Panther GameDay

Battle of the Little Red: Heber Springs vs. Clinton

Heber Springs junior Matthew Cook fights for yardage as Vilonia’s Kyle Vines brings him to the ground during a scrimmage at Phillip D. Weaver Stadium in Vilonia on August 27. See story below. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO
  • Kickoff: 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium
  • Admission: $5
  • Radio: Billy Morgan with handle the play-by-play with Lance Hamilton providing color on KSUG 101.9 The Lake. Panther Pregame begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by the game. Listen live link here.
  • Honorary Captains: For Heber Springs, members of the “chain gang” from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. For Clinton, former Clinton Yellowjacket and Harding University quarterback Park Parish.


Pregame tailgating starts at 4:30 p.m. with a free concert by Clinton’s Heath Sanders beginning at 5:30 p.m. Sanders, a former oilfield worker turned full-time musician, whose popularity skyrocketed after a performance on Arkansas native Bobby Bones’ radio show in early 2018.


A back-and-forth game went to Clinton, 36-34, as Julian Cameron’s game-winning field-goal attempt was no good. Lyon College signee Blaze Nelson rushed 33 times for 288 yards and four touchdowns for Heber Springs, while junior Weston Amos passed for 209 yards and four touchdowns including five of those to junior Austin Drake, who finished with 190 yards receiving and three touchdowns.

Heber Springs Coach Will Cox …


When Darren Gowen resigned in May to pursue other coaching opportunities in northwest Arkansas (he has since been hired as offensive coordinator at Gravette), the search was put on hold and co-defensive coordinator Will Cox was named the interim coach for the upcoming season.

Will Cox

Cox grew up and graduated from Highland in 2007. After high school, he played football at Concordia College in Nebraska. He then entered the coaching field where he coached for two years at his alma mater before spending two years on the staff at Greenville College in Illinois. Cox joined the staff last season and was a co-defensive coordinator.

He is married to Taylor, and the have a son that will be two years old in December, Grayson.

Offensive- or defensive-minded?

I am more of defensive mind of guy. I played defense in high school and college. I’m just a defensive guy, so I enjoy that.

What will Panther fans see defensively?

You are going to see a big change. We have switched to more of a 3-3-stack defense. We are going to be more aggressive in what we are doing. We are smaller than we have been, but what we have done with our defense is identify our 11 to 15 best tacklers and how can we get them on the field. You have a guy like Landon Johnson that has been the starting linebacker. He’s playing nose right now and he’s wrecking havoc, making our offensive line better. He’s a good football player and the closer we can get him to the ball the better. Defensively, we are going to be pretty aggressive and faster. Since we are smaller than we have been in the past, I believe that puts us in a better situation. As a team that also means that we don’t have to use offensive linemen on defense which puts us in a situation where we can go faster on offense and stay fresher.

What about the offense?

We are going to be similar to last year and what coach Gowen did. We have Coach (Jay) Bishop who coached with him I think six years and really knows the offense inside and out, but just what you do each year, you change with the personnel you have. We have coach (Chase) Roberts in here this year, and him coach Bishop have really gelled well together. We are putting a little bit more of the quarterbacks’ plate this year, when you have a three-year starter (Adam Martin), you can do that so allowing in him to take a little bit more role of ownership of our offense in running more through him and putting the ball in his hands a little bit more. Losing Blaze Nelson, that does change things, when you have him that allows you to do certain things. We don’t have Blaze, but we have a group of running backs that give us a lot of different things. The offense will be pretty similar from what you seen on Friday nights last year, but how we get there will be a little bit different.

On the interim coach tag …

It’s an awesome opportunity. I think this school and administration has really helped for this team to be successful. We lost one coach and brought in two (Roberts and Hunter Davis). They understand the senior class we have is a talented group of kids, a good group of kids, that have been through a lot so trying to keep that continuity. I told our kids that this is a testament to them,and who they are, and how this administration sees these kids. To be the head coach in Heber Springs is a pretty awesome opportunity. We have a really great situation going.  I would love for that tag to removed at the end of the season and continue on here. I think it’s a great place.


“Battle of the Little Red”
Clinton leads the series 39-38-5.
Games played in Heber Springs: Tied, 19-19-1
Games played in Clinton: Clinton leads 20-18-4
Games played on a Neutral Field: Heber Springs leads, 1-0.

FIRST MEETING: Heber Springs’ first season of football was 1913 and it would be 26 years before Clinton fielded its first team. It didn’t take long for the two teams to meet after that with Heber Springs winning the first game played between the two schools on October 13, 1939, in Heber Springs. The Panthers won by a score of 31-0 on that day. The two teams met again less than a month later on Veteran’s Day (November 11) 1939 in Clinton where the Panthers and Yellowjackets played to a 6-6 tie. The teams would go on to play continuously after that with a couple of exceptions. During World War II, neither school fielded a team during the 1943 season while Clinton did not field one during the 1944 season. After the war, Clinton and Heber Springs would meet twice per season in 1945 and 1946 with the Yellowjackets winning all four meetings. Financial constraints in the Heber Springs School District forced the school to not field a football team for the 1947 and 1948 seasons. The two teams meet again during the 1949 season with Clinton winning both games of the home-and-home series. The teams would go on continuously playing until 2007 when the opener scheduled with Clinton — which was played during the 2006 season at the Hooten’s Kickoff Classic at Estes Stadium on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway — was changed to allow the Panthers to play Mayflower instead of Clinton in the same Kickoff Classic in 2007. The series resumed in 2008 and continues today.
LONGEST WINNING STREAKS: Clinton has won six straight in the series twice. Once from 1945-1949 and the second time from 2000-2005. Heber Springs won seven straight in the series from 1978-1984.
CONFERENCE FOES: Heber Springs and Clinton were first paired in the same conference in 1974. They would be paired in the same conference from 1974-1990. They would again be paired in the same conference from 1993-2001 and from 2008-2013. The two teams will be in the same conference next season when Clinton moves back up to class 4A. The Yellowjackets will replace Riverview in week 9.
OVERTIME GAMES: There have only been three overtime games in the series and those all occurred during a four-year span from 1986-1989. Clinton won a double overtime home contest in 1986 (20-14) while the Panthers won in overtime the following season in 1987, 19-12, in Heber Springs. In 1989, Clinton defeated Heber Springs, 13-12, at Panther Stadium.
CLOSE GAMES: Twenty-three of the games have been decided by a touchdown or less during the series, not including the five ties.
NOVEMBER THE 4TH: Strangely enough the largest margin of both schools in the series occurred the same day 50 years apart with Clinton (56) winning 56-0 on Nov. 4, 1949; while Heber Springs (39), won 57-18 on Nov. 4, 1999. The 75 combined points both teams in that 1999 contest remain the most combined points in any contest during the series.
DEFENSE: Of the 81 games played between the schools, the two teams have only combined to score more than 50 points or more 12 times, with seven those 50-plus combined scoring games coming since 2008.
COACH’S WIFE: Clinton head coach Chris Dufrene’s wife Heather (Bivins) is a 1987 graduate of Heber Springs High School.
TROPHY GAMES: Heber Springs won the trophy for the Hooten’s Kickoff Classic between the two schools in 2006, but since the inception of the “Battle of the Little Red” trophy, Clinton has won all three meetings, 28-20 in 2016, and 28-17 in 2017 in Heber Springs, and 36-34 last season in Clinton. Heber Springs will be looking to break a three-game losing streak to Clinton.



Panthers fall in opener

Heber Springs’ Kenan Sneed leads the Panthers onto the field Thursday night against Clinton. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO


Panther Cubs win at Clinton

Heber Springs quarterback Liam Buffalo looks to get around the edge against Clinton in seventh-grade football action on Thursday in Clinton. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO


  • Saturday, September 7 – Volleyball at Cave City tournament
  • Monday, September 9 – Volleyball at Conway Christian, 4:30 p.m.
  • Monday, September 9 – Golf at Cypress Creek, 1 p.m.
  • Tuesday, September 10 – Cross Country hosts Josh Park Memorial
  • Tuesday, September 10 – Tennis hosts Pottsville, 3:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 12 – Golf at Red Apple Inn, 1 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 12 – Tennis at Clarksville, 3:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 12 – Volleyball at Clarksville, 4:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 12 – 7th-Grade Football at Harding Academy, 5:30
  • Thursday, September 12 – Junior Football at Harding Academy, 7 p.m.
  • Friday, September 13 – Senior Football at Greenbrier, 7 p.m.

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Vilonia tops Heber Springs in Benefit Scrimmage

4A Panthers battle 5A Eagles; Heber Springs opens with Clinton

Heber Springs junior Matthew Cook fights for yardage as Vilonia’s Kyle Vines brings him to the ground during a scrimmage at Phillip D. Weaver Stadium in Vilonia on Tuesday. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

August 27, 2019

By Philip Seaton

VILONIA – Unofficially it was a 21-7 first-team loss to Vilonia in an Arkansas Activities Association benefit scrimmage on Tuesday at Phillip D. Weaver Stadium, but for Heber Springs coach Will Cox, he saw enough to come away happy with his teams performance.

“I thought there were some bright spots,” Cox said.  “We saw some guys step up and play.”

Heber Springs finished with 202 yards of total offense in an abbreviated first half of play that saw the teams start at the 30-yard line without any kickoffs or punts.

Panther senior quarterback Adam Martin was 14-of-24 passing for 155 yards including a 7-yard touchdown pass to junior Matthew Cook right before the half to put the Panthers on the board. Returning all-conference performer Tri Johnson was Martin’s favorite target with five receptions for 84 yards.

With all-state running back Blaze Nelson and his 2,000 yards plus rushing gone from last season, senior Landon Johnson took on the bulk of the load rushing eight times for 40 yards.

“You know what you are going to get with Landon,” Cox said. “The effort you get on game day is the same effort you get every day. He’s a guy that worked out twice every day during the offseason. You know what you are going to get with him. He’s really reliable and he showed everybody else what we know about him.”

While there were some bright spots, there were some things that Cox said his team needed to work on before they open their season against Clinton on Sept. 6 at home in the Battle of the Little Red.

Among those were some dropped passes that could have led to touchdowns and missed blocks on offense, and some missed tackles and bad angles on defense that lead to Vilonia pilling up 319 yards of total offense with the majority of those coming on a screen pass that turned into a 97-yard touchdown.

“It was a lot of first opponent mistakes, but that is stuff that we can clean up” Cox said. “I told the guys that this is going to be great film for us.We are going to learn a lot from this film. It was a great opportunity to learn tonight.”

Vilonia sophomore quarterback Austin Myers was 9-of-10 passing for 266 yards and three touchdowns.

“That’s a very good Vilonia team,” Cox said of the 5A Eagles. “They are deep. They are big. They are going to have a good season. Our guys competed against them.”

SECOND HALF: The two teams played a 10 minute second-half period with the second teams. Vilonia outscored Heber Springs, 20-0, over that stretch, but senior running back Levy Phillips did show some promise during that stretch. 

“(He) came in and got some good runs for us,” Cox said, “that shows that we have some depth at the running back position which is good.”

LET’S PLAY TWO: Cox said that is exciting to see that his team loves to love to play. “They can’t get enough,” he said. “ If I could let them play another game tonight, they would.”

BIG NUMBERS: While Heber Springs has 43 players on the roster, Vilonia had 83 dressed out Tuesday night and that will be the most any team dresses out against the Panthers this season. Heber Springs has the third most players out in the 4A-2 with Southside Batesville leading the way with 51 and Bald Knob with 44. Other opponents by the numbers: Clinton (37), Greenbrier (61), Harding Academy (46), Lonoke (37), Stuttgart (37), Central Arkansas Christian (40), Riverview (33) and Little Rock Mills (20).

NO CONTACT: Both quarterbacks were off limits in regards to being tackled and were downed by touch. Martin and second-team quarterback John McBroome wore a red no contact jersey.

EXTRA POINT: Jackson Harrod connected on the lone extra point for Heber Springs. The Panthers will be looking to replace the graduate Julian Cameron, who connected on a state record 100 extra points. Cameron is battling for a starting position at Arkansas Tech.

NEW COACH: Will Cox was named interim head coach over the summer after former head coach Darren Gowen left at the end of the school year in the spring to pursue other opportunities in northwest Arkansas. Gowen has since been named the offensive coordinator at Gravette. Cox was co-defensive coordinator last season with E.G. Dew.

NEW ASSISTANTS: Former Greenbrier Panther Chase Roberts is the new junior high coach and will assist on the senior high team. Roberts was the head coach of the eight-man team at Pattonsburg (Missouri) High School last season. Roberts led his team to a 10-2 record last season. Also joining the staff is Hunter Davis. Davis coached at Star City last season. He will also be the head senior girls track coach. 

NEXT YEAR: Heber Springs’ 2020 schedule has been set. Riverview is moving down to Class 3A while Clinton will be moving back up to 4A. The Yellowjackets will replace Riverview in week 9 in conference. The Panthers will open at home in 2020 against Newport followed by a road date at Harding Academy before wrapping up nonconference play at home against Dover. Heber Springs athletic director Brad Reese said he attempted to schedule Riverview for a nonconference date but the Searcy school opted for a game with Bauxite instead.

GLOWING REVIEW: Former Heber Springs coach Bill Buckner made an appearance on the sidelines on Tuesday night to catch some of the action. Buckner, who has since retired after years of coaching in the area with stops at Quitman, Greenbrier and Vilonia among others, was impressed with what he saw from the Panthers. “Tell the people of Heber Springs that they have a good football team,” he said.

Heber Springs senior quarterback Adam Martin looks to complete a pass against Vilonia in a Arkansas Activities Association benefit game at Phillip D. Weaver Stadium in Vilonia. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO


OPENING DRIVE: 10 plays, 36 yards. Highlights: Adam Martin 10-yard run, Landon Johnson 14- and 13-yard runs. Result: Turnover on downs.

SECOND DRIVE: 10 plays, 68 yards. Highlights: Adam Martin to Tri Johnson for 34-yard completion. Result: Stopped on fourth-and-goal at the 1.

THIRD DRIVE: 5 plays, 20 yards. Result: Fictional punt.

FOURTH DRIVE: 10 plays, 70 yards: Highlights: Adam Martin to Landon Johnson for 12- and 25-yard pass completions. Result: Touchdown.

INDIVIDUAL STATS (First-half only)

Rushing: Heber Springs, Landon Johnson 8-40; Julie Rubio 5-5; Adam Martin 5-2. Vilonia, Draven Smith 7-43; Seth Kick 1-5; Austin Myers 1-3; Tyler Moran 1-2.

Passing: Heber Springs, Adam Martin 14-24-155-1-0. Vilonia, Austin Myers 9-10-266-3-0.

Receiving: Heber Springs, Tri Johnson 5-84; Landon Johnson 3-45; Matthew Cook 3-13-1; Landon Barbee 1-8; Nathan McKee 1-6; Hunter Kent 1-(-1). Vilonia, Tyler Moran 4-127-1; Jamison Hinsley 2-40-1; Kannon Bartlett 1-45; Draven Smith 1-38; Corbin Watson 1-24-1.

TEAM (First-half only)

Rushing: Heber Springs 18-47; Vilonia 10-53

Passing: Heber Springs, 14-24-155-1-0; Vilonia 9-10-266-3-0

Total Yards: Heber Springs 202, Vilonia 319

First Downs: Heber Springs 11, Vilonia 8

Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, Vilonia 1

Penalties: Heber Springs 1-5; Vilonia 4-50

Heber Springs’ Julian Cameron sets state PAT record

November 16, 2018

Heber Springs senior Julian Cameron, front center, gets ready to sign his letter-of-intent to play college football for Arkansas Tech University on April 5, 2019, at the Panther Den in Heber Springs. Pictured, front, Julian’s parents, Amanda and Michael Cameron. Back row, from left, Heber Springs assistant football coach and head soccer coach Jay Bishop and Heber Springs head football coach Darren Gowen. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Heber Springs senior kicker Julian Cameron closed out his high school career by kicking 100 consecutive Point After Touchdowns without a miss.

He finished his Sophomore season by hitting 11 straight, and was a perfect 40 of 40 his junior year and a perfect 36 of 36 this season. He finished his senior campaign hitting a perfect 49 out of 49.

On October 12, against Bald Knob at Panther Stadium, Julian tied and then broke the state record of 75 consecutive without a miss. The previous state record belonged to Springdale’s Alex Tejada, who connected on 75 straight without a miss during the 2004 and 2005 seasons. North Little Rock’s Savanna Milton followed that with 68 straight.

Cameron’s career on Extra Points: 128 of 132 (97 percent)
Cameron’s only kicked miss was on Sept. 23, 2016, at Lonoke
Cameron’s PAT kicks were blocked twice against Baptist Prep on Oct. 14, 2016, and once the next week on Oct. 21, 2016, at Southside Batesville.

(Note: Blocked kicks are scored as missed PAT kicks. Source for Tejada’s information the Arkansas Activities Association 2018-2019 Record Book and the Springdale Morning News. Source for Milton’s information, the Arkansas Activities Association 2018-2019 Record Book)

Heber Springs senior Julian Cameron waits for holder Adam Martin to get the ball to attempt an extra point against Pocahontas on November 9 in a 4A state playoff game at Heber Springs. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

State Records

  • Most Consecutive Extra Points Made Without A Miss (Career)
  • Extra-Point Percentage (Season) – 2017 (40 out of 40) (Tied)
  • Extra-Point Percentage (Season) – 2108 (49 out of 49) (Tied)


  • Extra-Point Percentage (Career) – 4th in State History (128 of 137) (97 percent)
  • Extra Points Made (Game) – 2016 against Stuttgart – 8 (5th most)

Julian Cameron PAT KICKS


  • August 31 at Clinton (4/4)
  • September 7 vs. Greenbrier (1/1)
  • September 14 at Harding Academy (3/3)
  • September 21 at Lonoke (4/4)
  • September 28 vs. Stuttgart (3/3)
  • October 5 at Central Arkansas Christian (6/6)
  • October 12 vs. Bald Knob (6/6)
  • October 19 at Southside Batesville (3/3)
  • October 26 at Riverview (6/6)
  • November 2 vs. Little Rock Mills (5/5)
  • November 9 vs. Pocahontas (4/4)
  • November 16 at Rivercrest (4/4)
  • Season: 49 out of 49 (100 percent)


  • September 1 vs. Clinton (2/2)
  • September 8 at Greenbrier (3/3)
  • September 15 vs. Harding Academy (5/5)
  • September 22 vs. Lonoke (5/5)
  • September 29 at Stuttgart (1/1)
  • October 6 vs. Central Arkansas Christian (4/4)
  • October 13 at Baptist Prep (5/5)
  • October 20 vs. Southside Batesville (2/2)
  • October 27 vs. Riverview (2/2)
  • November 3 at Helena-W. Helena Central (3/3)
  • November 10 at Gravette (7/7)
  • November 17 at Gosnell (1/1)
  • Season: 40 out of 40 (100 percent)


  • September 2 at Clinton (2/2)
  • September 9 vs. Greenbrier (5/5)
  • September 16 at Harding Academy (0/0)
  • September 23 at Lonoke (4/5) #
  • September 30 vs. Stuttgart (8/8)
  • October 7 at Central Arkansas Christian (5/5)
  • October 14 vs. Baptist Prep (2/4) *
  • October 21 at Southside Batesville (2/3) ^
  • October 28 at Riverview (6/6)
  • November 4 vs. Helena-WH Central (4/4)
  • Novmber 18 vs. Shiloh Christian (1/1)
  • Season: 39 out of 43 (90.7 percent)

# – Missed Kick

* – Made First Attempt, second and third attempts blocked

^ – Third attempt blocked, last miss of career