pass. Dwyer ran in the 2-point conversion with 19:25 to make it 30-0.

Heber Springs’ final tally came at the 11:55 mark when Dwyer connected with John Wilson for a 55-yard touchdown pass. The 2-point conversion failed.

Dover added a late score to avoid the shutout when Gavin Hampton intercepted a Panther pass attempt and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown. Keagan Hampton added the 2-point conversion at the 5:05 for the Pirates.

Heber Springs returns to action on Thursday when it hosts Lonoke at Panther Stadium beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Heber Springs’s Gavin Widner gets a block from teammate Nate Eaton (42) on Dover’s Chris Newman in seventh-grade action. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Different week, same result for Panthers

Heber Springs’ Hunter Kent looks upfield against Harding Academy Friday night in Searcy. Easton Cusick (4) and Chris Smith (54) look to provide blocking help for Kent. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By PHILIP SEATON

For the second week in a row, Heber Springs trailed at the half, 45-0, and ended up falling, 45-6.

This time it was at top-ranked and defending 3A state champion Harding Academy Friday night.

Like in week 1, turnovers cost the Panthers early leading to a short field for the opponent. Heber Springs (0-2) fumbled twice and had pass attempts intercepted as Harding Academy (2-0) had eight first-half possessions with seven of those inside the Panther 50 and six inside the Panther the Panther 38.

“Same story second week in a row,” first-year Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “(When) you play a good team, you can’t give opportunities to a good team because they are going to take benefit from it.

“So that’s the second week in a row you give the ball over real quick in the game, you can’t do that against teams that are going to take full advantage of it immediately.”

The Panthers turned the ball over on their first three possessions and trailed 21-0 with 3:17 left in the first quarter.

“We are going to have to start learning how to secure the ball a little bit better and start getting our offense to move the ball down the field a little bit,” Wood said of the turnovers. “But we’ll work on it.”

Heber Springs’ receiver Easton Cusick braces for the hit from a Harding Academy defender. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

The Panthers had their best drive of the first half on their next possession moving from their own 20 to the Wildcat 26 before the drive stalled on fourth down with 34 seconds left in the opening quarter. An 18-yard run by Matthew Cook, a 7-yard run on fourth down by Hunter Kent and an 18-yard pass play as John McBroome connected with Easton Cusick highlighted the Heber Springs drive.

“I have said this multiple times we didn’t have spring ball,” Wood said. “We didn’t have summer ball so these first three weeks are our spring ball and we are still trying to figure out our identity.

“We are still trying to figure out who is going to play where,”

The last time a Panther football team has been shutout was on Oct. 18, 2013, in a 35-0 setback at Newport — a streak of 73 consecutive games with at least a touchdown, and that streak was extended in the second half on the Panthers first possession.

With a continuous running clock because of the Arkansas Activities Association Sportsmanship Rule, Heber Springs forced the Wildcats to a three-and-out on defense before taking over at the Wildcat 46 with 9:01 to play in the third quarter.

Heber Springs quarterback Conner Riddle looks downfield as senior Diego Rubio provides blocking. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Sophomore quarterback Conner Riddle led the Panthers on a 10-play drive that senior running back Diego Rubio capped off with a 1-yard run with 2:32 left in the quarter. The 2-point attempt failed. Sophomore running back Kenan Sneed carried twice for 14 yards on the drive while sophomore transfer receiver Isaac King had three receptions for 29 yards.

“We’ve got some things to correct,” Wood said. “We’ve got some guys that are going to have to step up to play some positions that they need to be ready to play. We are getting ready to make some changes.”

Heber Springs, which has lost eight consecutive regular season nonconference contests, hosts Dover and former interim Panther coach Will Cox Friday night at Panther Stadium in the final nonconference contest for the Panthers.

“I told them we are playing for week 4,” Wood said, “that’s what gets us into November and December, and so that’s what we are trying to do is get into week 4 make sure everything’s place and all the little mistakes are taken care of so in week 4 we are ready to play some real football. “

GAME STATS

SCORING 
Heber Springs (0-2)     0   0  6  0 -   6
Harding Academy (2-0)  21  24  0  0 -  45 
FIRST QUARTER 
Harding Academy - Andrew Miller 25-yard run (Kyle Ferrie kick), 8:37
Harding Academy - Miller 5-yard run (Ferrie kick), 6:06
Harding Academy - Caden Sipe to Ty Dugger 5-yard pass (Ferrie kick), 3:17
SECOND QUARTER 
Harding Academy - Sipe to Landon Koch 28-yard pass (Ferrie kick), 10:47
Harding Academy - Sipe to Miller 33-yard pass (Ferrie kick), 9:41
Harding Academy - Ferrie 44-yard field goal, 5:53
Harding Academy - Miller 4-yard run (Ferrie kick), 4:16
THIRD QUARTER 
Heber Springs - Diego Rubio 1-yard run (pass field), 2:32
TEAM STATS 
First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 4, Harding Academy 8 
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 3, Harding Academy 7 
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 1, Harding Academy 0
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 8, Harding Academy 15
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 2/3, Harding Academy 1/2  
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 2/3, Harding Academy 1/2
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 1/1, Harding Academy 3/3  
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 26:29, Harding Academy 21:31
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 5/2, Harding Academy 2/0 
Turnovers: Heber Springs 4, Harding Academy 0     
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, Harding Academy 28 
Penalties: Heber Springs 4/25, Harding Academy 1/5 
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 56/189/3.4, Harding Academy 44/259/5.9
Rushing: Heber Springs 28/98/3.5, Harding Academy 25/115/4.6
Passing: Heber Springs 15/28-91-0/2, Harding Academy 10/19-154-3/0
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Harding Academy 0/0
Punts: Heber Springs 3/61/20.3, Harding Academy 2/57/28.5
Inside 20: Heber Springs 0, Harding Academy 1

INDIVIDUAL STATS 
OFFENSE   
RUSHING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 8/32/4, Matthew Cook 5/31/6.2, Hunter Kent 3/14/4.7, Kenan Sneed 2/14, Jackson West 4/12/3, Conner Riddle 3/2/.6, Easton Cusick 2/0, Team 1/(-7). Harding Academy, Andrew Miller 11/90/8.2, Caden Sipe 3/26/8.6, Seth Campbell 6/11, Colson Sipe 0/8, Aaron Chism 2/6, Carter Neal 1/2, Team 1/(-28). 
RUSHING RUNS OF 20+: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio (1). Harding Academy, Andrew Miller (1). 
RUSHING RUNS OF 10+: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook (1), Kenan Sneed (1). Harding Academy, Andrew Miller (3), Caden Sipe (1).
PASSING: Heber Springs, John McBroome 9/18-44-0/2, Conner Riddle 6/8-47-0/0, Matthew Cook 0/2-0-0/0. Harding Academy, Caden Sipe 6/11-116-3/0, Carter Neal 4/8-38-0/0.
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Isaac King 6/47, Easton Cusick 6/34, Hunter Kent 2/11, Matthew Cook 1/(-1). Harding Academy, Jackson Fox 3/27, Landon Koch 2/40, Ryan McGaha 2/30, Ty Dugger 2/14, Andrew Miller 1/33.  
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Conner Riddle 49, John McBroome 44, Diego Rubio 32, Matthew Cook 31, Hunter Kent 14, Kenan Sneed 14, Jackson West 12, Easton Cusick 0, Team (-7). Harding Academy, Caden Sipe 142, Andrew Miller 90, Carter Neal 40, Seth Campbell 11, Colson Sipe 8, Aaron Chism 6, Team (-28).   
PUNT RETURNS: None.  
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Hunter Kent 2/24. Harding Academy, Jackson Fox 1/16. 
FUMBLE RETURNS: None 
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Harding Academy, Kade Smith 1/17, Aaron Chism 1/2.
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Hunter Kent 49, Isaac King 47, Easton Cusick 34, Diego Rubio 32, Matthew Cook 30, Kenan Sneed 14, Jackson West 12, Conner Riddle 2. Harding Academy, Aaron Miller 123,  Jackson Fox 43, Landon Koch 40, Ryan McGaha 30, Caden Sipe 26, Kade Smith 17, Ty Dugger 14, Seth Campbell 11, Colson Sipe 8, Aaron Chism 8, Carter Neal 2.
SCORING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 6. Harding Academy, Andrew Miller 24, Kyle Ferrie 9 (1-1 44 FG, 6-6 XP/XPA), Landon Koch 6, Ty Dugger 6. 
DEFENSE 
INTERCEPTIONS: Harding Academy, Aaron Chism, Kade Smith. 
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Harding Academy, Eli Wallace, Cooper Welch. 
PUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 2/33/16.5, Wyatt Winchester 1/28. Harding Academy, Kyle Ferrie 2/57/28.5/1 

Panthers travel to Searcy to tangle with Wildcats

The Heber Springs offensive line, from left, Thad Bray (58), Trevor Weathers (75), Zach Thomas (57), Preston Roberson (51) and Jayden Bremmon (55). PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Fans may need a game program to keep up with the Heber Springs Panthers against Class 3A defending champion Harding Academy at First Security Stadium in Searcy at 7 p.m. Friday.

The Panthers (0-1) will look to rebound from last week’s 45-6 loss to Newport. Harding Academy (1-0) began the season with a 44-20 win at Mena.

“We have a lot of things to correct,” Heber Springs head coach Todd Wood said. “We will make changes, so we can become a better team. Most of our mistakes can be corrected. We worked on doing that in practice.”

The Panthers were held to 121 yards and look for more production. Wood said personnel changes on offense and defense may occur, but the final decision on starting lineups may not be decided until Friday.

Wood didn’t talk about specific changes, but he said junior John McBroome and senior Matthew Cook worked at quarterback, along with sophomore Conner Riddle.

Cook started at receiver against Newport and switched to quarterback. He led the Panthers’ running game with 48 yards. McBroome and Cook combined to complete 10-of-22 passes for 53 yards.

Wood didn’t talk about specific players and accepted the blame. He vowed to do a better job of calling plays against Harding Academy.

“I was not pleased with my play calling against Newport,” Wood said. “On offense, the play of the line is important. We had too many missed assignments. The receivers sometimes didn’t run the right routes. We need to change a lot of the things we do and worked on correcting mistakes in practice.”

Wood said players spent more time this week working on tackling and he expects a better performance against the Wildcats.

“Our tackling must improve,” he said. “We need better leverage in coverage of the receivers and stopping the running game.”

Heber Springs’ Gus Hannah. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Wood said the goal is to make the right changes and put the players in position to have success.

“We will put the players in the right positions to help us win the game,” Wood said.

Harding Academy will put a 16-game win streak on the line.

Senior quarterback Caden Sipe, who passesd for 364 yards and six touchdowns last season against the Panthers, returns to lead the offense. Sipe completed 27-of-38 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns against Mena. He also is a run threat and rushed for 104 yards in the Wildcats’ opener.  

Ty Dugger, considered one of the state’s top receivers, caught 10 passes for 148 yards and two scores in the opener. Dugger caught 11 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s game at Panther Stadium.

“It will be a similar challenge as against Newport, playing a team that has been executing the same offense for a period of years,” Wood said. “Harding Academy is a very disciplined team on offense and defense. Harding will be very physical like Newport, but it will not have the speed of Newport.”

Sipe caught the attention of Wood quickly.

“The quarterback is very impressive as a passer and runner,” Wood said. “He makes good decisions.”

Wood said Harding Academy’s defense will be a different challenge for the Panthers.

“Harding will play more zone, but it will play man-to-man,” he said. “They will show us a variety of coverages.”

Heber Springs will play the underdog role for the second straight week, but Wood said improvement in one area can help the Panthers to succeed.

“We need better execution,” he said. “If we can do that, we will have a chance to do well.”

NOTEBOOK

ADMISSION: For those wanting to attend the game in Searcy, they must pick up a voucher at the Heber Springs school district. Those without vouchers will not be admitted.

RADIO/VIDEO STREAMING: 101.9 The Lake. Billy Morgan will handle play-by-play with Lance Hamilton providing the color commentary. Pregame begins at 6:45 with kickoff at 7 p.m.

Heber Springs vs. Harding Academy
The Series
Harding Academy leads 32-14
LAST MEETING: 2019 in Heber Springs, Harding Academy won 50-49
LAST WEEK: Heber Springs lost to Newport, 45-6; Harding Academy defeated Mena, 44-20.
TONIGHT: Friday night’s match-up at in Searcy will be the 47th in the series between Heber Springs and Harding Academy. The two teams first met in 1951. Heber Springs won that contest 33-6. The Panthers won the first two meetings before the Wildcats won three straight.
OLD CONFERENCE FOES: The Panthers and Wildcats played continuously from 1951 until 1969. The two teams were part of the 2B conference from 1951-1968 and part of the 2A-South in 1969.
STATE CHAMPIONS: Harding Academy has won seven state titles 1976, 1977, 1983, 2002, 2012, 2015 and 2019. The two teams did not meet when the Wildcats won the title in 1976, 1977 and 2002. In 1983, Harding Academy defeated Heber Springs, 19-14. In 2012, Heber Springs led 6-0, but the game was canceled due to weather in the first quarter. In 2015, the Widlcats won 40-12 and the Wildcats also won last season, 50-49.
HIATUS: From 1995 through 2006, the two teams only meet twice, both games won by Harding Academy in 1998 and 1999. Since the series resumed in 2010, the two teams have played nine completed games with Harding Academy winning four of those.
SHUTOUTS: The Panthers have won three games by shutouts, while the Wildcats have shutout Heber Springs, 13 times. The last shutout in the series came in 1993, a 28-0 win by the Wildcats.
TOUCHDOWN OR LESS: 12 games in the series have been decided by a touchdown or less, including last year. There have been no overtime games in the series.
MOST POINTS: The most points scored by the Panthers in series was 49 in 2011 and 2019 while Harding Academy scored 50 last season for the most points the Wildcats have scored against the Panthers. 
NONCONFERENCE WOES: Heber Springs has lost seven consecutive regular-season nonconference games. The Panthers last regular season nonconference win came on Sept. 15, 2017, at Panther Stadium against Harding Academy, 35-14. Since 2015, Heber Springs is 2-14 in regular-season nonconference games. 
INJURED: Nathan McKee is questionable for tonight's game against Harding Academy while Preston Roberson is out.

By PHILIP SEATON