Panthers’ season ends in northeast Arkansas

Heber Springs’ Easton Cusick is brought down by Trumann defender after a reception. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

TRUMANN – Heber Springs beat the threat of COVID-19 and completed the 2020 football season, but the conclusion didn’t go as planned.

Heber Springs (2-9) finished the year with a 43-14 loss to Trumann at RMC Stadium in the opening round of the Class 4A football playoffs Friday.

“If you had told me nine weeks ago we would play 11 games, I would have said you were crazy,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We were blessed to play 11 games. A lot of players who were inexperienced before the start of the season gained experience, and they will be coming back next year. I’m proud of the players for never giving up at any time during the season.”

Trumann followed a similar script of previous Heber Springs’ opponents by converting turnovers into touchdowns. The Wildcats scored two of their three first-half touchdowns following an interception and a fumble recovery.

The Panthers held a 7-6 advantage in first downs during the first half. But Trumann had 154 yards of offense, 127 coming on the ground, to 89 for Heber Springs. The Wildcats had three quarterback sacks for a minus 18 yards.

Trumann scored touchdowns on its first two possession of the second half.

Overall, Trumann outgained Heber Springs 348-198. The Wildcats compiled 305 of their 348 yards on the ground, but only held the ball five more minutes than the Panthers (26:43-21:17). Trumann finished by sacking HSHS quarterbacks seven times for a minus 45 yards.

“It was the same story from most of the season, when we hang onto the ball, we did well,” Wood said. “When we didn’t, teams took advantage and put us in a hole. That happened again. You can’t do that against a playoff team.”

Senior quarterback Matthew Cook led the Panthers by completing 14-of-24 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Cook rushed nine times for a minus 6 yards, including sacks.

Senior running back Diego Rubio rushed for 65 yards on seven carries. Junior Jackson West ran for 50 yards on five attempts. Senior Nathan McKee caught seven passes for 63 yards and one touchdown. Freshman Parker Brown had 57 all-purpose yards and caught his first high school touchdown pass.

Rian King led Trumann with 109 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns. Milton Lewis ran for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Gavin Morgan also had 78 yards and scored one touchdown.

King’s interception put Trumann in position for the game’s first touchdown. The Wildcats drove 53 yards on six plays with King scoring on a 2-yard carry with 5:13 left in the first quarter. Efrain Garcia kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.

Trumann recovered a fumble at the Heber Springs 13 to set up its second touchdown. Two plays later, Lewis ran six yards for a touchdown with 11:56 left in the first half. Garcia kicked the extra point for the 14-0 lead.

Heber Springs answered with an 8-play, 54-yard drive following the kickoff. Cook passed 10 yards to McKee and Rubio broke loose on a 16-yard run to get the drive moving. Later, Rubio’s 11-yard run gave the Panthers a first-and-goal at the Trumann 1.

Two plays later, Cook rolled out and flipped a 3-yard touchdown pass to Brown with 8:31 remaining in the first half. A 2-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful as Heber Springs trailed, 14-6.

“We felt good after getting it to 14-6,” Wood said. “We had a good offensive drive and gained some momentum. I thought we could piece things together, get a defensive stop and get the ball back. Credit Trumann for coming out and doing some things different than we saw on film.”

Trumann regained a two-score lead before halftime by driving 54 yards on 12 plays. King scored on a 14-yard run with 1:56 to go for a 20-6 lead.

“I challenged the players at halftime to get a defensive start at the beginning of the third quarter,” Wood said. “We needed a defensive stop. Unfortunately, we were not healthy and had other players unable to play. We were just outmatched.”

Trumann began the third quarter on a 5-play, 58-yard drive. King broke free and ran 46 yards for the touchdown with 9:45 left. McClain ran for a 2-point conversion and increased the lead to 28-6.

The Wildcats held on downs and drove 59 yards on 11 plays. King capped the drive by scoring on a 9-yard run with 10:49 left in the game. Garcia kicked the extra point for the 35-6 lead.

Heber Springs’ second touchdown came on a 5-play, 61-yard drive. Cook connected on a 31-yard scoring pass to McKee with 8:44 left. Cook ran for the 2-point conversion as the Panthers trailed, 35-14.

Trumann recovered the attempted onside kickoff and scored two plays later. Morgan had a 46-yard touchdown run with 8:26 remaining. Lewis ran for the 2-point conversion.

Heber Springs’ Kenan Sneed and coach James Ortiz talk after coming of the halftime locker room. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO
Heber Springs (2-9)   0  6  0  8 - 14 
Trumann (6-5)         7 13  8 15 - 43  
FIRST QUARTER    
Trumann, Rian King 2-yard run (Efrain Garcia kick), 5:13 
SECOND QUARTER 
Trumann, Milton Lewis 7-yard run (Garcia kick), 11:56 
Heber Springs, Matthew Cook to Parker Brown 3-yard pass (pass failed), 8:31 
Trumann, Lewis 14-yard run (kick failed), 1:50 
THIRD QUARTER    
Trumann, King 46-yard run (Connor McClain run), 9:43 
FOURTH QUARTER  
Trumann, King 9-yard run (Garcia kick), 10:49 
Heber Springs, Cook to Nathan McKee 2-yard pass (Cook run), 8:44 Trumann, Gavin Morgan 46-yard run (Lewis run), 8:26 
TEAM STATS    
First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 6, Trumann 13 
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 5, Trumann 1 
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 1, Trumann 0 
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 12, Trumann 14 
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 5/10, Trumann 3/7 
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 1/3, Trumann 3/3 
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 2/1, Trumann 4/4 
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 21:17, Trumann 26:43 
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 2/1, Trumann 1/1 
Turnovers: Heber Springs 2, Trumann 1      
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, Trumann 14 
Penalties: Heber Springs 6/30, Trumann 6/52 
Rushing: Heber Springs 26/83/3.2, Trumann 44/305/6.9 
Passing: Heber Springs 16/27-115-2/1, Trumann 6/7-43-0/0 
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 53/198/3.7, Trumann 51/348/6.8
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Mills 7/45 
Punts: Heber Springs 0, Trumann 1/41 
Inside 20: Trumann 1 
INDIVIDUAL STATS    
OFFENSE      
RUSHING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 7/65, Jackson West 5/50, Nathan McKee 2/(-3), Matthew Cook 9/(-6), John McBroome 3/(-23). Trumann, Rian King 14/109/3, Milton Lewis 13/78/2, Gavin Morgan 7/78/1, Murphy Williams 3/33, Parks McNair 1/13, Connor McClain 1/4, Team 1/(-4), Garner Henderson 1/(-6). 
PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 14/24-105-2/1, John McBroome 2/3-10-0/0. Trumann, Connor McClain 6/7-43-0/0. 
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 7/63/1, Diego Rubio 2/8, Gus Hannah 1/25, Jackson West 1/5, Isaac King 1/8, Austin Winchester 1/8, Parker Brown 1/3/1, Chris Roberts 1/2, Easton Cusick 1/(-1). Trumann, Parks McNair 4/22, Gavin Morgan 1/11, Rian King 1/1. 
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 99, Diego Rubio 65, Jackson West 50, Nathan McKee (-3), John McBroome (-13). Trumann, Rian King 109, Milton Lewis 78, Gavin Morgan 78, Connor McClain 47, Murphy Williams 33, Parks McNair 13, Garner Henderson (-6). 
PUNT RETURNS: None 
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 3/54, Kenan Sneed 1/0, Austin Winchester 1/0. Trumann, Murphy Williams 1/0. 
FUMBLE RETURNS: None 
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Trumann, Rian King 1/22 
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 73, Nathan McKee 60, Parker Brown 57, Jackson West 55, Gus Hannah 25, Isaac King 8, Austin Winchester 8, Chris Roberts 2, Easton Cusick (-1), Matthew Cook (-6), John McBroome (-23). Trumann, Rian King 132, Gavin Morgan 89, Milton Lewis 78, Parks McNair 35, Murphy Williams 33, Connor McClain 4, Garner Henderson (-6). 
SCORING: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 6, Nathan McKee 6, Matthew Cook 2. Trumann, Rian King 18, Milton Lewis 14, Gavin Morgan 6, Efrain Garcia 3 (3/4 XPA), Connor McClain 2. 
DEFENSE     
PUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20/BLOCKED: Trumann, Connor McClain 1/41/1 
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Trumann, Garen Smithson 2/9, Garner Henderson 2/15, Eli Evett 1/10, Connor McClain 1/5, Desmond Langston 1/7 

Panther GameDay: Postseason starts in Trumann

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

The Heber Springs Panthers welcome another opportunity to play football in one of the most unique seasons in history.

Heber Springs (2-8) will meet Trumann (5-5) in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs at Roach Manufacturing Corporation (RMC) Stadium in Trumann Friday. Kickoff is scheduled at 7 p.m.

This will be the first meeting between these two teams in school history.

The Panthers finished the regular season with a 34-24 loss to Little Rock Mills University Studies, while Trumann defeated Cave City, 34-21.

The Panthers didn’t qualify for the playoffs as one of the conference’s top five teams, but opted to compete under the Arkansas Activities Association’s rule that all teams may compete this season because of COVID-19.

“We have had a lot of positive feedback from players and parents,” said Heber Springs coach Todd Wood when asked about participating in the playoffs. “They were happy that we are continuing our season. Our season is not over, and we hope to go out there and move forward in the playoffs. The game will be a good experience.”

The two teams played one common opponent during the regular season — Southside. Trumann shut out the Southerners 27-0 on Sept. 11, while the Panthers defeated Southside 22-17 on Oct. 23.

Quarterback Connor McClain and running back Milton Lewis are two of the players to watch when Trumann is on offense. The Wildcats operate from a form of the Single-Wing.

“Trumann prefers the run, but will pass,” Wood said. “The running attack is similar to what Clinton did. No. 2 (Lewis) is one of Trumann’s best athletes, and it likes to get the ball to him. We need to keep a close eye on him at all times. We must tackle well and have been stressing that during practice.”

Heber Springs’ preparation on offense will not change much from the last four opponents as Trumann plays a 3-4, defense.

Wood said the offense has shown improvement from game-to-game and he is looking for the team’s best performance against Trumann.

Heber Springs quarterback Matthew Cook is a running and passing threat, with Nathan McKee his primary target in the passing game. Cook has completed 130-of-231 passes for 1,476 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has rushed for 433 yards on 115 carries and scored four touchdowns. McKee is the team’s leading receiver with 51 catches for 615 yards and three touchdowns.

Wood also said he hopes for increased production from the running game. Diego Rubio has rushed for 394 yards on 85 attempts and scored eight touchdowns.

“If we can get into a good rhythm on offense, we will be OK,” Wood said. “It’s important to hold onto the ball and have no turnovers. The receivers also must make catches, and we need to protect the quarterback better. If we do that, it will open up our running game.”

Linebackers Preston Roberson and Kenan Sneed lead the defense. Wood expects the team will put lessons learned in recent games to good use against Trumann.

“We need to be in the right places and tackle well,” Wood said. “We must take it to Trumann and not let Trumann take it to us. We must win the battle at the line of scrimmage.”

Friday’s winner will play at Malvern (5-5) in the second round next week.

Updated: Panthers fall to Mills, will play in playoffs

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

UPDATED: After reconsideration, Heber Springs coach Todd Wood announced that his Panther football team have opted-in to participate in the 2020 4A state playoffs.

Heber Springs will now travel to northeast Arkansas on Friday to tangle with Trumann at 7 p.m. Friday in a play-in game. Ticket information will be announced by the school district.

The Wildcats are members of the 4A-3 conference and sport a 5-5 mark on the season. Heber Springs and Trumann have one common opponent, Southside Batesville. Trumann defeated the Southerners, 27-0, at home in week 2, while the Panthers defeated the Southerners, 22-17, on the road in week 8.

The winner of the Trumann/Heber Springs contest will play at Malvern (5-5) in the first-round the the playoffs.

During the playoffs, if a team does not play because of COVID, the other team will advance in the bracket with a “no contest”.

ORIGINAL STORY

The Heber Springs Panthers ended the 2020 football season with a 34-24 loss to 2-4A Conference foe Little Rock Mills at Panther Stadium Friday.

Heber Springs, which will opt out of the playoffs, finished the year at 2-8 overall, 1-6 in conference play.

First-year head coach Todd Wood told the team after the game that he was proud of their effort and how much progress that they made from the start of the season to the end.

“You will come to the field Monday and turn in your equipment,” Wood said. “I’m so proud of all of you, whether you started, played on special teams and were on the scout team in practice.  Thank you seniors for all that you did for the team this year. We will get into the weight room and start getting bigger, faster and stronger for the next season.”

The complete game story will be posted by Monday.

Panthers fall to Comets, head to playoffs

Heber Springs’ Jackson West, Preston Roberson and Nathan McKee celebrate after teammate Chris Edwards recovers an onside kick to start the second half. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

The Entrance of a new quarterback helped Little Rock Mills University Studies to turn the tide during the third  quarter against the Heber Springs Panthers at Panther Stadium on Friday.

Freshman Achilles Ringo completed 8-of-10 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown and led the Comets to a 34-24 win against the Panthers in a 2-4A Conference game. Mills earned a No. 5 seed for the Class 4A football playoffs.

Ringo replaced sophomore starter Q.J. King, who completed 4-of-5 passes for 84 yards and rushed for 44 yards on eight attempts during the first half. King moved to receiver during the second half and caught four passes for 58 yards and one touchdown.

“He (Ringo) is Mills’ all-everything quarterback,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “He has a better arm than the other quarterback (King) and was more accurate. We knew when he came into the game, Mills was going to throw the ball more, take advantage of its speed and try and spread the field. That was the difference in the game.”

Wood said Ringo forced the Heber Springs defense to alter its game plan during the second half.

“Mills put us in a situation of defending the entire field and tackling in open spaces,” Wood said. “That made it difficult on us.”

The running game also was another difference in the game. Heber Springs had 25 yards to 185 yards for Mills. The Panthers reached the red zone six times, scoring a touchdown and kicking a field goal.

Keilon Dais rushed for 94 of his 117 yards during the second half for the Comets. Heber Springs quarterback Matthew Cook was held to 13 yards rushing, including three quarterback sacks. Mills converted 6-of-11 third-down plays, 5-of-7 in the first half. The Panthers were 2-of-10 on third down. Mills held a 374-309 advantage in total offense.

The loss ended Heber Springs’ bid to qualify for the playoffs.  However, the Panthers will participate because of the Arkansas Activities Association allowing all teams into the playoffs because of COVID-19.

Heber Springs (1-6 conference, 2-8 overall) will play a play-in game at Trumann (3-4 3-4A Conference, 5-5 overall) starting at 7 p.m. Friday. The winner will advance to play Malvern in the first round.

Heber Springs controlled the first half thanks to quarterback Matthew Cook’s pin-point passing. Cook completed 15-of-21 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns during the first half and 23-of-37 for 211 yards with one interception. Nathan McKee completed 2-of-2 passes for 71 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown pass to Gus Hannah in the first half.

McKee was the leading receiver with nine catches for 69 yards, followed by Easton Cusick, who caught five passes for 49 yards. Hannah had four receptions for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Jackson West caught four passes for 28 yards and one touchdown.

Heber Springs received the opening kickoff and drove 62 yards on seven plays to take the initial lead. On the second play of the game, Hannah caught a pass from Cook and ran for a 26-yard gain and a first down at the Mills 20-yard line. Cook rushed for 16 yards for a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line.

The Panthers netted a minus four yards on the next three plays, but they decided to go for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal at the 8-yard line.

Cook passed to West for the touchdown with 9:51 left in the first quarter. Heber Springs failed on a 2-point conversion and led, 6-0.

Heber Springs scored again before the end of the quarter. After holding on downs at the Mills 29-yard line, the Panthers increased their lead when McKee passed to Hannah with 1:17 remaining. Diego Rubio ran for a 2-point conversion and the 14-0 lead.

Mills reduced the Heber Springs lead in half on a five-play,  52-yard drive. King connected with freshman Kylon Deadman on a 49-yard touchdown pass with 9:48 left in the first half. The Comets’ 2-point conversion attempt failed.

Heber Springs responded with a four-play, 40-yard drive. Cook passed 37 yards to Hannah for the score with 8:12 left in the first half. Hannah kicked the extra point for the 21-6 lead.

Mills scored before halftime on Keilon Davis’ 2-yard run with 4:12 remaining. The 2-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful as the Panthers led 21-12 at halftime.

“It felt good going into halftime leading by nine points,” Wood said. “We were scoreboard watching because we needed Clinton to lose and win by eight points against Mills. We led by 12 points later and felt good about everything. Unfortunately, we stalled on a couple of drives and then came the turnovers.”

Heber Springs increased its lead to 24-12 on Hannah’s 22-yard field goal with 7:26 left in the third quarter.

A shift of momentum began on the next series when Mills needed eight plays during a 60-yard drive. Ringo finished by scoring on a 3-yard run with 4:27 left in the third quarter. The Comets’ 2-point conversion failed as the Panthers’ lead was reduced to 24-18.

Mills took the lead with 1:14 to go in the third quarter. Davis broke free at the line of scrimmage and scored on a 64-yard run. He also ran for the 2-point conversion, giving Mills a 26-24 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Comets scored an insurance touchdown with 11:26 left in the game when Ringo passed 33 yards to King. Davis ran for a 2-point conversion.

“The players showed a lot of fight, like that they did in previous games,” Wood said. “Since Aug. 3, I watched the players improve every day in practice and in games. That is a tribute to the players. I could not ask any more from them.”

GAME STATS

SCORING   
Little Rock Mills (3-4, 4-6)   0 12 14  8 - 34
Heber Springs (1-6, 2-8)      14  7  3  0 - 24 
FIRST QUARTER   
Heber Springs, Matthew Cook to Jackson West 8-yard pass (run failed), 9:51
Heber Springs, Nathan McKee to Gus Hannah 29-yard pass (Diego Rubio run), 1:17
SECOND QUARTER
Mills, Q.J. King to Kylan Deadmon 49-yard pass (run failed), 9:47
Heber Springs, Cook to Hannah 37-yard pass (Hannah kick), 8:12
Mills, Keilon Davis 2-yard (run failed), 4:12
THIRD QUARTER   
Heber Springs, Hannah 22-yard kick, 7:26
Mills, Achilles Ringo 3-yard pass (pass failed), 4:27
Mills, Davis 64-yard run (Davis run), 1:14
FOURTH QUARTER 
Mills, Ringo to King 33-yard pass (Davis run), 11:36

TEAM STATS   
First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 3, Mills 5
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 7, Mills 8
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 3, Mills 0
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 13, Mills 13
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 2/10, Mills 6/11
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 2/6, Mills 2/4
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 7/3, Mills 3/2
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 23:26, Mills 24:34
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 3/2, Mills 5/3
Turnovers: Heber Springs 3, Mills 3     
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, Mills 8
Penalties: Heber Springs 8/59, Mills 14/119
Rushing: Heber Springs 15/25/1.7, Mills 37/185/5
Passing: Heber Springs 25/39-283-3/1, Mills 12/16-189-2/0
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 54/308/5.7, Mills 53/374/7.1
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Mills 3/24
Punts: Heber Springs 1/36, Mills 0
Inside 20: Heber Springs 1

INDIVIDUAL STATS   
OFFENSE     
RUSHING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 10/18, Diego Rubio 4/11, Nathan McKee 1/(-4). Mills, Keilon Davis 18/117/2, Q.J. King 9/62, Achilles Ringo 3/(-2), Nikolas Watson 2/12, Team 2/(-4), Carlos Deadmon 1/(-2).
PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 23/37-211-2/1, Nathan McKee 2/2-71-1/0. Mills, Achilles Ringo 8/10-105-1/0, Q.J. King 4/6-84-1/0.
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 9/69, Easton Cusick 5/49, Gus Hannah 4/120/2, Jackson West 4/28/1, Diego Rubio 2/9, Austin Winchester 1/7. Mills, Keilon Davis 6/66, Q.J. King 4/58/1, Kylan Deadmon 1/49/1, Jalon Davis 1/16.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 229, Nathan McKee 77, Diego Rubio 11. Mills, Q.J. King 142, Keilon Davis 117, Achilles Ringo 103, Nikolas Watson 12.
PUNT RETURNS: Clinton, none
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Jackson West 2/3, Nathan McKee 1/23, Diego Rubio 1/6. Mills, none.
FUMBLE RETURNS: Mills, Wesley Guy 1/8
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Mills, Dylan Parks 1/15
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Gus Hannah 120, Nathan McKee 88, Easton Cusick 49, Jackson West 31, Diego Rubio 26, Matthew Cook 18, Austin Winchester 7. Mills, Keilon Davis 183, Q.J. King 120, Kylan Deadmon 49, Jalon Davis 16, Dylan Parks 15, Nikolas Watson 12, Wesley Guy 8, Achilles Ringo (-2), 
SCORING: Heber Springs, Gus Hannah 16 (1/1 XP/XPA, 1/1 FGA. Made: 22-yards), Jackson West 6, Diego Rubio 2. Mills, Keilon Davis 16, Kylan Deadmon 6, Achilles Ringo 6, Q.J. King 6.
DEFENSE    
PUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20/BLOCKED: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook  1/36/36/1/0.
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Mills, Wesley Guy 1/11, Hunter Lowery 1/8, Nikolas Watson 1/4.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Heber Springs, Kenan Sneed, Diego Rubio (onside kick), Chris Edwards (onside kick). Mills, Wesley Guy.
INTERCEPTIONS: Mills, Carlos Deadmon

Panther GameDay: Comets soar into Heber Springs

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs, like other Arkansas high schools, didn’t know in August if Friday night football would happen in 2020.

COVID-19 changed the game, but teams received the go–ahead in early September to start the season.

The Panthers accomplished a goal of completing the regular season by hosting Little Rock Mills in a 2-4A Conference game at 7 p.m. Friday.
Heber Springs (1-5 conference, 2-7 overall) will seek to rebound from last week’s 32-26 loss at Clinton. Mills (2-4 conference, 3-6 overall) is coming off a 14-6 win against Southside Batesville at home.

“We were looking in the beginning to get three nonconference games in,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “After that, we wanted to make it through the conference season. We are ready to finish the conference season.”

Under normal circumstances, Heber Springs would be fighting for a playoff berth. The Arkansas Activities Association is allowing all teams an option of playing in the postseason because of games statewide being canceled during the season because of COVID-19.

Wood said the plan is to participate in the new postseason format with a win against the Comets. He said if the Panthers lose, the decision to continue playing would be re-evaluated

Schools will have until 8 a.m. Saturday to notify the AAA if they want to opt out of the playoffs. The AAA is expected to announce the complete postseason field by late Saturday.

“It was a tough situation this week for the players, but they understand they need to come back and play well,” Wood said.  “Our focus has been to fix our mistakes from the Clinton game and prepare for Mills. It’s probably the final home game for the seniors. They want to leave something good for their teammates and can do that by playing well against Mills.”

The Panthers can earn a No. 5 seed with a win and if Clinton loses at Lonoke and Southside defeats Bald Knob. If that occurs, it would come down to the point system.

Wood explained to his players not to worry about any playoff game, just focus on defeating Mills.

“Mills will be big and physical with a fast quarterback and speedy running backs,” he said. “We need to get every guy to the ball and make tackles. Mills wants to run the ball first, but they will pass. We are preparing to stop the running game.”
Heber Springs and the Comets have wins against a common opponent — Southside. Mills’ other conference win was against Clinton.

Wood said consistency on offense will be one of the keys for a victory. Nathan McKee, the Panthers’ leading receiver on the season, left with an ankle injury during the third quarter of the Clinton game. Wood said McKee returned to practice Wednesday and expected to play on Friday. McKee has caught 42 catches for 546 yards and three touchdowns.

Senior quarterback Matthew Cook will be one of the players to watch. Cook has completed 107-of-194 passes for 1,265 yards and nine touchdowns. He also is a threat in the running game with 415 yards on 105 carries and scored four touchdowns.

Senior Diego Rubio has rushed for 383 yards on 81 attempts and scored eight touchdowns.

“We hope Nathan will be ready to go on Friday,” Wood said. “It is important that we execute well in all areas on offense. We need to get into a good rhythm and do a good job of holding onto the ball.”

Wood said it’s important for the running game to become more productive against Mills, which plays a four-man front.

“Our running game will be important,” Wood said. “Mills will play a four-man front and the players are strong. We need to execute the little things better and put them in bad situations. We plan to spread out Mills’ defense and take advantage of its weaknesses.

“We want to end the regular season with a win.”

2A-4 CONFERENCE STANDINGS

                            W L CP  W L PS  PA 
Stuttgart                   6 0 78  8 0 323  47 
Central Arkansas Christian  5 1 51  8 1 266 194
Lonoke                      4 2 44  6 3 310 252
Bald Knob                   3 3 32  5 4 226 186  
Little Rock Mills           2 4 19  3 6 178 237  
Clinton                     2 4 12  2 7 197 356 
Heber Springs               1 5  5  2 7 176 304
Southside Batesville        1 5 13  2 7 157 255   
 
 
Friday, October 30
Clinton 32, Heber Springs 26
Bald Knob 35, Central Arkansas Christian 14
Little Rock Mills 14, Southside Batesville 6
Stuttgart 53, Lonoke 14

Friday, November 6
Little Rock Mills at Heber Springs
Clinton at Lonoke
Stuttgart at Central Arkansas Christian
Bald Knob at Southside Batesville
  • Kickoff: 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium
  • Admission: $5
  • Radio/Streaming: Billy Morgan will handle the play-by-play while Lance Hamilton with handle the color on KSUG 101.9 The Lake. Panther Pregame begins at 6:45 p.m. followed by the game.  Listen Live Link

GAME NOTES

THE SERIES: Heber Springs leads the series 2-0.

SERIES HISTORY: Though this is the third time the Panthers have faced Little Rock Mills, Heber Springs did play the two of the schools that consolidated to form Mills University Studies. The Panthers went 0-4 from 1955 through 1959 against Little Rock Fuller, and 0-3-1 against Mabelvale from 1955 through 1958. Heber Springs won last season, 28-14 at Mills, and 47-6 in 2018 at Panther Stadium.

CONFERENCE SEEDING: Stuttgart has clinched at least the No. 2 seed, a win gives the Ricebirds the No. 2 seed. CAC gets the No. 1 seed with a win and the No. 2 seed with a loss. Lonoke and Bald Knob have clinched the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds regardless of tonight’s outcomes. The No. 5 seed goes to Mills with a win tonight in Panther Stadium otherwise the No. 5 seed will go to conference points with either Clinton, Mills or Heber Springs getting the fifth seed. Heber Springs would get the No. 5 seed with a win by at least 8 points and a Clinton loss. Clinton would get the No. 5 seed with a win and a Mills loss. Mills could still get the No. 5 seed with a loss if Clinton losses to Lonoke and the Panthers win by 7 or less. The sixth- through eighth-seeded teams can opt-in into the playoffs (because of Covid) this season, but have to declare their intentions tomorrow to the Arkansas Activities Association.

Final Heber Springs Junior High Stats

SCORING BY QUARTERS
Heber Springs    56   92  38  61 - 247 (30.9 ppg)
Opponent         12   56  34  52 - 154 (19.3 ppg)

TEAM STATS  
First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 35, Opponent 60
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 71, Opponent 12 
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 3, Opponent 9 
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 109, Opponent 81 
Penalties: Heber Springs 38/315, Opponent 39/257 
3rd-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 20/52, Opponent 20/59
4th-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 15/27, Opponent 11/22 
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 8/2, Opponent 10/6 
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 6/62, Opponent 0/0 
Rush/Yards/Avg: Heber Springs 104/641/6.2, Opponent 230/1026/4.5
Rushing Yards Per Game: Heber Springs 80.1, Opponent 128.3
Passing (A/C-Yards-TD/Int): Heber Springs 125/203-1870-23/6, Opponent 33/78-487-6/7
Passing Yards Per Game: Heber Springs 233.8, Opponent 60.9 
Total Offense: Heber Springs 2511, Opponent 1513 
Total Offense Per Game: Heber Springs 313.9, Opponent 189.1  
Punts: Heber Springs 2/43/21.5, Opponent 14/460/32.9

INDIVIDUAL STATS  
OFFENSE  
Rushing: Liam Buffalo 21/147/2, Gideon Tate 26/137/1, Weston Warden 23/115/1, Parker Brown 11/112/2, Dalton Yancey 6/61/1, Xander Lindley 4/51/1, Hayden Johnson 5/25, Hud Haggard 1/9, Jacob Golden 1/5, Ladd Choate 2/5, Bryce Seigrist 1/(-6), Team 3/(-22). 
Passing: Liam Buffalo 122/199-1787-22/6, Zachary Parker 3/3-83-1/0, Parker Brown 0/1-0-0/0 
Receiving: Parker Brown 32/602/7, Dalton Yancey 26/419/6, Xander Lindley 27/557/6, Weston Warden 15/156/2, Hud Haggard 15/115/2, Ty West 5/21, Chris Roberts 1/28, Gideon Tate 1/0
Kickoff Returns: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 5/155/1, Corbin Jones 4/4, Hud Haggard 3/0, Xander Lindley 3/95/1, Chris Roberts 2/0, Zachary Parker 1/0, Jude Bray 1/0, Dalton Yancey 1/0 
Punt Returns: Xander Lindley 1/13
Interception Returns: Parker Brown 3/108/2, Liam Buffalo 2/0, Logan Rutledge 1/0, Dalton Yancey 1/0.
Total Offense: Liam Buffalo 1934, Gideon Tate 137, Weston Warden 115, Parker Brown 112, Zachary Parker 83, Dalton Yancey 61, Xander Lindley 51, Hayden Johnson 25, Hud Haggard 9, Jacob Golden 5, Ladd Choate 5, Bryce Seigrist (-6).
All-Purpose Yards: Parker Brown 977, Xander Lindley 716,  Dalton Yancey 480, Weston Warden 271, Liam Buffalo 147,  Gideon Tate 137, Hud Haggard 124, Chris Roberts 28, Hayden Johnson 25, Ty West 21, Jacob Golden 5, Ladd Choate 5, Corbin Jones 4, Bryce Seigrist (-6).
DEFENSE  
Sacks/Yards lost:  Parker Brown 4/41, Hud Haggard 1/11, Chris Roberts 1/10
Interceptions: Liam Buffalo 2, Parker Brown 3, Dalton Yancey 1, Logan Rutledge 1,  
Fumble Recoveries: Ladd Choate, Xander Lindley, Dalton Yancey, Axley Davis, Hayden Johnson, Team  
Punts: Liam Buffalo 2/43/21.5 
SCORING
Parker Brown 84, Xander Lindley 54, Dalton Yancey 48, Gideon Tate 29 (20/21 XP, 1/1 FG. MADE: 25), Weston Warden 18, Hud Haggard 12, Liam Buffalo 12

Heber Springs comes up short against Clinton

Heber Springs’ Easton Cusick celebrates a second-quarter touchdown with teammate Conner Riddle. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

CLINTON — Time ran out on the Heber Springs Panthers to win their first Battle of the Little Red trophy at Jim Tumlison Field  Friday.

Quarterback Matthew Cook’s pass for Diego Rubio was batted away by Clinton defenders Spencer Banister and Harley Tobin at the goal-line as the Panthers lost to the Yellowjackets 32-26 in a 2-4A Conference football game.

Clinton’s Nick Epley scored the winning touchdown on a 52-yard run with 50 seconds left in the game.

Cook started Heber Springs’ final drive with a 14-yard completion to Easton Cusick for a first down at the Clinton 47-yard line., Parker Brown, who was playing his first high school game, caught a 16-yard pass, advancing the ball to the 31. A five-yard penalty against Clinton set up the game’s final play.

Heber Springs’ Matthew Cook. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

“We were able to move down the field on the drive with different guys at receiver,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We had a shot on the final play and that is all you can ask of your team. I told Matthew before the play to throw into the end zone.”

Brown was referring to Nathan McKee, the leading receiver for the Panthers, who was injured during the third quarter and unable to return.

Clinton forced a punt and drove 71 yards for the winning touchdown with 1:33 left in the game. Nick Epley caught a 13-yard pass from Harley Tobin for a first down at the Yellowjacket 45-yard line. Tobin kept the ball for three years before and threw an incomplete pass before Epley’s touchdown run on third-and-seven.

“We knew they could pass or run well,” Wood said. “Clinton has a good quarterback who can run or pass and a lot of speed in the backfield. It was a great call by them with less than a minute left. We were anticipating a pass. You have to make the tackle in that situation and we didn’t do it on that play.”

The teams played nose-to-nose during the first half with Clinton gaining one more yard (163-162) than Heber Springs. The Panthers rushed for 88 yards and passed for 74, while the Yellowjackets had 92 yards rushing and 71 passing.

For the game, Clinton outgained the Panthers 425-354 yards in total offense and held a 23-18 advantage in first downs. Heber Springs rushed for 201 yards and passed for 153. The Yellowjackets had 277 yards on the ground and 148 passing.

Heber Springs’ Diego Rubio looks to get past Clinton’s Cody Davis. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Heber Springs converted 1-of-10 opportunities on third down and 4-of-6 on fourth down. Clinton was 6-of-10 on third down and 1-of-2 on fourth down.

Cook completed 15-of-32 passes for 153 yards and one touchdown, and rushed 17 times for 167 yards and one touchdown. He accounted for 320 all-purpose yards. Rubio had 28 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns. McKee caught eight passes for 91 yards. Cusick had three catches for 39 yards and one touchdown. Parker Brown caught two passes for 18 yards.

Tobin completed 8-of-15 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown for Clinton. Epley rushed 18 times for 149 yards and one touchdown.

Clinton received the opening kickoff and marched 59 yards on seven plays for the early lead. Jacob Hutto capped the drive by scoring on a 5-yard run with 9:06 in the first quarter. Aldrick Infante kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.

Heber Springs tied the game on a 10-play, 57-yard drive in the second quarter. Cook’s 30-yard carry put the Panthers in scoring position at the Clinton 15-yard line.

The Panthers needed a fourth-down conversion to keep the drive alive. McKee caught a 7-yard pass from Cook for a first-and-goal at the 3-yard line. Two plays later, Rubio dove into the end zone from one yard out with 8:43 left in the first half. Gus Hannah kicked the extra point for the 7-7 tie.

Clinton regained the advantage on its next possession when Infante kicked a 32-yard field goal with 4:07 to go for a 10-7 lead.

But the Panthers didn’t wait long to respond. Heber Springs drove 62 yards on 10 plays, with Cook connecting on a 20-yard touchdown pass to Cusick. Hannah kicked the extra point for the 14-10 lead with 38 seconds remaining until halftime.

Clinton pulled to within one point on Infante’s 40-yard field game with two seconds left as Heber Springs led 14-13 at halftime.

Heber Springs started the second half at its 48 thanks to McKee’s kickoff return. Cook passed twice to McKee for a first-and-goal at the 4. Two plays later, Rubio scored from the 1, increasing the lead to 20-13. The 2-point conversion was no good.

Clinton pulled to within one point before the end of the third quarter. Tobin capped a six-play, 35-yard drive by scoring on a 1-yard sneak. The Panthers kept their 20-19 lead on Clinton’s bad snap on the try for the extra point.

Heber Springs increased its lead when Thad Bray recovered a Clinton fumble at the Panther 10-yard line. The Yellowjackets held on the next three plays as the Panthers faced a fourth-and-eight at the 12.

A fourth-down conversion helped Heber Springs to increase its lead. The Panthers elected to go for the first down. Cook took the snap, went to his left and broke to the outside. He outran the Yellowjacket defense and scored on an 88-yard run with 7:16 left in the game. After a failed 2-point play, the Panthers led, 26-19.

“We had two choices,” Wood said. “We could keep moving the ball down the field or give it back Clinton on a short field where it probably would score quickly. It was not a tough decision.”

Clinton tied the game when Brody Emberton caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Tobin with 3:48 left. Infante kicked the extra point to tie the game at 26-26.

Epley scored the winning touchdown with 50 seconds left, and Clinton held the Panthers out of the end zone on the game’s final series.

Heber Springs (1-5 conference, 2-7 overall) will host Little Rock Mills in the final regular season game on Friday.

“Mills will be big and physical,” Wood said. “The game will show how much character that we have. We have to come back with our heads high and finish the regular season strong.” 

Heber Springs’ Gus Hannah gets the PAT kick off despite the attempt by Clinton’s Nick Epley (3) to block the kick. Matthew Cook (33) was the holder on the attempt. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

GAME STATS

SCORING   
Heber Springs (1-5, 2-7)   0 14  6  6 - 26
Clinton (2-4, 2-7)         7  6  6 13 - 32
FIRST QUARTER   
Clinton, Jacob Hutto 5-yard run (Aldrick Infante kick), 9:06
SECOND QUARTER
Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 1-yard run (Gus Hannah kick), 8:43
Clinton, Infante 32-yard field goal, 4:07
Heber Springs, Matthew Cook to Easton Cusick 20-yard pass (Hannah kick), :38
Clinton, Infante 40-yard field goal, :02
THIRD QUARTER   
Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 1-yard run (pass failed), 10:24
Clinton, Harley Tobin 1-yard run (run failed), :02
FOURTH QUARTER 
Heber Springs, Cook 88-yard run (run failed), 5:30
Clinton, Tobin to Brody Emberton 21-yard pass (Infante kick), 3:48
Clinton, Nick Epley 52-yard run (kick failed), :50

TEAM STATS   
First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 8, Clinton 14
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 8, Clinton 8
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 2, Clinton 1
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 18, Clinton 23
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 1/10, Clinton 6/10
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 4/6, Clinton 1/2
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 5/3, Southside 1/0
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 22:02, Clinton 25:58
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 2/1, Clinton 2/2
Turnovers: Heber Springs 1, Clinton 2     
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 6, Clinton 0
Penalties: Heber Springs 4/40, Clinton 4/41
Rushing: Heber Springs 27/201/7.4, Clinton 47/277/5.9
Passing: Heber Springs 15/32-153-1/0, Clinton 8/15-148-1/0
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 59/354/6, Clinton 62/425/6.9 
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Clinton 2/11
Punts: Heber Springs 2/60, Clinton 1/34
Inside 20: None

INDIVIDUAL STATS   
OFFENSE     
RUSHING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 17/167/1, Diego Rubio 9/28/2, Nathan McKee 1/6. Clinton, Nick Epley 18/149/1, Jacob Hutto 15/64/1, Brody Emberton 4/33, Harley Tobin 10/29/1, Cody Davis 1/2.
PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 15/32-153-1/0. Clinton, Harley Tobin 8/15-148-1/0.
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 8/91, Easton Cusick 3/39, Parker Brown 2/18, Jackson West 1/3, Diego Rubio 1/2. Clinton, Brody Emberton 3/65/1, Nick Epley 3/43, Jasper Burgess 1/28, Blaine Emberton 1/12.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 320, Diego Rubio 28, Nathan McKee 6. Clinton, Harley Tobin 182, Nick Epley 149, Jacob Hutto 64, Brody Emberton 33, Cody Davis 2.
PUNT RETURNS: Clinton, Jacob Hutto 1/4
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 2/33, Nathan McKee 1/38, Parker Brown 1/4, Gus Hannah 1/0, Austin Winchester 1/0. Clinton, Cody Davis 2/31, Nick Epley 2/21, Brody Emberton 1/11.
FUMBLE RETURNS: None
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: None
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 167, Nathan McKee 135, Diego Rubio 53, Easton Cusick 39, Parker Brown 22, Jackson West 3. Clinton, Nick Epley 213, Brody Emberton 109, Jacob Hutto 68, Cody Davis 33, Jasper Burgess 28, Blaine Emberton 12.
SCORING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 12, Matthew Cook 6, Easton Cusick 6, Gus Hannah 2 (2/2 XPA). Clinton, Aldrick Infante 8 (2/3 XPA, 2/2 FGA. Made: 32, 40), Nick Epley 6, Jacob Hutto 6, Harley Tobin 6, Brody Emberton 6.
DEFENSE    
PUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20/BLOCKED: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook  2/60/30/0/0. Clinton, Aldrick Infante 1/34/34/0/0
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Clinton, Jasper Burgess 1/8, Josh Witt 1/6
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Heber Springs, Isaac King, Thad Bray. Clinton, Ashton Hoyle.
INTERCEPTIONS: None

Panther GameDay: Battle for the Little Red

Tripp Keeter gets a little help waving the “HS” flag from a strong breeze at Southside Batesville last week. Keeter, a spring graduate of Heber Springs High School, has been traveling to all of the games this season (home and away) to make sure the flag waves proudly for the team. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs and Clinton will play for more than the Battle of the Little Red trophy at Jim Tumlison Field in Clinton on Friday night.

The winner will move up one notch on the Class 4A playoff seeding ladder and remain alive for the No. 4 seed and a bye from the first weekend of postseason play. Remaining teams will start the playoffs in play-in games on either Nov. 12 or Nov. 13.

Heber Springs seeks its first win in the fifth annual Battle of the Little Red. Kickoff is scheduled at 7 p.m.

The Panthers (1-4 2-4A Conference, 2-6 overall) are coming off a 22-17 win at Southside Batesville. Clinton (1-4 conference, 1-7 overall) defeated Bald Knob, also on the road, 21-15.

“The players are aware of the atmosphere surrounding the game,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “They know what must be done and returned to practice this week with more energy after playing a complete game for the first time this season.”

Wood said the Panthers learned from their second-half performance against Bald Knob two weeks ago and took a step forward.

Heber Springs quarterback Matthew Cook gets a hug from assistant coach Hunter Davis after the Panthers win last week at Southside Batesville. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

“We realized what was not done in the past and played four good quarters against Southside,” he said. “We pulled close during the second half of previous games, but we never could get over the hump. We put ourselves in position to win the game against Southside during the fourth quarter.”

Clinton head coach Chris Dufrene said preparation is no different than previous games with the Panthers, except the game is now a conference game.

“We would want to win whether it was the first game of the season or the ninth week,” Dufrene said. “It means more this year because it is a conference game and will affect playoff seeding.”

But Dufrene said winning the trophy again is important.

“The trophy adds more pressure,” he said. “The game has been a good thing with all of the community involvement. It helps a lot of families in need who live in both communities.”

Clinton continues with its Wing-T offense, led by sophomore quarterback Harley Tobin. Junior Nick Epley, senior Brody Emberton, and juniors Jacob Hutto and Cody Davis are the primary threats in the running game.

The Yellowjackets have put the ball in the air more this season. Seniors Blaine Emberton and Jasper Burgess have been his primary targets.

“We like to spread the ball around more with the passing game,” Dufrene said. “Harley has played great at times and other times like a sophomore. He had a good game against Bald Knob with three touchdown passes.”

Clinton’s defense played well against Bald Knob and had three interceptions. Epley’s interception with two minutes left stopped a potential scoring drive by the Bulldogs.

Wood said Clinton will carry momentum from its win at Bald Knob into Friday’s game.

“The win gave them a big boost,” he said. “Clinton did what it needed to do and won. They ran the ball well and then spread the field with the passing game. The quarterback is versatile, makes good decisions and can run and pass. They also have two good running backs with breakaway speed.”

Heber Springs’ offense went through growing pains earlier this season, but it picked up the pace against Southside.

Senior Matthew Cook, who made the transition from receiver to quarterback, has completed 92-of-162 passes for 1,112 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior Nathan McKee leads the Panthers in receiving with 34 catches for 455 yards and three touchdowns. Two sophomores have emerged as targets in the passing game. Isaac King has caught 17 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Easton Cusick has 16 receptions for 210 yards.

Senior Diego Rubio is the leading rusher with 355 yards on 72 attempts and scored six touchdowns.

Wood said play improved drastically on the offensive and defensive lines and one of the determining factors in last week’s win

“We have to take care of the line of scrimmage again and win that battle,” Wood said. “Jayden Bremmon, Thad Bray, Lucas Langster, Trevor Weathers and Chris Smith played well. It helped by moving Preston Roberson back to linebacker, where he is better suited to play. I was pleased with the play of our (offensive and defensive) linemen.”

2-4A STANDINGS

                            W L CP  W L PS  PA 
Stuttgart                   5 0 65  7 0 270  33 
Central Arkansas Christian  5 0 51  8 0 272 159
Lonoke                      4 1 44  6 2 296 199
Bald Knob                   2 3 19  4 4 194 172  
Southside Batesville        1 4 13  2 6 151 241   
Little Rock Mills           1 4 11  2 6 164 231  
Clinton                     1 4  6  1 7 165 330 
Heber Springs               1 4  5  2 6 150 272
 
Friday, October 23
Heber Springs 22, Southside Batesville 17
Central Arkansas Christian 49, Lonoke 34
Clinton 21, Bald Knob 15
Stuttgart 28, Little Rock Mills 0

Friday, October 30
Heber Springs at Clinton
Central Arkansas Christian at Bald Knob
Southside Batesville at Little Rock Mills
Lonoke at Stuttgart
  • Kickoff: 7 p.m. in Clinton
  • 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. Listen live link here.
  • Honorary Captains: For Heber Springs, long-time journalist and Heber Springs graduate Larry “Scoop” McCarty. For Clinton, former player James Washington.

THE SERIES

HEBER SPRINGS VS. CLINTON
“Battle of the Little Red”
Clinton leads the series 40-38-5.
Games played in Heber Springs: Clinton leads, 20-19-1
Games played in Clinton: Clinton leads 20-18-4
Games played on a Neutral Field: Heber Springs leads, 1-0.

FIRST MEETING: Heber Springs’ first season of football was 1913 and it would be 26 years before Clinton fielded its first team. It didn’t take long for the two teams to meet after that with Heber Springs winning the first game played between the two schools on October 13, 1939, in Heber Springs. The Panthers won by a score of 31-0 on that day. The two teams met again less than a month later on Veteran’s Day (November 11) 1939 in Clinton where the Panthers and Yellowjackets played to a 6-6 tie. The teams would go on to play continuously after that with a couple of exceptions. During World War II, neither school fielded a team during the 1943 season while Clinton did not field one during the 1944 season. After the war, Clinton and Heber Springs would meet twice per season in 1945 and 1946 with the Yellowjackets winning all four meetings. Financial constraints in the Heber Springs School District forced the school to not field a football team for the 1947 and 1948 seasons. The two teams meet again during the 1949 season with Clinton winning both games of the home-and-home series. The teams would go on continuously playing until 2007 when the opener scheduled with Clinton — which was played during the 2006 season at the Hooten’s Kickoff Classic at Estes Stadium on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway — was changed to allow the Panthers to play Mayflower instead of Clinton in the same Kickoff Classic in 2007. The series resumed in 2008 and continues today.
LONGEST WINNING STREAKS: Clinton has won six straight in the series twice. Once from 1945-1949 and the second time from 2000-2005. Heber Springs won seven straight in the series from 1978-1984.
CONFERENCE FOES: Heber Springs and Clinton were first paired in the same conference in 1974. They would be paired in the same conference from 1974-1990. They would again be paired in the same conference from 1993-2001 and from 2008-2013. The two teams are back in the same conference after Clinton moved up from 3A and replaced Riverview in the conference.
OVERTIME GAMES: There have only been three overtime games in the series and those all occurred during a four-year span from 1986-1989. Clinton won a double overtime home contest in 1986 (20-14) while the Panthers won in overtime the following season in 1987, 19-12, in Heber Springs. In 1989, Clinton defeated Heber Springs, 13-12, at Panther Stadium.
CLOSE GAMES: Twenty-four of the games have been decided by a touchdown or less during the series, not including the five ties.
COACH’S WIFE: Clinton head coach Chris Dufrene’s wife Heather (Bivins) is a 1987 graduate of Heber Springs High School.
TROPHY GAMES: Heber Springs won the trophy for the Hooten’s Kickoff Classic between the two schools in 2006, but since the inception of the “Battle of the Little Red” trophy, Clinton has won all four meetings, 28-20 in 2016 in Clinton, 28-17 in 2017 in Heber Springs, 36-34 in 2018 in Clinton, and 28-27 last season in Heber Springs . Heber Springs will be looking to break a four-game losing streak to Clinton.

Junior Panthers fall to Clinton, finish 6-2

Heber Springs’ Xander Lindley leaps for more yards against Clinton on Thursday. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By PHILIP SEATON

Clinton scored 26 unanswered second-half points as Heber Springs fell to the Yellowjackets, 40-28, in the season finale for both teams at Panther Stadium on Thursday.

Heber Springs (6-2) led 21-14 at the half, and had appeared to stop Clinton (7-1) on a fourth-and-12 play from the Panther 38 on the Yellowjackets first possession of the second half, but a pass interference call went against the Panthers giving Clinton a fresh set of downs at the 23. Three plays later, Billy Standlee plunged in for a 2-yard score to make it 21-20 (the 2-point conversion was no good) with 4:10 left in the third quarter.

The Panthers were posed to respond with a score of their own after Liam Buffalo connected with Parker Brown on a 30-yard strike to move the ball to the Clinton 16. After a 13-yard run by Buffalo, the Panthers reached the Clinton 3 before two lost-yardage running plays and an incomplete pass forced a fourth-down play from the 8. Clinton’s Zane Widener stepped in front of the Buffalo pass in the end zone and raced 101 yards to put Clinton up 26-21 with 1:51 to play in the third.

On the Panthers next possession, Widener again picked off Buffalo this time racing 65 yards for the score to make it 34-21 with 7:43 to play.

Buffalo, who passed for 1,787 yards and 22 touchdowns on the season, had another pass intercepted on Heber Springs’ next possession by Standlee. Six plays later, Payton Sellers scored on a 23-yard run to push the Yellowjacket to 40-21.

On the ensuing kickoff, Brown — who has scored touchdowns by receiving, rush and interception return this season — added a kickoff return for a score when he raced 82 yards for the games final score.

Brown finished with 212 all-purpose yards while Widener had 277 all-purpose yards.

Buffalo was 21 of 34 passing for 239 yards and three touchdowns, all coming in the first half.

Buffalo’s first strike to Weston Warden covered 14 yards and put Heber Springs up 7-0 with 4:48 remaining in the first quarter after Gideon Tate converted the PAT kick.

Heber Springs went up 13-6 when Buffalo connected with Dalton Yancey for 25-yard scoring strike with 6:05 left in the half.

Lindley’s 18-yard scoring reception and Yancey’s 2-point run put the Junior Panthers up 21-14 at the break.

CLINTON AT HEBER SPRINGS
Junior High Football
October 29, 2020
at Panther Stadium

Clinton          6   8  12  14 - 40
Heber Springs    7  14   0   7 - 28

FIRST QUARTER
Heber Springs, Liam Buffalo to Weston Warden 14-yard pass (Gideon Tate kick), 4:48
Clinton, Zane Widener 1-yard run (run failed), 40.9
SECOND QUARTER
Heber Springs, Buffalo to Dalton Yancey 25-yard pass (pass failed), 6:05
Clinton, Payton Sellers 3-yard run (Widener run), 2:29
Heber Springs, Buffalo to Xander Lindley 18-yard pass (Yancey run), 2:29
THIRD QUARTER
Clinton, Billy Standlee 2-yard run (run failed), 4:10
Clinton, Widener 101-yard interception return (run failed), 1:51
FOURTH QUARTER
Clinton, Widener 65-yard interception return (Widener run), 7:43
Clinton, Payton Sellers 23-yard run (pass failed), 3:25
Heber Springs, Parker Brown 82-yard kickoff return (Tate kick), 3:10

TEAM STATS
First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 7, Clinton 11
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 11, Clinton 0
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 1, Clinton 1
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 19, Clinton 12
Penalties: Heber Springs 8/70, Clinton 4/35
3rd-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 1/7, Clinton 6/9
4th-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 3/5, Clinton 2/2
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 1/0, Clinton 1/0
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Clinton 0/0
Rush/Yards/Avg: Heber Springs 13/81/6.2, Clinton 38/222/5.8
Passing (A/C-Yards-TD/Int): Heber Springs 21/34-239-3/3, Clinton 2/2-20-0/0
Total Offense: Heber Springs 320, Clinton 242
Punts: Heber Springs 0/0, Clinton 1/26
INDIVIDUAL STATS
OFFENSE
Rushing: Heber Springs, Liam Buffalo 10/82, Xander Lindley 1/15, Weston Warden 1/(-5), Team 1/(-11). Clinton, Zane Widener 19/111/1, Payton Sellers 15/94/2, Billy Standlee 3/19/1, Dawson Maynard 1/(-2).
Passing: Heber Springs, Liam Buffalo 21/34-239-3/3. Clinton, Zane Widener 2/2-20-0/0.
Receiving: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 8/97, Xander Lindley 6/65/1, Weston Warden 3/36/1, Dalton Yancey 2/31/1, Hud Haggard 2/10. Clinton, Billy Standlee 2/20.
Kickoff Returns: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 3/115/1, Xander Lindley 1/14, Dalton Yancey 1/0, Chris Roberts 1/0. Clinton, Payton Sellers 1/0, Bryson Littell 1/0, Zayden Brainard 1/0.
Interceptions: Clinton, Zane Widener 2/166/2, Billy Standlee 1/0.
Total Offense: Heber Springs, Liam Buffalo 321, Xander Lindley 15, Weston Warden (-5), Team (-11). Clinton, Zane Widener 131, Payton Sellers 94, Billy Standlee 19, Dawson Maynard (-2).
All-Purpose Yards: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 212, Xander Lindley 94, Liam Buffalo 82, Weston Warden 31, Dalton Yancey 31, Hud Haggard 10. Clinton, Zane Widener 277, Payton Sellers 94, Billy Standlee 39, Dawson Maynard (-2).
DEFENSE
SACKS/YARDS LOST: None
PUNTS: Clinton, Zane Widener 1/26
INTERCEPTIONS: Clinton, Zane Widener 2, Billy Standlee 1
KICKING: Heber Springs, Gideon Tate (2/2 XP)

Panther Cubs finish season with 5-3 mark

Heber Springs’ Jacob Haskett runs upfield against Clinton Thursday night. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By PHILIP SEATON

The Heber Springs seventh-grade football team finished the season with a 5-3 record after dropping its home finale to Clinton, 30-12.

Heber Springs struck first after Lucas Garcia scored on a 7-yard run with 9:59 to play in the first half — the 2-point conversion was no good. A pair of long runs by Jacob Haskett put the Panther Cubs in scoring position.

Clinton took the lead with 5:28 to play in the first half as Rylan Jones raced 56-yards for paydirt. Brodie Dufrene connected with Rope Williams for the 2-point conversion.

The Yellowjackets would go up 16-6 at the first half buzzer when Jones connected with Williams for a 66-yard touchdown. Dufrene hit Jones for the 2-point conversion to make it 16-6 at the break.

Zack Hunt-Gonzalez’ 6-yard run made it 22-6 in favor of Clinton with just over 14 minutes left in the contest.

Jones added a 5-yard scoring run at the 5:41 mark and Adrian Yates ran in the 2-point conversion to give Clinton a 30-6 advantage.

Haskett would score on a 63-yard run with 2:21 to go to set the final score at 30-12.

The 5-3 record by the Panther Cubs equaled the 5-3 mark of the seventh-grade team last season.