Panthers battle, fall to Jackrabbits

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

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

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

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

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

Heber Springs’ Matthew Cook. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

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

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

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

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

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

Wood said the defense had some good moments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HIGH SCORING GAMES

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

GAME STATS

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

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

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

GAMEDAY: Heber Springs opens conference play at Lonoke

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

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wood also said the offensive linemen showed improvement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONFERENCE SCOREBOARD WEEK 3

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

CONFERENCE SCHEDULE WEEK 4

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

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

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

Panthers break nonconference streak

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

BY LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STATS

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

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

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

Pirates, Cox return to Panther Stadium

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

BY LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cox said emphasis is on the game against the Panthers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOTEBOOK

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

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

-- Notes by Philip Seaton

Different week, same result for Panthers

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

By PHILIP SEATON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GAME STATS

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

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

Hounds top Panthers in opener

Heber Springs’ Hunter Kent looks upfield for running room against Newport Friday night at Panther Stadium. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

September 4, 2020

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

First-half turnovers quickly put the Heber Springs Panthers in a bind during Friday’s football season opener against Newport at Panther Stadium.

Newport turned two interceptions and two fumble recoveries into touchdowns, drove for three more scores and defeated the Panthers 45-6, spoiling the coaching debut of new head coach Todd Wood.

The Greyhounds, who held a 321-121 advantage in total offense, built a 19-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. Newport increased its advantage to 45-0 by halftime.

“Newport is a very good team with a lot of speed and size,” Wood said. “That is the kind of a team I want o play early in the season because it will help prepare us for conference play.”

Heber Springs received the opening kickoff and lost possession on the game’s second play on an interception, giving Newport a first down at the Panther 20. Tharon Davis scored on a 2-yard carry, putting the Greyhounds ahead 6-0 with 10:04 left in the opening quarter.

Newport didn’t wait long to regain possession and extend the lead. Newport recovered a fumble at the Panther 10 and Chris Reynolds caught a touchdown pass from Dejai Marshall with 9:02 left in the quarter.

The Greyhounds didn’t let up. After a short punt, Newport drove 65 yards on six plays with Davis scoring on a 6-yard run for an 19-0 lead with 3:23 remaining in the first quarter. Mark Chavez kicked the extra point.

“You don’t want to give a lot of gifts to a team like Newport early in the game,” Wood said. “They scored after two turnovers and then scored again before the end of the quarter. We looked at the scoreboard and saw we trailed 19-0.”

Heber Springs senior Matthew Cook looks to avoid the tackle of Newport’s Josh Drennin in action Friday night at Panther Stadium. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Newport added four touchdowns during the second quarter with two scores set up by turnovers.

Jamarriel Balentine finished a 5-play, 31-yard drive following a short punt by scoring on a 2-yard run with 11:12 left in the first half. Marshall ran for a 2-point conversion, increasing Newport’s lead to 27-0.

Turnovers set up the Greyhounds’ next two touchdowns. Davis broke free and rushed 41 yards for a touchdown. Marshall connected on a 10-yard scoring pass to Reynold with 9:13 left in the first half.

Marshall threw his third touchdown pass of the opening half, a 39-yard strike to Tristan Griffen, late in the second quarter for the 45-0 halftime lead.

Davis finished the night with 114 yards rushing and three touchdown on nine carries for Newport, all coming in the first half.

“Newport played good defense,” Wood said. “We must recognize what they are doing and find a way to overcome it. The game snowballed on us and it’s hard to dig out of a hole like we had in the first half.”

Heber Springs began the second half by forcing a Newport punt and drove 76 yards on eight plays for its touchdown. Matthew Cook, who moved to quarterback, dashed into the clear and ran 62 yards for a first-and-goal at the Greyhound 1-yard line. Newport pushed the Panthers back to a fourth-and-goal at the 4 when Cook connected with Hunter Kent on a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone.

“We did better in the second half and moved the ball at times, but Newport was playing backups,” Wood said. “We need to fix everything for next week’s game and move forward.”

Wood said the players, especially the underclassmen, learned during the second half and that will benefit the team in the future.

“We have only eight seniors on a 38-player roster and our inexperience shows,” he said. “Some of the young guys learned new things and by the time we get to conference play. Those players will be more seasoned and that will help us out in the long run”

Heber Springs will play Harding Academy at First Security Stadium in Searcy starting at 7 p.m. Friday.

STATS

SCORING
Newport (2-0)       19  26  0  0 - 45
Heber Springs (0-1)  0   0  6  0 -  6

FIRST QUARTER
Newport - Tharon Davis 2-yard run (kick failed), 10:04
Newport - Dejai Marshall to Chris Reynolds 10-yard pass (kick failed), 9:02
Newport - Davis 6-yard run (Mark Chavez kick), 3:26
SECOND QUARTER
Newport - Jamarriel Balentine 2-yard run (Marshall run), 11:12
Newport - Davis 41-yard run (run failed), 10:42
Newport - Marshall to Isiah Kendall 10-yard pass (kick failed), 9:13
Newport - Marshall to Tristan Griffen 39-yard pass (run failed), 1:14
THIRD QUARTER
Heber Springs - Matthew Cook to Hunter Kent 1-yard pass (pass failed), 4:36

TEAM STATS
First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 4, Newport 6 
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 2, Newport 8 
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 0, Newport 0 
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 6, Newport 14 
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 3/11, Newport 3/6 
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 2/5, Newport 3/6
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 2/5, Newport 0/0 
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 23:24, Newport 24:36 
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 2/2, Newport 1/1
Turnovers: Heber Springs 4, Shiloh 1    
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, Newport 25
Penalties: Heber Springs 2/10, Newport 3/25 
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 48/121/2.5, Newport 41/321/7.8
Rushing: Heber Springs 26/68/2.6, Newport 26/185/7.1
Passing: Heber Springs 10/22-53-1/2, Newport 12/15-136-3/0
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Newport 4/22
Punts: Heber Springs 3/63/21, Newport 3/108/36 
Inside 20: Heber Springs 0, Newport 1 
INDIVIDUAL STATS
OFFENSE  
RUSHING: Heber Springs,  Matthew Cook 9/48/5.3, Diego Rubio 10/36/3.6, Gus Hannah 1/8, Nathan McKee 1/2, Hunter Kent 1/(-4), John McBroome 4/(-22)/(-5.5). Newport, Tharon Davis 9/114/12.7, Keyron Childress 2/49, Jamarriel Balentine 9/43/4.8, Devin Braxton 1/6, Team 1/(-3),  Cayden Johnson 3/(-12)/(-4), Dejai Marshall 1/(-12).
RUSHING RUNS OF 50+: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook (1). Newport, Keyron Childress (1). 
RUSHING RUNS OF 40+: Newport, Tharon Davis (1).
RUSHING RUNS OF 20+: Newport, Tharon Davis (2).
RUSHING RUNS OF 10+: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio (1). Newport, Jamarriel Balentine (2), Tharon Davis (1).
PASSING: Heber Springs, John McBroome 7/14-43-0/2, Matthew Cook 3/8-10-1/0. Newport, Dejai Marshall 12/12-136-3/0, Isiah Kendall 0/3-0-0/0.
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Hunter Kent 3/6, Austin Winchester 2/10, Diego Rubio 2/5, Nathan McKee 1/17, Gus Hannah 1/8, Kenan Sneed 1/7. Newport, Isiah Kendall 3/41, Tristan Griffen 3/37, Chris Reynolds 3/32, Jadarius Reed 1/11, Tharon Davis 1/10, Cayden Johnson 1/5.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 58, Diego Rubio 36, John McBroome 21, Gus Hannah 8, Nathan McKee 2, Hunter Kent (-4). Newport, Dejai Marshall 124, Tharon Davis 114, Keyron Childress 49, Jamarriel Balentine 43, Devin Braxton 6, Team (-3), Cayden Johnson (-12), 
PUNT RETURNS: None. 
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 3/42, Matthew Cook 3/15. Newport, Chris Reynolds 1/2.  
FUMBLE RETURNS: None
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Newport, Chris Reynolds 1/5, Kiland Ellis 1/0.
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 106, Diego Rubio 83, Nathan McKee 19, Gus Hannah 16, Austin Winchester 10, Kenan Sneed 7, Hunter Kent 2, John McBroome (-22). Newport, Tharon Davis 124, Keyron Childress 49, Jamarriel Balentine 43, Chris Reynolds 42, Isiah Kendall 41, Tristan Griffen 37, Jadarius Reed 11, Devin Braxton 6, Team (-3), Cayden Johnson (-7), Dejai Marshall (-12).
SCORING: Heber Springs, Hunter Kent 6. Newport, Tharon Davis 18, Jamarriel Balentine 6, Chris Reynolds 6, Isiah Kendall 6, Tristan Griffen 6, Dajai Marshall 2, Mark Chavez 1 (1-4 PAT kicks).
DEFENSE
INTERCEPTIONS: Newport, Chris Reynolds 1/5, Kiland Ellis 1/0.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Heber Springs, Kenan Sneed 1. Newport, Tristan Griffen 1, Jaden Godair 1.
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Newport, Aabel Robinson 2/11, Jaden Godair 1/6, Tyler Johnson 1/5.
PUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20: Heber Springs, John McBroome 2/39/19.5/0, Matthew Cook 1/24/24/0. Newport, Dejai Marshall 3/108/36/1

(Stats compiled by Philip Seaton)

Panthers host Hounds tonight in opener

Heber Springs quarterback John McBroome throws a pass last week against Johnson County Westside in a benefit scrimmage contest. Heber Springs opens its season tonight at 7 p.m. against Newport. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

September 4, 2020

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

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.”

Heber Springs junior Gus Hannah kicks a PAT in the Panthers scrimmage contest last week against Johnson County Westside. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

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.”

NOTEBOOK

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



Panthers dominate in benefit contest

Heber Springs senior Diego Rubio looks upfield against Johnson County Westside Tuesday night at Panther Stadium. Pictured for JC Westside, Ashton Yarbrough (13) and Peyton Chrisman (5). PHIILIP SEATON PHOTO

August 25, 2020

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.

Heber Springs junior Jackson West (23) celebrates a first-quarter touchdown with teammate Dakota Farmer. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

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.

Scoring

First Quarter

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)

Second Quarter

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)

Quick Stats

Team

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

Individual

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.


Heber Springs tops Southside, travels to Morrilton

Heber Springs’ Luke Greenwald looks to go on the attack against Southside Batesville in soccer action at Panther Stadium. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

March 5, 2020

Heber Springs held off a spirited Southside Batesville to claim a 2-nil victory on Thursday at Panther Stadium.

The win improved Heber Springs to 2-1 on the young season.

“Tough playing against that bunch,” Heber Springs coach Jay Bishop said. “They always play incredibly hard. They get fired up to play Heber Springs and so do we in playing them.

“They defend really well, really hard. We had a lot of chances to score, but unfortunately only two of them fell for us, but that’s two more than they got. “

Heber Springs got a first half goal from junior Landon Barbee to lead at the break, before getting a late goal from senior Jackson Harrod on a free kick to set the margin.

The Southerners (0-1-1) played more of preventive defensive match allowing most of the action take place on their end, keeping a majority of the players back on defense which made shots on goal difficult but kept the offensive threats at a minimum.

“It very much is a prevent style,” Bishop said. “(They are looking to ) draw you or beat you in a shootout. Scoring two goals against this bunch is difficult. It’s hard to score one with the way they play and the way they defend.

“I am proud of them (my team). I told them at the end of the game, would have liked to have had a bigger margin of victory but ultimately a win is a win. When you go to bed tonight, you go to bed a winner.”

Though Southside Batesville is a conference foe, this match was scheduled as a nonconference contest.

On Tuesday, Heber Springs traveled to 5A Vilonia and came way with a 6-1 victory.

The Panthers got two goals from Julio Rubio and single goals from Diego Rubio, Gus Hannah, Jackson Harrod and Luke Greenwald against the Eagles. Barbee finished with two assists.

“We played a real good game against Vilonia,” Bishop said. “They are the exact opposite of what we saw tonight (against Southside Batesville). A team that was going to let us get behind and run create some of those chance. We scored six goals and anytime you do that you feel good about what you did.”

Heber Springs opened the season with a 5-1 loss at Panther Stadium to Harding Academy in Arkansas Activities Association benefit match.

“Of the three teams we’ve played, Harding’s the best team we have faced,” Bishop said. “They do a good job. It’s only the second year of their program, but they are a very good team. We are going to have to beat good teams to get where we want to be at the end of the road.”

HEBER SPRINGS BOYS SOCCER
COACH JAY BISHOP
OVERALL RECORD: 2-0
4A-NORTH CONFERENCE RECORD: 0-0
February 24  Harding Academy 5, Heber Springs 1 $
March 3      Heber Springs 6, Vilonia 1
March 5      Heber Springs 2, Southside Batesville 0
March 9      at Morrilton               7 p.m.
March 10     Conway St. Joseph          7 p.m.
March 13     Greenbrier                 7 p.m.
March 17     at Conway Christian        7 p.m.
March 19     at Cave City               7 p.m.
March 31     at Mountain View           7 p.m.
April 2      at Wynne *                 7 p.m.
April 4      Southside Batesville Tournament
April 6      Jonesboro Westside *       7 p.m.
April 9      at Brookland *             7 p.m.
April 13     Valley View *              7 p.m.
April 20     at Southside Batesville *  7 p.m.
April 23     at Lonoke *                7 p.m.
April 28     Batesville *               7 p.m.

(* - Denotes 4A-North conference contest.)
($ - Denotes Arkansas Activities Association benefit match. Does not count on official record.)

SOCCER PREVIEW: Panthers return four starters

February 24, 2020

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

The Heber Springs Panther soccer team will need to grow up in a hurry.
Returning four starters, Heber Springs, which will return four starters, will debut in a preseason jamboree against Harding in Searcy at 7 p.m. Monday.

Jackson Harrod, who led the Panthers in scoring last season, will be one of the players to watch. Defenders Landon Johnson and Lawrence Baureis return, along with Landon Barbee.

“Jackson scored a lot of goals last season,” Heber Springs coach Jay Bishop said. “He played forward for most of his career and may have to become a midfielder. Lawrence and Landon (Johnson) have played well on defense for two years. We will lean those guys, especially early in the season, until we figure out who will play at the other the other seven positions. We will be young at a lot of positions.”

Bishop said one of the big decisions will be who assumes the starting role at goalkeeper.

“Jackson West is tall with long arms,” he said. “Nathan Poff was the backup last year.”

Bishop believes the younger players will step into their new roles, and he expects a successful season.

“We will be looking for players who can play out wide, like freshmen Luke Greenwald and Owen Phelps, and sophomore Gus Hannah” he said. “They need to take scoring pressure off Jackson. We have others players who do the job.”

Heber Springs has a challenging non-conference schedule. The Panthers will play Vilonia, Morrilton, Conway St. Joseph, Greenbrier, Conway Christian, Cave City and Mountain View.

“We will be learning together and use the non-conference to see what we need to work on,” Bishop said. “We want to be ready for conference play.”
Heber Springs will compete against Southside Batesville, Lonoke, Batesville, Jonesboro Westside, Brookland, Valley View and Wynne in the Class 4A North Conference.

“We will looking to put the players in the right position, so we will be successful,” Bishop said. “Valley View and Batesville will be the teams to beat. We should be in contention. We want to be playing our best once conference play starts.”

HEBER SPRINGS ROSTER
Nathan Poff, Jackson West, Landon Barbee, Julio Rubio, Landon Johnson, Diego Rubio, Gabe Tate, Jackson Harrod, Dalton McCollum, Gil Fernandez, Gus Hannah, Zach Thomas, Carlos Leal, Colt Allen, Mason Harris, Hayden Davis, Luke Greenwald, Harley Bresnahan, Owen Phelps, Kaden Young, Lawrence Baureis, Chandler Webber, Jacob Townsend, Lucas Langster, Kevin Leal, Preston Jones.