Vanlandingham signs with Lyon college

Heber Springs senior Katelyn Vanlandingham signs her NAIA Letter-of-Intent to play volleyball next season at Lyon College in Batesville.

February 28, 2020

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs senior Katelyn Vanlandingham quickly made the decision of her distinction to play college volleyball.

Vanlandingham, a four-year starter, signed a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics letter-of-intent with Lyon College Friday (February 28).

She played an important role in leading the Lady Panthers to the 2018 state tournament and within one win of returning in 2019.

“My brother, Tyler, just graduated from Lyon and played football,” said Vanlandingham, when asked about her choice of school. “I received a few other offers, but Lyon was my choice. I love the school.”

Vanlandingham moved from Memphis to Heber Springs before the start of her freshman season. She played volleyball while living in Memphis, and Heber Springs coach Andrea Riggs said that experience showed on the court during the past four years.  

“She was a huge contributor to the program,” Riggs said. “She had more experience in the beginning than other players and it showed. She had good skills and could pass, serve and hit the ball well.”

Heber Springs’ Katelyn Vanlandingham

Vanlandingham said she didn’t know what to expect after leaving Memphis, but it worked well.

“It was a big transition,” she said. “I had a good four years and proud of what I did.”

Vanlandingham said it’s difficult to select one special memory while playing for the Lady Panthers, but she will remember all four seasons.

“Every game was a memory,” she said.

Riggs said Vanlandingham is showing the younger players that hard work can pay off and help in receiving an opportunity to play in college.

“The current high school players and the younger players coming up will benefit from Katelyn’s signing,” Riggs said. “It may help in getting girls playing other sports to consider volleyball. It will help in continuing the program’s success. We want to keep it going in that direction.”

Vanlandingham said one of her goals next season is contribute to her new team’s success.

“I hope to play as a freshman,” she said. “I’m focusing on all areas. There is always room for improvement.”

LYON COLLEGE BOUND
With Vanlandingham signing with Lyon College, she becomes the sixth Heber Springs athlete to sign with the Batesville school in the past two years.
CLASS OF 2020
CHEER AND DANCE - Gentry Hamilton     
VOLLEYBALL - Katelyn Vanlandingham
WOMEN'S BASKETBALL - Libby Stutts 
WOMEN'S SOCCER - Taylor Hammons
CLASS OF 2019
BASEBALL - Nick Chaney
FOOTBALL - Blaze Nelson
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Hammons signs with Lyon College

February 10, 2020

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs senior Taylor Hammons signed a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics soccer letter-of-intent with Lyon College at the Panther Den Monday.

Hammons will start for the fourth consecutive year when the Lady Panthers open the season at Harding Academy on Feb. 24.

“I was looking at Harding University two years ago before everything changed,” Hammons said. “I’ve decided not to play in college. I visited Lyon College and it was a positive experience. The visit helped to change my mind. It was a calling for me to go there.”

Hammons scored 17 goals last season and average one goal per game during her career with 11 assists. She earned all-conference honors twice and named to the all-state team in 2018.

“Taylor has meant a lot to our program,” Heber Springs coach Drew Lawrence said. “She is our senior leader and helps in guiding the younger players. Taylor is a hard work. You need that type of a player on a team.”

Hammons began soccer on a third grade team in a youth league. Later, she played at Greenbrier in a fall league before high school.  

Hammons said she looks forward to her senior season and expects the team to have success.

“We will have ups and downs, but I always know my teammates will back everyone up,” she said. “We lost two starters from last year’s team, but we will have a good team. We have a lot of senior starters returning.”

After the season, Hammons plans to switch her focus to Lyon College.

“One of my goals will be to improve my overall soccer skills,” she said. “I need to improve my footwork and working on that.”

Hammons is fourth Panther athlete to sign with the Batesville school in the past two seasons. She joins soccer teammate Libby Stutts (who signed to play basketball at Lyon) earlier this spring and Blaze Nelson (football) and Nicholas Chaney (baseball) who signed last year.

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Heber Springs’ Martin signs with Arkansas Tech

February 5, 2020

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Quarterback Adam Martin capped his Heber Springs High School football career by signing a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II letter-of-intent with Arkansas Tech at the Panther Den Tuesday.

Martin, who started the final two games of his freshman season and the past three years, led the Panthers to a 21-17 record, four playoff appearances and a share of a conference championship.

Overall, Martin completed 387-of-662 passes for 5,051 yards and 42 touchdowns. He rushed for 2,042 yards and scored 30 touchdowns.

“I’m very excited, like Russellville and excited what the future will hold,” said Martin when asked about selecting Arkansas Tech. “I’m ready to start working on my football career in Russellville. I like the coaches who kept in touch with me throughout the process. They were honest and treated me like family.”

Will Cox, who was interim head coach last season for the Panthers, said Martin was one of the key parts on offense. Martin was responsible for 54 percent of the team’s touchdowns and 64 percent of the team’s total offense.

In 2019, Martin completed 139-of-232 passes for 1,627 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was the team’s second-leading rusher with 864 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. Martin also handled the punting duties.

“I only coached Adam during the past two years, but he played well beyond his years,” Cox said. “He took pride in how he played. I’m happy he is getting this opportunity. His stats are incredible and only tells part of the story. Adam always put our offense in good position to be successful.”
Cox said he never doubted Martin would play college football and said his new coach will learn quickly how valuable of a player he is.

Heber Springs’ Adam Martin waits to sign his letter-of-intent with Arkansas Tech University. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

“I told every coach once he gets in your program, you would see why,” Cox said. “Adam is the best high school quarterback I ever coached. His best attributes are leadership and he holds himself to a higher standard than others.”

Martin is expected to compete for playing time next season for the Wonder Boys, who tied for eighth place with East Central Oklahoma in the Great American Conference last season during head coach Kyle Shipp’s first season.

“Most likely, I will probably be redshirted, but that decision will not be made until after the August camp,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting to Tech. Coach Shipp takes pride in being a Wonder Boy (player and assistant coach before becoming head coach). The program is going in the right direction.”

Martin was one of three quarterbacks signed.

“I’m excited about all of the kids that we’re signing,” Shipp said. “I feel like it’s a very good class from top to bottom. This class is a building block to where we want to get to in the future. Along with our returning class we feel like this group will have the chance to be special.”

Martin said he is ready for the challenge and compared it to when he was summoned to the varsity during his freshman year for the Panthers.

“I already was playing junior high basketball and coach (Darren) Gowen came and told me I was going to be playing more football,” Martin said. “I learned a lot in those games. I have so many memories, but two of the highlights were winning at Southside Batesville during my junior year and defeating Riverview at senior night last season.”

Martin said it was special to play on the same field as his father, Danny.

Adam Martin poses with father, Danny, in front of the Heber Springs High School class of 1981 class portrait. Danny was a 1981 graduate of Heber Springs. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

“I built a lot of relationships in the locker room and the community,” he said. “It also was special playing where my dad and uncles did.”

Martin continues to play for the Heber Springs basketball team and will compete for the baseball squad before heading to Russellville.

“Learning a new playbook will be the first challenge,” he said. “I need to become more physically because Division II football is a different game than high school. I want to get it up to their standards.”

Martin will join former teammate, Julian Cameron, at Tech. Cameron signed with the Wonder Boys last spring and redshirted this past season.

Martin is also the fifth Panther football player in the past three seasons to sign to play college football joining Cameron (Arkansas Tech), Blaze Nelson (Lyon College), J.J. Bray (Southwest Baptist, Mo.) last year and Jacob Bremmon (Hendrix) in 2018.

RELATED ARTICLE: Arkansas Tech announces 2020 signing class

Adam Martin with his family.

ADAM MARTIN INTERVIEW

HEBER SPRINGS COACH WILL COX

FORMER HEBER SPRINGS COACH DARREN GOWEN

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Panthers crush the Comets, head to playoffs

November 2, 2018

By PHILIP SEATON

HEBER SPRINGS – The Heber Springs Panthers accomplished what they needed too in a 47-6 4A-2 victory over Little Rock Mills, and even left with a couple of records.

Coming into Friday night’s contest at Panther Stadium against winless Little Rock Mills, Heber Springs coach Darren Gowen had said he was more concerned about his team, how they played and more importantly, that his team just had fun.

It would be easy to say that happened on a night that seniors were honored before the game.

Senior running back Blaze Nelson rushed eight times for 198 yards and four touchdowns while the defense held Mills to 80 yards of total offense in the first half as the Panthers built up a 40-0 lead at the break and emptied the bench in the second half.

“We got everybody in there, even the foreign exchange students,” Gowen said. “It was great to take care of business like we needed to, get everybody on the field, stay healthy and get ready for the playoffs.”

Heber Springs (6-4, 6-1 in 4A-2) almost got a gift from the Central Arkansas Christian Mustangs on Friday night, but a last second field goal that would have sent that game into overtime fell short as Stuttgart claimed a 30-27 victory and the overall conference crown — a Ricebird loss would have given the Panthers a share of the 4A-2 title. 

Heber Springs will head into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed and host Pocahontas (4-6) Friday night at 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium.

Against the Comets, it didn’t take long for the Panthers to strike. After a 15-yard run by senior Dalton Hall on the games first play from scrimmage, Nelson raced past the Mills defenders for a 65-yard score. The Julian Cameron PAT kick made it 7-0 with 11:27 to play in the first quarter.

Mills followed with a nine-play drive that netted only seven yards but ate more than three minutes off the clock before Heber Springs would take over on Comet 44. After a pair of Nelson runs, Adam Martin connected with senior Rocky Finney for a 19-yard completion that put the ball on the 2. From there, Nelson would run up the middle to make 14-0 with 5:52 left in the first quarter.

Mills (0-10, 0-7) then put together a 14-play, 61-yard drive that netted nearly all of its first-half offense and pushed the ball to the Panther 18. But the Heber Springs first-team defense, which has allowed only four touchdowns during the Panther’s five-game winning streak to close the regular season, stopped the Comets a yard short on fourth-and-2.

Nelson took over from the carrying twice before finally breaking free on his third carry of the drive for a 76-yard touchdown run to make it 21-0 with 10:07 left to play in the first half.

Sophomore Matthew Cook got the ball right back for Heber Springs when he stepped in front of Braelon Adams pass attempt on the Comets first play from scrimmage on the drive and returned it 27 yards. 

The Panthers didn’t waste any time as Martin hit Finney in the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-0 with 9:28 left in the second quarter.

After a three-and-out, Hall tackled the Mills punter in the end zone for a safety to make it 30-0 at the 7:38 mark.

On the ensuing possession after the Comet free kick, Nelson raced 23 yards to score his 26th rushing touchdown of the season to make it 37-0 Heber Springs with 5:17 left in the half. The 26 rushing touchdowns by Nelson ties a school record set by Braylon Mitchell in 2009.

Heber Springs would add one more score in the first half when Cameron connected on a 35-yard field goal attempt with 11 seconds left on the clock.

With the Arkansas Activities Association Mercy Rule in effect in the second half, Heber Springs added one more score when sophomore Diego Rubio scored on a 17-yard run. Seth Dickeson hit the PAT kick to make 47-0 with 8:38 left in the third.

Mills’ Demetrius Abernathy set the final score with a six-yard run with 43 seconds to play in the third quarter.

TEAM STATS

First Downs: Heber Springs 10, Mills 10

Third-Downs: Heber Springs 2-5, Mills 2-8

Fourth-Downs: Heber Springs 0-0, Mills 2-4

Rushing Att.-Yards-Avg: Heber Springs 25-296-11.8, Mills 32-143-4.5

Passing Comp.-Att-Yards-Int: Heber Springs 4-5 67 0, Mills 5-11 54 2

Total Offense: Heber Springs 363, Mills 197

Sacks-Yards: Heber Springs 1-0, Mills 0-0

Penalties-Yards: Heber Springs 7-55, Mills 2-15

Fumbles-Lost: Heber Springs 0-0, Mills 4-1

Punts-Avg.: Heber Springs 1-53, Mills 2-26.5

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Rushing: Heber Springs, Blaze Nelson 8-198-4, Jackson West 5-17, Diego Rubio 4-31-1, Levy Phillips 4-31, Adam Martin 3-4, Dalton Hall 1-15. Mills, Braelon Adams 14-84, Terryn Withers 9-20, Malik Bean 4-33, Demetrius Abernathy 2-14, Favionne Bell 1-4, Logan Archer 1-(-2), Landen Epps 1-(-10).

Passing: Heber Springs, Adam Martin 4-5 67 1-0. Mills, Braleon Adams 5-11 54 0-2.

Receiving: Heber Springs, Rocky Finney 2-51-1, Seth Dickeson 1-9, Landon Johnson 1-7. Mills, Jaden Withers 4-42, Malik Bean 1-12.

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Panthers clinch No. 2 seed with mercy-rule win in Searcy

October 26, 2018

By PHILIP SEATON

SEARCY – Heber Springs scored 42 unanswered points and cruised to a 42-6 4A-2 win over Riverview Friday night at Raider Stadium.

The Panthers fourth-straight win clinched Heber Springs (5-4, 5-1 in the 4A-2) the No. 2 seed in the upcoming playoffs and a home game in the first-round, most likely against Pocahontas.

“I am just proud of the kids,” Heber Springs coach Darren Gowen said. “We got out of here healthy and with a win, and guaranteed ourselves of a No. 2 seed and first-round playoff game at home and possibly more.”

Senior Blaze Nelson rushed 21 times for 151 and three touchdowns while junior quarterback Adam Martin completed six of 14 passes for 151 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Panthers.

“Blaze had another great night and Adam threw the ball very well,” Gowen said. “He finally let a couple of them go and we didn’t catch them like we should have, but he threw it well.”

Heber Springs’ defense had another good night limiting Riverview (2-7, 1-5) to 128 yards of total offense with only 28 of those coming the second half.

Coupled with the week 8 shutout of Southside Batesville, the six points allowed by the Panther defense are the fewest allowed in back-to-back weeks since 1990 when Heber Springs shutout Dardanelle in week three and beat Yellville-Summit, 7-6, in week four.

Despite the fast finish, it was a slow start for the Panthers.

A holding penalty on the Heber Springs’ first possession negated a 20-yard, first-down run by Nelson forcing a punt, while an illegal procedure penalty helped stall out the Panthers second possession late in the first quarter.

It would be the Raiders that would strike first on six-play, 63-yard drive capped off by a 36-yard touchdown reception by Cade Trickey from Griffin Miller with 11:51 to play in the half. A bad snap on the PAT attempt made the score 6-0 in favor of Riverview.

“We didn’t have a great week of practice and that leads to not playing well on Friday night,” Gowen said. “It’s tough when you win several games against teams that look better in terms of records and scores, and it’s hard for the kids to play at the same level they have been playing when they do that.

“It took us a while to get going, but we got there.”

It wouldn’t take Heber Springs long to “get going” after the Raiders’ took the lead, in fact only 51 seconds. Two plays after the Riverview touchdown, Martin would connect with Tri Johnson on a short screen pass and the junior would do the rest racing 50 yards to give the Panthers the lead at 7-6 after the Julian Cameron PAT kick.

Three plays later, the Panthers would get the ball back after Fate Berry sacked Miller for a 10-yard loss causing the senior to cough up the football. Senior Dalton Hall picked up the ball at the 20 and almost scored before being brought down at the 1. Nelson would punch it in on the next play to make it 14-6 with 9:57 to play in the half. Miller was injured on the sack and would not return for Riverview.

Heber Springs threatened again late in the half after Martin connected with Johnson on a 36-yard pass play to put the ball at the Raider 38. Four runs moved the ball to the Raider 19 with less than a minute to play, but three pass attempts came up short leaving the score 14-6 at the half.

“I thought the defense played,” Gowen said. “We almost had a scoop and score, their quarterback went out and that kind of hamstrung them a little bit in terms of what they could do but we also figured out what they were doing. 

“In the second half, we just came out and shut them down, and our offense was able to score.”

And score they did on all four second-half possessions.

The first one came with 7:03 to play in the third when Nelson scored on an 18-yard touchdown run to make it 21-6.

The next tally came with 1:34 to play in the quarter when Martin connected with senior Rocky Finney on a 39-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-6.

After the Panther defense forced a three-and-out, Heber Springs struck again this time on a 5-yard run by Nelson, his 22nd rushing touchdown of the season, to make it 35-6 with 9:26 to play in the contest.

Tanner Tillman recovered a Raider fumble on the Riverview 14 three plays later and Hall would follow with six straight runs. His 1-yard scoring run would invoke the Arkansas Activities Association 35-point Mercy Rule with 5:32 left to play.

Heber Springs will look to a secure a winning season Friday night at home against winless Little Rock Mills. Seniors will be honored before Friday night’s game.

BY THE NUMBERS

TEAM STATS

First Downs: Heber Springs 13, Riverview 8

Third-Downs: Heber Springs 3-9, Riverview 4-15

Fourth-Downs: Heber Springs 2-4, Riverview 1-2

Rushing Att.-Yards-Avg: Heber Springs 29-171-5.9, Riverview 45-70-1.6

Passing Comp.-Att-Yards-Int: Heber Springs 6-14 151 0, Riverview 6-7 55 0

Total Offense: Heber Springs 314, Riverview 125

Sacks-Yards: Heber Springs 1-10, Riverview 1-8

Penalties-Yards: Heber Springs 4-30, Riverview 4-25

Fumbles-Lost: Heber Springs 1-0, Riverview 4-2

Punts-Avg.: Heber Springs 1-40, Riverview 4-36

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Rushing: Heber Springs, Blaze Nelson 21-151-3, Dalton Hall 6-19-1, Adam Martin 2-1, Riverview, Baylee Dillin 13-27, Griffin Miller 10-20, Landon Chandler 10-5, Santos Gutierrez 7-1, Xavier Duckett 3-20, Team 2-(-3). 

Passing: Heber Springs, Adam Martin 6-14 151 2-0. Riverview, Griffin Miller 4-4 54 1-0, Landon Chandler 2-2 1 0-0, Cade Trickey 0-1 0 0-0.

Receiving: Heber Springs, Tri Johnson 3-92-1, Rocky Finney 2-50-1, Matthew Cook 1-9. Riverview, Cade Trickey 3-40-1, Baylee Dillin 2-12, Carlos Munoz 1-3.

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Heber Springs blanks Southside Batesville, clinches playoff berth

October 19, 2018

By PHILIP SEATON

SOUTHSIDE BATESVILLE – Heber Springs did something Friday night only one other Panther football team has done this decade, and that was shut out an opponent.

Heber Springs used a “bend but don’t break” defense, two big pass plays and one long drive to claim a 21-0 4A-2 victory over Southside Batesville Friday night in a game that was played in a steady downpour at times.

“I’d take a one-point win, but 21-0?” Heber Springs coach Darren Gowen said. “I wasn’t thinking shutout, but the defense played incredible.”

The last time the Panthers blanked an opponent was on Oct. 5, 2012, a 54-0 victory at Marianna-Lee.

The Panther defense limited Southside Batesville (4-4, 2-3 in 4A-2) to 189 total yards, but only 57 yards and two first downs in the second half. 

“The defense just dominated in the second half,” Gowen said.

Heber Springs (4-4, 4-1) clinched a playoff berth with the win and have put themselves in a position to clinch a home playoff berth this week (the conference’s top three seeds get a first-round playoff game at home)”

“They put themselves in a position that they want to be in,” Gowen said of his team. “We just have to take care of business the next two weeks.”

It was a sluggish start for both teams Friday night.

The Panthers coughed up the football on the Southside 14 early in the contest. Later in the quarter, Tri Johnson recovered a muff punt return at the Southerner 18. However, the drive would stall and Julian Cameron’s 34-yard field goal attempt was blocked.

“We were kind of feeling each other out,” Gowen said. “I thought we back to doing some of our old stuff of just trying to figure out if we could play with them, block them, that sort of stuff. Then we realized that we could get after them.”

And “get after them” they did, early in the second quarter.

The Southerners put together their best drive of the night marching from their own 18 on a 14-play drive that stalled out at the Panther 22 with 9:59 left to go in the half. Southside had reached the Panther 11 before Alex Bryant held Alex Palmer to a two-yard gain on first down. Then Southside quarterback Koby Rich was called for intentional grounding on second down pushing the ball back to the 22. Two more pass attempts by Rich were also incomplete and Heber Springs took over on downs.

Junior quarterback Adam Martin carried for seven yards on first down, before senior Blaze Nelson took over. Nelson carried the ball eight times before scoring on a 20-yard run on his ninth carry. Cameron’s PAT kick made it 7-0.

After the Panther defense held the Southerner’s to a three-and-out, it was time for a trick play.

On first down from the Panther 43, Nelson took the pitch from Martin, pulled in the Southside defense in and lobbed the ball downfield where both Johnson and Rocky Finney were waiting for it wide open. Johnson took it and raced downfield for the score to make it 14-0 Heber Springs with 3:24 to play before halftime.

“He came back to me, ‘That was an awful pass’, and said, ‘No, that was a touchdown’,” Gowen said of Nelson. 

“We had that incredible drive were we ran every play and scored, and we were going to take a shot when we scored (that touchdown). We got a stop, got it back and that’s what we did.”

Gowen said the play had been set up the week prior against Bald Knob.

“We ran that formation three times last week, and they were all sweeps,” he said. “I knew they were going to be aggressive.

“I told him (Nelson) to catch it, act like you are going to run it, and just chunk it up there. It slipped out his hand a little bit, but Rocky and Tri were both wide open. We got it to Tri and he just out ran them to the end zone. That was a big play. It put us up two touchdowns at halftime.”
After a 29-yard kickoff return, Southside appeared to be cutting into that two-touchdown advantage reaching the Panther 10 with seconds remaining in the half. But Landon Johnson tipped the Rich pass attempt and Finney picked it off in the end zone to keep it 14-0 at the half.

“We talked about that play all week to Landon,” Gowen said. “‘You have to get under the curl. You have to get under the Curl’ and he did. He tipped it and then Rocky made the play.”

The Panthers sealed the game early in the fourth quarter when Martin connected with Finney at the Southside 40. Finney made a spin move on the defender, then out ran him to complete the 63-yard play to make it 21-0 with 9:25 left.

“I was probably too conservative (on the play calling in the second half),” Gowen said. “We knew with their coverage if we got the ball to him (Finney) quick, that he would probably have a big play. Didn’t know he would score, but he broke a tackle and did that.”

Justin Bray had a late interception with 3:40 let to play on a screen pass attempt to seal the win for Heber Springs.

“We worked on that all week because they do all of those screens,” Gowen said. “We worked on our d-linemen seeing it.

“We had just subbed him in. He saw the screen and they threw it right to him.”

Heber Springs finished with 307 yards of total offense, led by Nelson’s 148 yards on the ground on 29 attempts.

The Panthers travel to Searcy on Friday to tangle with Riverview for their final regular season road game of the season. A win by Heber Springs would clinch them the conference’s No. 2 seed and first-round playoff game at home against the No. 5 seed from the 4A-3 (either Gosnell or Pocahontas).

TEAM STATS

First Downs: Heber Springs 12, Southside 10

Third-Downs: Heber Springs 4-10, Southside 2-12

Fourth-Downs: Heber Springs 0-2, Southside 1-5

Rushing Att.-Yards-Avg: Heber Springs 40-192-4.8, Southside 39-130-3.3

Passing Comp.-Att-Yards-Int: Heber Springs 2-8 120 0, Southside 8-18 59 2

Total Offense: Heber Springs 307, Southside 189

Sacks-Yards: Heber Springs 0-0, Southside 1-5

Penalties-Yards: Heber Springs 3-15, Southside 5-41

Fumbles-Lost: Heber Springs 2-2, Southside 3-1

Punts-Avg.: Heber Springs 3-50, Southside 5-38

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Rushing: Heber Springs, Blaze Nelson 29-148-1, Dalton Hall 5-41, Adam Martin 3-7, Team 3-(-4). Southside, Brayden Duncan 19-55, Alex Palmer 12-44, Braden Jones 3-13, Koby Rich 2-14, Caden Huskey 2-8, Will Sitkowski 1-(-4).

Passing: Heber Springs, Adam Martin 1-7 63 1-0, Blaze Nelson 1-1 57 1-0. Southside, Koby Rich 5-10 40 0-1, Braden Jones 3-8 19 0-1.

Receiving: Heber Springs, Rocky Finney 1-63-1, Tri Johnson 1-57-1. Southside, Will Sitkowski 5-29, Kilynn Dugger 2-29, Caden Huskey 1-1. 

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Heber Springs’ Libby Stutts signs with Lyon College

Heber Springs senior guard Libby Stutts shows off her signed NAIA Letter-of-Intent with Lyon College on Tuesday at the Panther Den. With Stutts are her parents, Jared Stutts and Brandy Famer. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

October 22, 2019

Heber Springs senior guard Libby Stutts signed with Lyon College on Tuesday at a ceremony at the Panther Den.

Stutts signed with the NAIA school in Batesville surrounded by her family, friends, coaches and teammates. Stutts was the leading scorer for coach Jamey Riddle’s Lady Panther squad.

Stutts is the third Heber Springs athlete in the past two years to sign with Lyon College joining Nick Chaney (baseball) and Blaze Nelson (football), who are both freshmen this season.

She will be joining a Scots program that is coming off a 25-8 record in 2018-19 that saw coach Tracy Stewart-Lange’s squad reach the second-round of National Tournament, Lyon’s eighth consecutive appearance.

She will be the first Panther to play for the Lyon College’s women’s team since Sarah Adcock, who played at the Batesville school from 2000-2004. Adcock was a two-time all-conference performer for the Scots and is the seventh-leading all-time scorer at the American Midwest Conference school.

Stutts, who also plays soccer for the Panthers, and her Heber Springs teammates will open their season on Nov. 12 at home against Nemo Vista.

LIBBY STUTTS

HEBER SPRINGS COACH JAMEY RIDDLE

LYON COLLEGE COACH TRACY STEWART-LANGE

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Big return helps Panthers mercy-rule Bulldogs

October 12, 2018

By PHILIP SEATON

HEBER SPRINGS – The pomp and circumstance wasn’t relegated to the crowing of homecoming queen Carlei Douglas and her court before Friday’s night 4A-2 contest between Heber Springs and Bald Knob at Panther Stadium.

Senior Rocky Finney provided a little bit of his own with a 94-yard interception return for a touchdown that helped spark the Panthers to 21-point lead at the half as they cruised to a 42-14 mercy-rule victory over Bald Knob to improve to 3-1 in conference play.

After a 39-yard touchdown run by Blaze Nelson gave the Panthers a 21-7 lead with 4:15 to play in the second quarter, the two teams traded possession before the Bulldogs (3-4, 1-3) appeared to be driving for a score to make it a seven-point game.

Bulldog quarterback Johnson Capps had led his team from the Bald Knob 26 to the Heber Springs 27 with a pair of completions to Eli Mean, but with just over 21 seconds to play before the half, Capps was looking for Mean again when Finney stepped in front of the pass in full stride from the Panther 6. He wouldn’t stop until he found the Bulldog end zone to give Heber Springs a 28-7 lead.

It was Finney’s third interception in the past two weeks.

“Last week, I had two that I took pretty far, but I didn’t get into the end zone,” Finney said. “On this one, I was determined to not let them stop me.”

And determined he was.

After racing down the Panther sideline, he split of pair of Bulldog offensive linemen near the Panther 35, cut across the field and avoided five tackle attempts before reaching the Bald Knob sidelines at the Bulldog 40 where he outran the Bald Knob players pursuing him for the score.

“The play of the game was Rocky’s interception,” Heber Springs coach Darren Gowen said. “He weaves back-and-forth, through people and around them, and takes it to the house.

“It put us up three touchdowns and we get the ball to start the second half. We go and score and put the mercy rule on them early in the second half.”

Finney finished the night with 290 all-purpose yards, including 157 yards receiving on seven receptions.

“You have a special guy and he is starting to come on,” Gowen said. “The last two weeks he has played really well.

“It’s a tribute to the way he practices, and he’s had two really good weeks of practicing hard. He’s showing out in games and I’m just proud of him.”

It was a big night for Nelson. The senior topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season with 127 yards on 18 carries for three touchdowns. He now has 1,050 yards on the ground.

His first score came with 11:40 to play in the second quarter with a five-yard run to cap off a nine play, 70-yard drive. After the Julian Cameron extra point, the Panthers led 7-0.

Bald Knob answered with its own nine play, 65-yard drive to tie things up at 7-all with 7:41 to play before the half after Capps connected with Mean for a 13-yard pass.

The Panthers wasted little time taking the lead as junior quarterback Adam Martin scored on a 1-yard sneak at the 6:04 mark of the second quarter to make it 14-7.

Martin finished the night completing 17 of 21 pass attempts for 232 yards.

One those passes, a 22-yarder to Finney, helped push the Panthers from the 50 to Bald Knob 28 on Heber Springs’ first drive of the second half. After Nelson carried three times to move the ball for the Bulldog 11, senior Dalton Hall took over picking up nine yards before scoring on a two-yard run with 8:40 to play in the third to put Heber Springs up 35-7.

After sophomore Matthew Cook picked up off a Capps pass at the Panther 13, Heber Springs marched 87 yards in nine plays as Nelson scored from five yards out with 4:14 to play in the third quarter. That score invoked the Arkansas Activities Association 35-point Mercy Rule which meant the clock would continuously run for the rest of the game.

Heber Springs will travel to Southside Batesville this week to tangle with the Southerners.

“When this game was over, I told them great job and it’s Southside week now,” Gowen said. “Last time we went there, they beat us and kept us from an outright conference championship.

“Last year, (they came here and) we kept them from being undefeated. They are going to be out for us.”

TEAM STATS

First Downs: Heber Springs 19, Bald Knob 16

Third-Downs: Heber Springs 2-8, Bald Knob 4-10

Fourth-Downs: Heber Springs 3-4, Bald Knob 1-1

Rushing Att.-Yards-Avg: Heber Springs 32-225-7, Bald Knob 25-133-5.3

Passing Comp.-Att-Yards-Int: Heber Springs 17-21 232 0, Bald Knob 11-23 100 2

Total Offense: Heber Springs 452, Bald Knob 233

Sacks-Yards: Heber Springs 0-0, Bald Knob 1-5

Penalties-Yards: Heber Springs 6-50, Bald Knob 3-24

Fumbles-Lost: Heber Springs 2-0, Bald Knob 1-1

Punts-Avg.: Heber Springs 1-28, Bald Knob 4-29.5

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Rushing: Heber Springs, Blaze Nelson 18-127-3, Levy Phillips 6-27, Dalton Hall 5-40-1, Adam Martin 2-14-1, Rocky Finney 1-17. Bald Knob, Josh Clark 8-47, Johnson Capps 6-30, Michael Wingo 5-29, Blain Willard 4-23, Tyrese Dinwiddie 2-4.

Passing: Heber Springs, Adam Martin, 17-21 232 0-0. Bald Knob, Johnson Capps 11-23 100 2-2.

Receiving: Heber Springs, Rocky Finney 7-157, Blaze Nelson 5-8, Dalton Hall 3-41, Fate Berry 1-22, Matthew Cook 1-4. Bald Knob, Eli Mean 5-74-1, Blain Willard 3-7, Colton Collins 2-13-1, Josh Clark 1-6.

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Panthers run free on Mustang Mountain, crush CAC

October 5, 2018

By PHILIP SEATON

NORTH LITTLE ROCK – Heber Springs scored 42 unanswered points and cruised to 52-21 victory over Central Arkansas Christian in 4A-2 conference play Friday.

The Panthers trailed 14-10 with just over four minutes to play in the first half before junior quarterback Adam Martin connected with senior Rocky Finney for a 39-yard touchdown pass to put the Panthers up, 17-14. Heber Springs (2-4, 2-1 in the 4A-2) added another touchdown late in the first half and then scored on it’s four possessions of the second half to claim the win.

The 52 points were the most scored by a Panther team since Sept. 16, 2016, when Heber Springs defeated Stuttgart, 56-29.

Senior Blaze Nelson paced the Panthers with 180 yards rushing and four touchdowns as Heber Springs finished the night with 326 yards on the ground as team.

“I wouldn’t want to run behind any other line,” Nelson said. “They were great all night with the blocks.”

Coming into the contest, Heber Springs coach Darren Gowen, who improved to 3-1 as head coach against CAC, said he wanted to take away the Mustang running attack and make them one dimensional. 

CAC (3-3, 2-1) finished with 153 yards on the ground, with a majority of those yards coming on a fourth-quarter, 58-yard touchdown run by CAC’s Krishaun Watson.

“Their run game turned into screens (passes),” Gowen said. “So we did a pretty good job there. We knew if we kept forcing them have to make plays, we would have chances (at interceptions).” 

The Panther defense did take advantage of those chances as Finney picked off two Palmer Gilbrech pass attempts while Fate Berry added another interception.

“Those were big plays for us,” Gowen said.

Each interception led to a Panther touchdown with Finney’s first pick coming late in the first half with the Mustangs driving into Panther territory. After a 55-yard return, Nelson would run the ball into the end zone a few plays to put Heber Springs up 24-14 at the half.

The Panthers also picked up three CAC fumbles to finish the game with a season-high six takeaways.

Heber Springs returns to Panther Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday for Homecoming. The Panthers will face Bald Knob (3-3, 1-2), a 35-0 loser to Stuttgart last week.

QUICK START

The first of the six CAC turnovers came on the Mustangs first play from scrimmage as Dalton Hall stripped Watson of the football after a 10-yard run and Nelson pounced on it to give Heber Springs possession at the Mustang 48.

The Panthers first drive appeared to stall at the 41, but on fourth-and-3, Martin found Finney all alone for a 38-yard completion. 

“We saw some stuff (on film that) they were doing that we thought we could take advantage of,” Gowen said. “Rocky ran a great route, Adam found him and that got us down there. Then we scored.”

That score would come on the next play as Nelson punched it in from three yards out to put Heber Springs up, 7-0, after the Julian Cameron PAT, with 9:39 to play in the first quarter.

“I told our kids we have got to start early,” Gowen said. “We haven’t started early yet (all season).

“We come out and get a turnover on the first play, and offensively we haven’t clicked on the first drive all season, then we had to have a big play on fourth down.”

FORMER JUNIOR PANTHER 

Last season, Palmer Gilbrech was quarterbacking the Heber Springs Junior High team, but the sophomore transferred to CAC over the summer and he would lead his new team downfield on a 10-play, 74-yard drive to tie things up 7-7 with 5:10 left in the first quarter.

After connecting with Gentry Miller on a 31-yard completion to push the ball into Panther territory, CAC faced a fourth-and-9 when Finney broke up the third-down pass attempt by Gilbrech. But the sophomore used his legs for an 11-yard, first-down run, and three plays later connected with Brock Hendrix for a 19-yard score.

CHANGE OF FOOTBALLS

Neither team could hold onto the football to close out the first quarter.

Heber Springs went first. After a Hall 21-yard run had moved the ball to the CAC 38 at the 4:38 mark, the Panthers coughed it up on the next play.

Three plays later, the Mustangs would return the favor when Julio Rubio would fall on a loose football at the CAC 43 with 3:41 left in the first.

On the Panthers first play of the possession, they would again lose control of the pigskin as the Mustangs recovered it on their own 44.

After a 33-yard Gilbrech to Crews pass put the Mustangs deep in Panther territory, Nelson would recover the football for Heber Springs at the CAC 14 with 1:31 showing on the first quarter clock.

“Blaze continued to have a good night after I changed the footballs out,” Gowen said jokingly after the game. “I had slick footballs in there for those two possessions. That was my fault. I must have gave them the wrong footballs. 

“We changed that and got some sandpaper balls out.”

OLE, OLE, OLE

A large contingent of Heber Springs students made the trip to North Little Rock on Friday to follow the Panthers.

During the season, the group has used the popular soccer chant, “Ole, Ole, Ole,” to cheer on kicker Julian Cameron, who is also a member of the Panther soccer team, whenever he gets a chance to get kick.

On Heber Springs’ next possession, the students got their chance.

Nelson gained 26 yards on four carries to move the ball to the Panther 44.

Martin then connected with Hall for a 38-yard completion before the Heber Springs drive fizzled out at the Mustang 21.

Cameron came on and booted the 38-yarder through the uprights to give the Panthers a 10-7 advantage with 10:38 to play before the half.

“It’s always great to have that in your backpocket when you get inside the 30- to 25-yard line,” Gowen said. “I don’t want to settle for field goals often, but that puts us up right there.”

FOURTH-DOWN CONVERSIONS

The Mustangs responded with an 11-play, 70-yard drive to go up 17-14 with 6:54 to play in the half as Gilbrech connected with Miller for a 14-yard touchdown pass. The big play on the drive came when Gilbrech found Crews for a 24-yard, first-down pass completion on a fourth-and-6 play from the Panther 38.

Heber Springs’ did likewise on its next possession. Facing a fourth-and-2 from the Mustang 46, Nelson carried for seven yards before Martin found Finney for the 39-yard touchdown pass on the next play to put the Panthers up 17-14 with 4:06 to play in the second quarter.

The Panthers wouldn’t trail again.

PUSHING AND SHOVING

The Mustangs appeared ready to have an answer to Heber Springs’ score as they moved the ball into Panther territory.

But Finney stepped in front of a Gilbrech pass at the Panther 22 and raced to the Mustang 28 before things got a little touchy.

Both teams were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the play continued on the Mustang sidelines as Fate Berry continued his block on the return. Those penalties offset each other, but the Mustangs were flagged an additional 15 yards after a player allegedly said something to an official.

“We had a big turnover there,” Gowen said. “Rocky steps in front of one, and Fate’s doing a great job blocking a kid (on the return). He kinda off blocks him over to the track and the kid didn’t like it.

“You never know with young kids, but Fate did a good job of keeping his cool. I just pulled him away just to let him know that we needed him stay in the game, and that we needed him next week too.”

A player ejection would have carried over to the next week.

That series of events seemed to fire-up the Panthers.

After an officials inadvertent whistle cost Nelson a nice gain on the first play from scrimmage, Martin connected with Finney to move the ball to the 2. Nelson would score on the next play to put Heber Springs up, 24-14 with 49 seconds left in the half.

SECOND-HALF STRONG

At halftime, Gowen told his team that they needed to “impose our will” on the first drive.

“We had a 10-point lead, and we could put a lot of pressure on them if we go down there and score,” he said. “If we go down and have a drive to stall or turn it over, then they go score then it’s a ballgame.”

Evidently the players were listening to their coach as the Panthers took to the ground.

Nelson picked up 17 on two carries to move the ball to the Panther 37. After a seven-yard run by Martin, Hall gained 27 to push it the Mustang 29 before Nelson would finish off the drive with a 29-yard run to put Heber Springs in control, 31-14, with 10:18 to play in the third quarter.

“We had a full house backfield with him,” Gowen said of Nelson. “He showed his speed, ran down the sideline and scored. He’s a special dude.”

ONE MORE CARRY

Nelson needs 71 more yards to top the thousand-yard rushing mark for the season, and if the football field had been longer Friday night, he might have gotten all of that on his last rushing attempt of the night.

After the Panther defense had forced the Mustangs to turn the ball over on downs with 7:24 left in the quarter at the Panther 35, Nelson ran to the left, made a defender miss, spun past two more defenders and then raced 65 yards to put Heber Springs up 38-14 at the 7:11 mark of the third.

“We were thinking we could come out and hit ‘em in the mouth,” Nelson said. “At that point, you could tell they were down on each other, they were tired and wore out.

“We just kept going.”

RUBIO TIME

After Berry picked-off a Gilbrech pass at the Panther 35, Martin found Nelson for a 13-yard gain on a screen pass before Hall carried two more times to move the ball to the Mustang 35.

From there, Julio Rubio got a chance to carry the football and five plays later he found paydirt for his first touchdown of the season on a 14-yard run with 1:22 to go in the third. Heber Springs led 45-14 at the point.

ONE-MORE PICK

Rocky Finney was not done. 

On the Mustangs’ ensuing possession, the senior stepped in front the Gilbrech pass attempt at the Panther 14 and raced 61 yards to put the ball deep in CAC territory at the 25.

“I just watched the quarterback,” Finney said. “I seen my guy in front of me, so I just focused on where he was and placed myself in the perfect position.”

Five plays later, sophomore Nicholas Hitchcock scored his first touchdown of his senior high career with a 3-yard run to make it 52-14 with 9:02 to play and invoking the Arkansas Activities Association 35-point mercy-rule, which meant a continuous running clock the rest of the contest. 

Senior Seth Dickeson connected on his first PAT kick of the season.

BIG NUMBERS

Heber Springs finished with 469 yards of total offense on the night as neither team attempted a punt.

Rocky Finney had 207 all-purpose yards on the night while Blaze Nelson finished with 192 yards of total offense.

“I haven’t been matching the intensity of my teammate, Blaze,” Finney said, “so I wanted to step up and contribute to the team as he does.”

Dalton Hall also finished over the century mark with 102 yards of total offense.

BY THE NUMBERS

TEAM

First Downs: Heber Springs 20, CAC 21

Third-Downs: Heber Springs 2-5, CAC 4-9

Fourth-Downs: Heber Springs 2-2, CAC 2-4

Rushing Att.-Yards-Avg: Heber Springs 41-326-8, CAC 26-153-5.9

Passing Att.-Comp-Yards-Int: Heber Springs 6-9-143-0, CAC 20-32-247-3

Total Offense: Heber Springs 469, CAC 393

Sacks-Yards: Heber Springs 1-7, CAC 0-0

Penalties-Yards: Heber Springs 9-65, CAC 5-50

Fumbles-Lost: Heber Springs 4-2, CAC 3-3

Punts-Avg.: Heber Springs 0-0, CAC 0-0

INDIVIDUAL

Rushing: Heber Springs, Blaze Nelson 18-180-4, Julio Rubio 9-67-1, Dalton Hall 6-65, Nicholas Hitchcock 3-15-1, Adam Martin 3-7, Team 2-(-8). CAC, Krishaun Watson 11-108-1, Blake Smith 9-25-1, Palmer Gilbrech 6-20.

Passing: Heber Springs, Adam Martin 6-9 143 1-0. CAC, Palmer Gilbrech 20-31 247 1-3, Eli Garrison 0-1 0 0-0.

Receiving: Heber Springs, Rocky Finney 3-94-1, Dalton Hall 2-37, Blaze Nelson 1-12. CAC, Brock Hendrix 5-75-1, Seth Crews 5-72, Gentry Miller 4-48, Krishaun Watson 2-11, Garrett Overstreet 1-17, Eli Jenkins 1-14, Eli Garrison 1-8, Blake Smith 1-2.

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Panther rally comes up three points short against Stuttgart

September 28, 2018

By PHILIP SEATON

HEBER SPRINGS – Heber  Springs trailed by 16 or more points three different times in the third quarter, but it took Stuttgart killing the final 4:19 of the contest to hold off the Panthers and claim a 36-33 4A-2 victory Friday night at Panther Stadium.

Heber Springs trailed, 36-19, when Dalton Hall broke free for a 44-yard touchdown run with 27.5 seconds left to play in the third quarter to make it 36-26.

After the Panther defense stopped the Ricebirds on a fourth-and-9 play on the Heber Springs 11 with 9:59 to play, Heber Springs would pull to within a field goal on an Adam Martin 10-yard touchdown run with 4:19 to go.

But Stuttgart (3-1, 2-0), picked up three first downs on its ensuing possession to kill the clock and preserve the victory.

“I couldn’t be more proud of how they played,” Heber Springs coach Darren Gowen said of his team.  “We made mistake after mistake, but we played so hard that we could make up for it.

“The offense played awful in the first half and that’s my fault. I didn’t get them ready to go. But in the second half, we made a few adjustments, the defense kept us in the game and we just didn’t do quite enough to get it done.”

The Panthers rushed for 221 yards on 35 attempts led Blaze Nelson’s 116 yards on 20 carries. Nelson finished with two touchdowns along with Martin, while Hall added another score to go with 54 yards on the ground.

Stuttgart’s David Walker did most of the damage for the Ricebirds. The senior finished with 111 yards rushing on 17 carries with three touchdowns and also added 96 yards on four receptions.

“He is a difference maker,” Gowen said of Walker. “A guy that can run like that, jump over people, at 240 pounds that just tough. Our young men, they just look so small compared to him but they just got after him all night long.”

Heber Springs fell to 1-4 overall with the loss and 1-1 in the conference. The Panthers will look to bounce back on Friday when they travel to Mustang Mountain in North Little Rock to tangle with Central Arkansas Christian. The Mustangs are 2-0 in conference play, joining Stuttgart as the only two remaining teams unbeaten in the 4A-2.

“We came up short, but we got after it, and that’s all I can ask them to do,” Gowen said. “We still have a lot of football left to go. We’ll get back to work and go see what we can do.”

SLOW START

It didn’t take long for Stuttgart to get on the board. The Ricebirds took the opening kickoff and moved the ball from their own 37 and jumped out on top, 7-0, with 9:26 left to playing in the opening quarter. A big two-play sequence did in the Panthers on the drive. On third-and-9 from the Heber Springs 47, Stuttgart quarterback Tim Johnson connected with Davion Grayham to push the ball to the Panther 24. On the next play, a personal foul penalty against the Panthers moved the ball to the Heber Springs 13 where Walker would take the next two carries before powering his way from the 1 to score.

On Heber Springs’ first possession of the contest, Nelson carried 12 yards to give the Panthers a first down. Three plays later, the Panthers picked up another first down on a third-and-4 play, but a fumble gave the ball back to the Ricebirds with 6:34 to play in the first quarter.

But the Panther defense stiffened, forcing a three-and-out and a Stuttgart punt from its own 45. Walker got off a nice kick for the Ricebirds and got a friendly roll. When it the ball finally stopped, it was on the Heber Springs 5.

BACKWARDS PASS

On the first play from scrimmage, Martin dropped back to the 1 and attempted to hook up with Rocky Finney in the end zone for a double pass, but the ball was off target and rolled out of the back of the end zone for a safety to make it 9-0 Stuttgart with 5:19 to play.

Stuttgart took the free kick from the Panthers and put together an 11-play drive that put the ball on the Panther 18, but Johnson coughed up the football and Matthew Cook pounced on the ball for Heber Springs on its own 27 with 16 seconds left in the opening quarter.

MIRROR DRIVES

The two teams almost mirrored each other in the second quarter.

First it was the Panthers. Heber Springs moved the ball from its own 27 to the Stuttgart 26 as Martin connected with Tri Johnson first for a 16-yard completion and then three plays later with Nelson on a 14-yard strike. But the drive stalled and the Panthers turned the ball over on downs.

Stuttgart followed by getting a big pass play on second-and-25 from its own 11 as Johnson hit Walker for a short pass and Walker did the rest for a 45-yard gain. Fate Berry brought down Walker on a touchdown-saving tackle. The Ricebirds reached the Panther 22 before they too stalled and turned the ball over downs.

Both teams followed with three-and-out possessions and Heber Springs took over on its own 9 with 1:46 to play in the first half. On the first play of the drive, the Panthers coughed up the football and Walker recovered it for Stuttgart on the Heber Springs 2. Walker would then follow with a 2-yard run to make it 16-0 with 1:31 to go before halftime.

CHASING POINTS

Heber Springs would respond. After Finney picked up 19 yards on the ensuing return, the Panthers would get another big play from the senior. He caught a short pass from Martin, made a Ricebird defender miss and raced 44 yards before being run out of bounds at the Stuttgart 12. Four plays later, Martin would keep the ball and plunge in from the 3. The Panthers went for two, but were stopped and trailed 16-6 with 32.9 seconds left to play in the first half.

“We probably chased some points early that I shouldn’t have and been down one (near the end of the game), maybe go for two late,” Gowen said. “but it is what is.

“I can’t be more proud of these kids. These kids don’t quit. Panthers don’t quit.”

NOT LOOKING GOOD

The second half didn’t start off well for the Panthers.

First, the Stuttgart defense forced Heber Springs to a three-and-out on the Panthers first possession. Then, it was Walker again. After taking over near midfield after the punt, the senior ran through tacklers and raced 52 yards on the Ricebirds second play from scrimmage in the second half to give Stuttgart a 22-6 lead with 9:39 to play in the third. The kick attempt was no good for Stuttgart.

“PANTHERS DON’T QUIT”

Heber Springs took the kickoff from its own 38, marched down field and responded. On fourth-and-1 from the Panther 47, Martin kept the ball on quarterback sneak to move the chains. Back-to-back first downs followed for Heber Springs as Martin connected with Berry for an 11-yard gain and Nelson ran for 10 more yards. Two plays, Martin found Johnson for a 16-yard completion and Nelson finished off the drive with a 7-yard run with 7:09 to play in the quarter to make it 22-12. The two-point conversion was no good.

DOWN BY 17

The Ricebirds responded with a nice drive of their own. Taking over on its own 37, Stuttgart moved the ball to the Panther 11, thanks in part to a 33-yard run by Walker. On third-and-3 at the 11, Samuel Hilborn and Tanner Tillman held Quin Nelson to a two-yard gain to force a fourth-and-1. But Nelson would follow with an eight-yard run and then punch it into the end zone one play later to give Stuttgart a 29-12 advantage with 3:01 to play in the third.

WILD THREE MINUTES

It took the Panthers 23 seconds to respond to the Ricebirds. After a 30-yard kickoff return by Nelson, Heber Springs took over on its own 47. From there, Nelson showed he wasn’t finished taking the handoff and racing 47 yards for the score to make it 29-19 after the Julian Cameron PAT kick.

However, two plays and 16 seconds later, the Ricebirds were back up by 17 points. First Derrick Amos ran for 21 and then Johnson connected with Grayham for a 22-yard touchdown pass to make it 36-19 at the 2:22 mark of the third.

After a 15-yard kickoff return and a six-yard run by Nelson, Martin would connect with Johnson for seven yards and a first down. Two plays later, Hall would take the ball, find a seam and outrace a pair of Ricebird defenders to make a 36-26 game with 27.5 seconds left to play in the quarter.

BIG DRIVE, BIG HIT

After the Ricebirds turned the ball over on downs, Heber Springs took over on its own 11 with 9:59 to play. Martin would find Finney for a first-down catch before Nelson would carry the ball four straight times for 28 yards and a pair of first downs.

A penalty against the Panthers pushed the ball back five yards. Martin would then scramble for a 12-yard gain before stepping out of bounds, but a late hit against Stuttgart would tack on 15 more yards. Another personal foul penalty against the Ricebirds would push the ball to the Stuttgart 12. Two plays later, Martin would find paydirt after scrambling to his right, reversing  field to his left for the 10-yard touchdown run to make it 36-33 with 4:19 to play.

TIME KILLERS

The Panthers needed the ball back, but Stuttgart didn’t oblige. On first down, Walker was stopped for a one-yard loss by Berry and Hall. But on the next play, Johnson dumped a pass to Walker, who gained 28 yards and a first down.

Walker again did in Heber Springs on third-and-2 with a three-yard run and another first down.

Three plays later, and the Panthers out of timeouts, Walker carried for five more yards on a third-and-3 to seal the win for the Ricebirds.

BY THE NUMBERS

TEAM

First Downs: Heber Springs 19, Stuttgart 22

Third-Down Percentage: Heber Springs 4-8, Stuttgart 4-12

Fourth-Down Percentage: Heber Springs 1-2, Stuttgart 2-4

Rushing Att.-Yards-Avg: Heber Springs 35-221-6.3, Stuttgart 48-191-4.0

Passing Att.-Comp.-Yards-Int: Heber Springs 11-18-147-0, Stuttgart 12-23-200-0

Total Offense: Heber Springs 368, Stuttgart 391

Sacks-Yards: Heber Springs 0-0, Stuttgart 0-0

Penalties-Yards: Heber Springs 5-35, Stuttgart 5-50

Fumbles-Lost: Heber Springs 3-3, Stuttgart 2-1

Punts-Avg.: Heber Springs 2-27.5, Stuttgart 2-44.5

INDIVIDUAL

Rushing: Heber Springs – Heber Springs, Blaze Nelson 20-116-2, Adam Martin 10-46-2, Dalton Hall 4-54-1, Landon Johnson 1-5. Stuttgart, David Walker 17-111-3, Quin Nelson 12-24-1, Derrick Amos 9-59, Tim Johnson 5-3, Team 3-(-14), Tyion Berry 1-7, Kobe Robinson 1-1.

Passing: Heber Springs – Adam Martin 11-17 147 0-0, Rocky Finney 0-1 0 0-0. Stuttgart: Tim Johnson 11-22 169 1-0, Mitchell Stovesand 1-1 31 0-0.

Receiving: Heber Springs – Tri Johnson 5-64, Rocky Finney 2-54, Blaze Nelson 1-14, Fate Berry 1-11, Dalton Hall 1-4, Matthew Cook 1-0. Stuttgart – David Walker 4-96, Davion Grayham 4-77-1, John Hoskyn 1-15, Quin Nelson 1-7, Rhett Bohanon 1-5, Derrick Amos 1-0.

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