The Heber Springs Panthers couldn’t overcome a slow start and lost to Ozark 57-28 in a 4-4A Conference basketball game at the Panther Den Friday.
It was the conference opener for the Hillbillies. The Panthers lost their conference opener at Subiaco Academy last week.
Ozark (1-0 in conference, 9-1 overall) built a 16-3 first-quarter lead and never trailed. The Panthers (0-2 in conference, 1-10 overall) picked up the pace during the second quarter. Ozark outscored Heber Springs 14-11 and led 30-14 at halftime.
The Hillbillies didn’t slow down during the second half and increased their lead to 43-22 going into the fourth quarter.
Garrett Schaffer scored a game-high 30 points for Ozark. Jaxson Harris had 12 points. Conner Riddle led the Panthers with 11 points.
Heber Springs will not play again until at Sheridan on Dec. 30. Home games scheduled this week with Newport and Cedar Ridge were canceled.
The next scheduled home game will be against Rose Bud on Jan. 2.
The season’s first win didn’t come easy for the Heber Springs Panthers. Heber Springs went on a 19-4 third-quarter scoring run and pulled away with a 55-41 nonconference basketball win against the Shirley Blue Devils at the Panther Den Tuesday.
The Panthers trailed late in the second quarter, but Bauer Pruitt’s 3-pointer with seconds left sent the team into the dressing room with a 28-27 halftime lead. Heber Springs led 47-31 going into the fourth quarter.
Heber Springs ended a 24-game losing streak. The last win came at Dover (37-32) on Dec. 10, 2019.
“These guys have been through so much for the past two weeks,” coach Dusty West said. “The players kept fighting after they played three tough opponents (Batesville, Greenbrier and Guy-Perkins). We took our licks in those games. The players showed their maturity and composure.”
Ryan Crocker led a balanced scoring attack with 11 points for the Panthers. Conner Riddle and Gus Hannah each had eight points. Nash Little scored a game-high 17 points for Shirley. Arrick Nowell contributed nine points.
“It was a fun night, and they deserved this win,” West said. “The players refused to lose. Before the game, I drew a line on the board and told the players we will do what is needed to get across this line.”
Heber Springs held a four-point for most of the first quarter. Shirley tied the game at 7-7 midway through the quarter before back-to-back 3-pointers by Crocker and Zach Thomas broke the deadlock. Shirley pulled to within 13-12, but the Panthers answered and held an 18-13 lead going into the second quarter.
The Blue Devils remained close and took their first lead on Little’s 3-pointer, 26-25, with 1:30 left in the first half. Little made 1-of-2 free throws before Pruitt’s 3-pointer gave Heber Springs a 28-27 halftime lead.
“Our depth was a factor in the second half,” West said. “Shirley had two good shooters, and we did a good job defending them. This was a good way to go into Thanksgiving.”
Heber Springs (1-4) will return to action by hosting Conway St. Joseph at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“It will be a challenge and a tough matchup,” West said. “The players are hungry after getting that first win.”
Heber Springs started a tough two-game stretch before Thanksgiving week with a 71-40 loss to Batesville in a nonconference basketball game at the Panther Den Tuesday.
Batesville built a 26-6 lead by the end of the first quarter and increased it to 45-20 by halftime. The Panthers trailed 67-29 going into the fourth quarter.
“You could tell that Batesville is a senior team,” Heber Springs coach Dusty West said. “They have played together for four years and were playing in mid-season form. Batesville made a lot of shots and has a great post in J.P. Morgan. We didn’t have an answer for him, but battled as best we could. Morgan’s physical strength and basketball skill were on a different level.”
Sophomore Conner Riddle, who just completed the football season, scored 10 points for the Panthers in his season debut. Bauer Pruitt, also a sophomore, added seven points.
Morgan led the Pioneers with a game-high 21 points. Caden Griffin had 11 points.
West, who assumed the head coach duties last week, took over Heber Springs program following the resignation of Scott Bramlett, hopes his players will follow Batesville’s example in the future. Thirteen of the Panthers’ 16 players are underclassmen.
“After the game, I told the guys that is the type of a team we want to become,” West said. “We want to push the ball up and down the floor, pass the ball inside and throw it out to the perimeter and make 3-pointers.”
West said his team’s second-half performance illustrated what the future may hold.
“I was happy with our effort,” he said. “Despite trailing by double digits, we still were taking charges, hustling for loose balls and fighting for rebounds. “We played well during the second half and executed better.”
Heber Springs (0-2) will host nonconference rival Greenbrier on Thursday.
“The players were energetic and positive in the locker room after the game,” West said. “They are ready to get back on the floor against Greenbrier on Thursday. Greenbrier will test us, and we hope to show how much fight we have. I prefer playing these type of nonconference games, so we can become a better team and prepare for conference play.”
Heber Springs will play Guy-Perkins, Shirley, South Side Bee Branch, Conway St. Joseph, Riverview and Searcy before the start 4-4A Conference opener at Subiaco Academy on Dec. 11. The home conference opener will be against Ozark on Dec. 18.
The Panthers will play finish Cedar Ridge, Newport, Sheridan, Rose Bud and Clinton before resuming conference play at Morrilton on Jan. 5.
“I told the players not to get caught up with the number of wins and losses, but work to get better and hope it leads to winning conference games,” West said. “The nonconference schedule will benefit us in the long run.”
The Panthers gained six new players — Zach Thomas, Gus Hannah, Dakota Farmer, Riddle, Austin Winchester and Wyatt Winchester — following completion of the football season. West said those players are currently in transition and will become more involved in future games.
“We will be trying to establish our rotation and work with the football players on basketball conditioning,” West said. “You will see the team come more together as the season goes. We have a lot of room for growth. The players have potential.”
Batesville 26 19 22 4–71 Heber Springs 6 14 9 11–40 Batesville scorers — J.P. Morgan 21, Caden Griffin 11, Gunner Shell 8, K.J. Cross 6, John Morgan 6, Kyrese Johnson 6, Wes Lange 5, Logan McSpadden 4, Ben Hopper 2, Kolby Young 2. Heber Springs scorers — Conner Riddle 10, Bauer Pruitt 7, Gus Hannah 5, Dakota Farmer 4, Zach Thomas 4, Harley Bresnahan 4, J.T. Spears 3, Joseph Ferris 2, Zach Stogsdill 1.
A tale of two halves best described Friday’s 2-4A Conference football game between Bald Knob and Heber Springs at Panther Stadium.
The Panthers (0-4 conference, 1-6 overall) led 7-0 at halftime, but the Bulldogs (2-2 conference, 5-3 overall) dominated the second half for a 35-15 win and spoiled Heber Springs’ homecoming.
Bald Knob scored touchdowns after four Heber Springs turnovers and outgained the Panthers, 238-92 in the second half. The Panthers compiled 61 of their 92 yards during the second half on the final possession, which ended with a touchdown.
Heber Springs had six turnovers for the game — four interceptions and two fumbles, including an onside kickoff. The Bulldogs finished with a 341-203 advantage in total offense.
“Bald Knob beat us on the line of scrimmage,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “They knew that they could run the ball against us, which opened up their passing game. We couldn’t move the ball in the second half.”
Bald Knob quarterback Leason Pierce completed 13-of-23 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns. Pierce was only 2-of-6 passing for 24 yards in the first half.
“The defense played well in the first half,” Wood said. “Bald Knob’s size on the line wore us down in the second half.”
Heber Springs held Bald Knob to 1-of-6 third-down conversions in the first half. The Bulldogs turned the tables in the final two quarters by converting 5-of-7 third-down plays.
The Panthers had 3-of-6 third down conversions in the first half and 3-of-5 in the second half. Heber Springs was 2-of-2 during its final scoring drive. Bald Knob was successful on 2-of-8 fourth down plays, while the Panthers were 0-of-4.
“Our guys were still trying to keep battling,” Wood said. “The big issue were the turnovers and not adjusting to quick changes. We must learn how to fight through that. You can’t win games with that many turnovers.”
Heber Springs quarterback Matthew Cook completed 13-of-27 passes for 91 yards with four interceptions. Nathan McKee caught seven passes for 38 yards. Diego Rubio had 35 yards rushing on eight carries and scored one touchdown.
“We had a good drive on our first possession of the game,” Wood said. “Cook was playing with a lot of confident, but all of the sudden, he gets pressured by Bald Knob’s defense. Matthew looked at things he didn’t need to be looking at. We got to help him correct that. I need to figure out what we need to do to help him do his job better. The first drive was nice, but we didn’t have much success for the rest of the game.”
Heber Springs drove 51 yards on nine plays following the opening kickoff. Cook connected on a 16-yard pass to Easton Cusick, Rubio ran for 10 yards and McKee caught a 13-yard pass for a first-and-goal at the Bald Knob 8-yard line.
Two plays later, Cook scored on a 2-yard carry with 8:51 left in the first quarter. Gus Hannah kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.
Bald Knob’s only first-half scoring threat came on its final possession. The Bulldogs drove from their 31 to the Panther 20-yard line. Bald Knob’s Marcus McGahee missed a 37-yard field goal on the final play as Heber Springs led 7-0 at halftime.
Michael Wingo intercepted a Cook pass and set up Bald Knob’s first touchdown during the third quarter. The Bulldogs needed six plays to go 39 yards with Wingo scoring on a 24-yard run. McGahee kicked the extra point to tie the game at 7-7 with 5:23 left.
Bald Knob regained possession on a sack of Cook, who fumbled, and the Bulldogs recovered at the Heber Springs 20-yard line. Pierce completed the short drive by passing 13 yards to Wingo for the touchdown. McGahee added the conversion for the 14-7 lead.
The Bulldogs recovered an onside kickoff and later scored their third touchdown of the third quarter. Dane Lindsey caught a 19-yard pass from Pierce, increasing the lead to 20-7 going into the fourth quarter.
“We knew the onside kick was coming and practiced on it during the week,” Wood said. “You have to be aware where you are on the field and what you need to do in that situation. Bald Knob executed, and we didn’t.”
Bald Knob scored two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Pierce passed 38 yards to Josh Clark for a score with 10:46 to go. Clark had a 6-yard touchdown run with 4:27 left.
McGahee ran for a 2-point conversion and then kicked an extra point, increasing Bald Knob’s lead to 35-7.
Jackson West capped a 10-play, 59-yard drive for the Panthers scoring on a 3-yard carry with 24 seconds to play. Hannah ran for the 2-point conversion.
Heber Springs will seek to rebound at Southside Batesville on Friday.
“Southside is another good team that has a big line and likes to runs the ball,” Wood said. “We must find a way to keep our defense from playing most of the time on the field and get the offense going. We took a step backwards against Bald Knob. We need to find out what we did wrong and fix it by Friday.”
Bald Knob (4-3, 2-2) 0 0 20 15 - 35
Heber Springs (1-6, 0-4) 7 0 0 8 - 15
Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 2-yard run (Gus Hannah kick), 8:57
Bald Knob, Michael Wingo 3-yard (Marcus McGahee kick), 5:22
Bald Knob, Leason Pierce to Wingo 13-yard pass (McGahee kick), 3:20
Bald Knob, Pierce to Dane Lindsey 19-yard pass (kick failed), 1:06
Bald Knob, Pierce to Josh Clark 38-yard pass (McGahee run), 10:46
Bald Knob, Clark 6-yard run (McGahee kick), 4:27
Heber Springs, Jackson West 3-yard run (Hannah run), 28.4
TEAM STATS First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 5, Bald Knob 11
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 8, Bald Knob 5
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 0, Bald Knob 1
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 13, Bald Knob 17
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 6/11, Bald Knob 6/13
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 0/4, Bald Knob 1/6
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 2/2, Bald Knob 4/5
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 18:21, Bald Knob 29:39
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 3/2, Bald Knob 0/0
Turnovers: Heber Springs 6, Bald Knob 0
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, Bald Knob 27
Penalties: Heber Springs 4/53, Bald Knob 5/34
Rushing: Heber Springs 24/67/2.8, Bald Knob 43/185/4.3
Passing: Heber Springs 17/31-136-0/4, Bald Knob 13/23-156-3/0
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 41/203/5.0, Bald Knob 66/341/5.2
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 1/8, Bald Knob 2/7
Punts: Heber Springs 2/43/21.5, Bald Knob 0/0
Inside 20: Heber Springs 0, CAC 0
INDIVIDUAL STATS OFFENSERUSHING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 8/35, Jackson West 6/16/1, Matthew Cook 8/11/1, Easton Cusick 2/5. Bald Knob, Bradyn Cline 14/90, Josh Clark 10/62/1, Leason Pierce 8/25, Michael Wingo 6/14/1, Marcus McGahee 4/14, Team 1/(-6).
PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 13/27-91-0/4, John McBroome 4/4-45-0/0. Bald Knob, Leason Pierce 13/23-156-3/0.
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 7/42, Easton Cusick 2/32, Austin Winchester 2/26, Dakota Farmer 2/19, Diego Rubio 2/5, Gus Hannah 1/11, Jackson West 1/1. Bald Knob, Dane Lindsey 5/36/1, Michael Wingo 3/17/1, Matthew Smith 2/32/1, Josh Clark 1/38/1, Gage Dismuke 1/24, Elijah Bradley 1/9.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 102, John McBroome 45, Diego Rubio 35, Jackson West 16, Easton Cusick 5. Bald Knob, Leason Pierce 181, Bradyn Cline 90, Josh Clark 62, Michael Wingo 14, Marcus McGahee 14, Team (-6).
PUNT RETURNS: None
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 2/45, Diego Rubio 1/17. Bald Knob, Dane Lindsey 1/7, Hayden McAnelly 1/0.
FUMBLE RETURNS: Bald Knob, Travis Kersey 1/15
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Bald Knob, Michael Wingo 2/24, Matthew Smith 1/21
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 87, Diego Rubio 57, Easton Cusick 37, Austin Winchester 26, Dakota Farmer 19, Jackson West 17, Matthew Cook 11, Gus Hannah 11. Bald Knob, Josh Clarke 100, Bradyn Cline 90, Michael Wingo 55, Matthew Smith 53, Dane Lindsey 43, Leason Pierce 25, Gage Dismuke 24, Marcus McGahee 14, Elijah Bradley 9.
SCORING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 6, Jackson West 6, Gus Hannah 3 (1/1 XPA). Bald Knob, Michael Wingo 12, Josh Clark 12, Dane Lindsey 6, Marcus McGahee 5 (4/5 XPA, 0/1 FGA. Missed 37).
DEFENSEPUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 2/43/21.5
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Heber Springs, Preston Roberson/Matthew Cook 1/8. Bald Knob, Travis Kersey 2/7
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Bald Knob, Travis Kersey, Marcus McGahee
INTERCEPTIONS: Bald Knob, Michael Wingo 2, Matthew Smith 1, Josh Clark 1
Heber Springs spent most of the week adjusting its defense.
The Panthers faced pass-oriented teams in the first five games, but that will change in Friday’s 2-4A Conference matchup against run-oriented Central Arkansas Christian at Mustang Mountain in North Little Rock. Kickoff is scheduled at 7 p.m.
Tyler Williams, who rushed for 149 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries last season against Heber Springs, leads the Mustangs’ run game with 757 yards on 116 carries and 13 touchdowns. Williams rushed for 120 yards and one touchdown in last week’s 20-14 win against Little Rock Mills.
But Williams is not the only threat. Quarterback Palmer Gilbrech has rushed for 169 yards and reached the end zone once. Gilbrech ran for 37 yards on seven carries against Mills.
“CAC has a good tailback (Williams) and a big offensive line,” Heber Springs head coach Todd Wood said. “Williams is a powerful runner and capable of bouncing to the outside. We intend to put CAC’s running game in a bad situation.”
CAC also has an effective passing game. Gilbrech, who rushed for 31 yards against Mills, has completed 62-of-96 passes for 915 yards and five touchdowns. He connected on 15-of-31 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown against Mills.
Jackson Richmond is the leading receiver with 26 catches for 535 yards and four touchdowns. Richmond caught six passes for 98 yards against Mills.
Wood said Williams and Gilbrech were talented players, but the game will be decided at the line of scrimmage.
“The battle will be on the front line,” Wood said. “We must be in the right spots and execute our coverages in the secondary. We match up well. CAC doesn’t have the speed of Lonoke or Stuttgart, but it will make up for it by playing with discipline.”
Seniors Nathan McKee and Hunter Kent, two-way starters for the Panthers, were injured against Stuttgart. Wood said both players returned to practice this week, and he expects McKee to play against CAC. Kent is listed as questionable for the game.
Matthew Cook will start at quarterback for the fourth straight game. Cook has completed 50-of-84 passes for 703 yards and seven touchdowns in the last three games.
Diego Rubio remains the starting running back, but Kenan Sneed may become more involved with the offense.
“CAC has not played a team that plays our type of offense, so we may need to adjust early in the game, depending on how the Mustangs play us,” Wood said. “CAC is strong on the defensive line and has played a 3-4 scheme. The linebackers will pressure you. We plan to try and spread the field against them.”
Wood said Dakota Farmer, who has been a starter on defense, and Jackson West will play more at receiver.
“I’m happy about how the younger guys who are picking up the pace,” Wood said. “I’ve seen a lot of growth from those players.”
Wood said containing CAC’s running game is one of the keys for success.
“We must contain him (Williams),” he said. “We need more production from the offense. Execution will be very important. If we execute, we will do well.”
W L CP W L PS PA
Stuttgart 2 0 26 4 0 162 18
Lonoke 2 0 20 4 1 181 111
Central Arkansas Christian 2 0 18 5 0 167 97
Southside Batesville 1 1 13 2 3 99 146
Bald Knob 1 1 6 3 2 136 91
Little Rock Mills 0 2 0 1 4 100 139
Heber Springs 0 2 0 1 4 91 185
Clinton 0 2 0 0 5 91 239
Friday, October 2
Central Arkansas Christian 20, Little Rock Mills 14
Stuttgart 42, Heber Springs 6
Southside Batesville 38, Clinton 21
Lonoke 13, Bald Knob 6
Friday, October 9
Heber Springs at Central Arkansas Christian
Clinton at Little Rock Mills
Southside Batesville at Lonoke
Bald Knob at Stuttgart
Kickoff: 7 p.m. at Mustang Mountain, North Little Rock
Admission: All vouchers claimed (No tickets available to attend)
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.
THE SERIES: Series tied at 4-4
SERIES HISTORY: The two teams first meet in the 2000 season when the Panthers and Mustangs played nonconference games, both won by CAC. The two teams would not face each other again until CAC was paired with Heber Springs in the 4A-2 conference in 2014. Since then, the Panthers have won four out of six meetings. CAC’s only conference wins against Heber Springs came in 2015 with a 48-12 win and last season, 24-6.
CONCORD CONNECTION: Central Arkansas Christian was in the same conference with Concord during its only two seasons of varsity football action (1975 and 1976). The Panthers defeated Concord, 48-12, in 1975, and 47-12 in 1976.
PALMER THE FORMER PANTHER: Central Arkansas Christian senior quarterback Palmer Gilbrech played junior high football at Heber Springs before transferring to CAC.
FORMER HOG: Former University of Arkansas and NFL receiver Joe Adams is an assistant coach at Central Arkansas Christian.
Heber Springs received a passing grade for its performance in last week’s benefit game against Johnson County West Side and hope for a higher grade when the Panthers will host the Newport Greyhounds at 7 p.m. tonight in the 2020 football season opener.
Newport opened its season last week by defeating Little Rock Mills, 47-22.
“It was nice to play the benefit game, but there is nothing like Friday night and playing in front of your fans,” first-year head coach Todd Wood said. “It’s a different level of excitement.”
The Panthers scored 29 of its 42 points against Johnson County Westside in the first of two quarters during the benefit game. Wood said the game came at a good time.
“We went into the (benefit) game looking to see what we could do against a different team,” Wood said. “We learned a lot from our mistakes. That is the purpose of a benefit game. Every player got in the game and that gave them an opportunity to gain experience going into the season.”
Nathan McKee, who was sidelined by an ankle injury for most of the preseason, will be available in Friday’s opener. Linemen Jayden Bremmon, who didn’t play in the benefit game, also will be in the starting lineup.
“They will give us a big boost,” Wood said. “I told the team again this week it is not how we start the season, but how we finish the season. We worked on a lot of things in practice and hope to click against Newport. The first three games are to prepare us for the conference games.”
Wood said John McBroome will start at quarterback, but Matthew Cook and Conner Riddle could see action at that position.
“We worked with John this week about making his reads and throwing the ball quicker to the receivers,” Wood said. “Cook will start at one of the receivers, but we have plays that he could be used at quarterback. Matthew will help us at receiver and quarterback. Conner was the junior high starter last season and also will be another option.”
Diego Rubio will get the nod at running back, with Jackson West, Kenan Sneed and Cook possibly playing in the backfield.
“I was impressed by Diego with his hard work and determination from the first day of practice. “Jackson is not only a good runner, but a good receiver. Kenan is not as fast as those two players, but he me makes up with his ability of how the defense is playing. Cook also is an option.”
McKee’s return to the lineup will strengthen the receiving corps. He and Hunter Kent were two of the team’s leading receivers in 2019.
“Nathan was one of our better returning receivers,” Wood said. “Hunter has speed with good hands and can help us stretch the defense. Cook and West also are good receivers.”
The coach said two newcomers have potential to balance the receiving corps.
“Gus Hannah was one of the most impressive receivers during summer camp,” Wood said. “He runs good routes and takes care of the ball. Easton Cusick is a sophomore and proved to be a reliable receiver. We won’t have to depend on one or two receivers to carry the load.”
Wood said the offensive line quickly learned the new blocking schemes. Zach Thomas anchors the line at center, with tackle Bremmon and guard Preston Roberson on the left side. Thad Bray, Payton Owens and Trevor Weathers will alternate on the right side.
“They played with a lot of confidence in the benefit game,” Wood said. “We have the guys who can do the job. They are improving with their run game blocking. I’m pleased with their work.”
Heber Springs will also play a different defense than previous seasons. The Panthers will line up in a 3-4 alignment, but occasionally play a four-player front.
Bray, Bremmon, Owens and Weathers will be the players to watch on the front line. Roberson, who will start at inside linebacker, will be the fourth lineman.
“The play on the defensive line is very important,” Wood said. “We must control the line of scrimmage and take away the other team’s running game.”
Sneed will start at inside linebacker opposite Roberson, with Rubio and West at the outside linebackers. Dakota Farmer and Cook will provide depth at inside and outside linebacker.
McGee and Cook will start at the safeties. Kent and Farmer will be the cornerbacks. Hannah will provide depth at safety and cornerback, and Riddle will see playing time at safety.
Wood said he is ready to start the season and play one of the top-ranked teams in Class 3A.
“Newport is very quick with a lot of speed,” Wood said. “They have a very good running back and quarterback. The quarterback played well against Mills and makes good decisions. They also like to pass and have two tall (6-foot-5) receivers. Newport will put you in bad situations and take advantage of your mistakes.”
Wood said execution will decide who wins Friday’s game.
“We must stop Newport’s big plays, limit our turnovers and create turnovers on defense,” Wood said. “We must execute on offense and defense, especially doing the little things right. On defense, we need 11 guys going to the ball and make things happen. If we can do all of that, we will have a good night.”
NEWPORT (1-0) AT HEBER SPRINGS (0-0)
KICKOFF: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Panther Stadium, Heber Springs
RADIO: 101.9 The Lake. Billy Morgan will handle play-by-play with Lance Hamilton providing color. Panther Pregame begins at 6:45.
STREAMING: 101.9 The Lake will also be providing live streaming of the game.
LAST WEEK: Newport 47, Little Rock Mills 22; Heber Springs was idle
SERIES: Newport leads 10-4
LAST MEETING: Heber Springs 33, Newport 20, 2015
NOTES: The two teams were scheduled to meet in the first season of football for Heber Springs in 1913, but as was the case in the early decades of high school football, the game was not played. The two teams would finally meet for the first time on November 5, 1937 at Newport (a 45-0 win for the Greyhounds) ... Newport claimed another win in the series in 1945 before the two teams would meet again 57 years later when Newport moved down in classification and was placed in the 2AAA conference with Heber Springs in 2002. The Greyhounds would win the first four games by a combined 169-47 before the Panthers claimed their first win in the series with a 24-14 win at Newport in 2006. After a Newport win in 2007, the two teams were placed in separate conferences but would meet again in the 4A quarterfinals in 2008 where the Greyhounds ended Heber Springs' season with a 46-14 victory. In 2010, Newport was placed in the 2-4A with Heber Springs and the two teams split the six meetings before the Greyhounds dropped down to class 3A starting in the 2016 cycle ... Though the two teams took a 57-year hiatus, after the Panther football program returned from a two-year absence 1949, the Heber Springs varsity team would play Newport's "B" team. The Greyhound second-teamers would win the first contest, 13-6, in Heber Springs, but Heber Springs' would claim victories over Newport's "B" in 1958, 1960 and 1963 -- the 1960 win over Newport "B" was the Panthers lone victory of the season ... Newport running back Tharon Davis has been offered by North Alabama ... Newport sophomore quarterback Dejai Marshall was 22 of 27 passing for 183 yards and two touchdowns last week against Little Rock Mills ... Senior Night festivities began at 6:15 p.m.
-- By PHILIP SEATON
Heber Springs took advantage of three Johnson County Westside turnovers and cruised to a 42-8 victory in an Arkansas Activities Association benefit game Tuesday night at Panther Stadium.
The game was the first for new Panther head coach Todd Wood after taking over the reigns of the program earlier this year.
“This is a big night for us,” Wood said. “I’ve been waiting for this night since I got here on February 3. We didn’t have spring ball, so we started June 1st so we had to implement all of those things we’ve been trying to put in both offense and defense.”
Offensively, the Panthers gave the home faithful a taste of what to expect this season spreading the ball out with four-receiver sets.
Junior quarterback John McBroome, stepping in for graduated All-State quarterback Adam Martin, was 12 of 17 passing for 141 yards and three touchdowns against the class 2A Rebels.
“John McBroome is a quarterback in progress,” Wood said. “He is learning every day, every week. He is better than he was months ago. He is still hesitant and we’ve got to work on that a little bit.
“He’s extremely smart so a lot of times he has to be able to be free-following … be able to say, ‘Okay there is the key, there is they read, there is the trigger, throw the ball’. He wants to process it a little bit longer than he should. If we can get him to a point where he can trust himself a little bit and be able to do the reads and throw immediately, he’ll be a lot better. But I’m very proud of him, this offense we are putting in has a lot of pieces to it and you have to know every piece of it. He is the kinda kid that can do that and that’s the kind of quarterback I want. I’ve been telling the team from the beginning, it’s not how you start but how you finish and so the quarterback he is tonight will not be the same quarterback he’ll be in about six to seven weeks.”
The two teams played two 12-minute quarters and sophomore quarterback Wyatt Winchester got most of the snaps in the second stanza completing seven of nine passes for 49 yards, including a 15-yard scoring strike to sophomore Kenan Sneed with 6:30 left in the contest.
Heber Springs scored Hunter Kent raced 27 yards for a score to make it 6-0 with 7:25 to play in the first quarter.
After a Johnson County Westside fumble on a high snap, McBroome connected with Kent for a 10-yard scoring strike. McBroome found sophomore Easton Cusick for the 2-point conversion to make it 14-0 with 6:44 left in the quarter.
Heber Springs struck less than a minute later when junior Jackson West picked another high snap and raced 21 yards to make it 22-0, after senior Diego Rubio ran in the 2-point conversion.
A pair of McBroome touchdown passes pushed the Panther lead to 36-0 at the 11:43 mark of the second quarter. The first, a 1-yard strike to Kent with 1:59 in the first quarter, and the second, a 13-yarder to Sneed in the second quarter.
Heber Springs finished with 12 first downs and 273 yards of offense while holding Johnson County Westside to a pair of first downs and 56 yards of offense, with 48 of those coming on a touchdown pass with 5:33 left in the contest.
“Overall, defensively, I thought we played well,” Wood said. “It is a new defensive scheme. It’s an aggressive scheme. There is a lot of moving parts to it. Overall pretty pleased with the first-team defense getting out there. They got a little help there early on. They (Rebels) had a couple of turnovers that helped us out a lot, but I was just happy to see them able to execute about 80 to 90 percent of what we wanted to do.”
Despite the score, Wood saw some things that needed to be cleaned up, including six penalties for 45, but overall he was pleased with the effort.
“I’ve been telling people from the get go that we’ve got a bunch of guys that are hungry to learn and want to do better,” he said. “So tonight was just a little glimpse, we didn’t do everything we are capable of doing. We made mistakes and we are going to clean that up before we get to Newport.
“Overall, just thrilled to be playing a football game and stop hitting each other. Really, really happy.”
Heber Springs will host Newport on September 4th in the opener for both schools.
7:25 – Heber Springs, Hunter Kent 27-yard run (Pass failed)
6:44 – Heber Springs, John McBroome to Kent 10-yard pass (McBroome to Easton Cusick pass
5:55 – Heber Springs, Jackson West 20-yard fumble return (Diego Rubio run)
1:59 – Heber Springs, McBroome to Kent 1-yard pass (Gus Hannah kick)
11:43 – Heber Springs, McBroome to Kenan Sneed 13-yard pass (Chandler Webber kick)
6:30 – Heber Springs, Wyatt Winchester to Sneed 15-yard pass (kick failed)
5:33 – Johnson County Westside, Peyton Chrisman to James Linton 48-yard touchdown pass (Chrisman to Dakota Beavers two-point pass)
First Downs: Heber Springs 12, Johnson County Westside 2
Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, Johnson County Westside 3
Penalties : Heber Springs 6/45, Johnson County Westside 4/25
Total Offense: Heber Springs 273, Johnson County Westside 56
Team Rushing: Heber Springs 15/83, Johnson County Westside 11/(-5)
Team Passing: Heber Springs 19/26-190-4/0, Johnson County Westside 2/7-61-1/0
Rushing: Heber Springs, Hunter Kent 2/37, Kenan Sneed 5/36, Diego Rubio 3/14, Matthew Cook 1/4 Wyatt Winchester 3/0, John McBroome 2/(-8). JC Westside, Peyton Chrisman 5/3, James Linton 3/11, Team 2/(-26), Dakota Beavers 1/2, Hunter Andrews 1/7.
Passing: Heber Springs, John McBroome 12/17-141-3/0, Wyatt Winchester 7/9-49-1/0. Johnson County Westside, Peyton Chrisman 2/7-61-1/0
Receiving: Easton Cusick 4/42, Kenan Sneed 4/39, Matthew Cook 3/47, Hunter Kent 3/20, Austin Winchester 3/14, Payton Talbert 1/18, Conner Riddle 1/9. Johnson County Westside, James Linton 1/33, Dakota Beavers 1/13.