The Heber Springs Panthers scored the game’s first four points before Dardanelle changed the momentum midway through the first quarter of Friday’s 4-4A Conference basketball game.
Dardanelle responded with an 11-2 run and never trailed again as the Sand Lizards defeated the Panthers 63-29 at the Panther Den.
Gus Hannah converted a steal into a breakaway lay-up and Conner Riddle made two free throws for a 4-0 Heber Springs lead. Dardanelle tied the game at 4-4 when Chase Jordan made 2-of-4 free throws and scored on an inside move.
Marteez Jackson had back-to-back field goals as the Sand Lizards pulled ahead, 8-4. Zach Thomas made a short jumper, but Braden Tanner hit a 3-pointer, giving Dardanelle an 11-6 lead going into the second quarter.
The Sand Lizards built a 21-8 lead following a 10-2 scoring run during the next three minutes. Dardanelle outscored Heber Springs 11-6 for the remainder of the second quarter and led 32-15 at halftime.
The Panthers trailed 51-26 after three quarters.
Riddle led Heber Springs with 12 points. Jackson and Tanner each scored 14 points for Dardanelle. Kendall Bishop had 12 points.
The Panthers (0-4 in conference, 1-14 overall) will host conference foe Clarksville at 7:30 p.m. on senior night Tuesday.
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.
Ready or not, the Heber Springs Panthers will begin the 4-4A Conference basketball schedule at Subiaco Academy on Friday.
In a final tune-up, the Panthers (1-7) led 40-39 going into the fourth quarter against Class 6A Searcy at the Panther Den Tuesday before dropping a 60-55 decision to the Lions in a nonconference game.
“The guys competed hard,” Heber Springs coach Dusty West said. “We made a lot of big shots during the first half and cooled off in the second half. Our defense was scrambling, and we were out of position at times, but the players gave great effort.”
Sophomore Conner Riddle scored a game-high 24 points for the Panthers. Braden Watson led Searcy with 16 points. Cameron Hicks contributed 14 points.
West said Riddle continues in his development not only as a scorer, but running the team’s offense.
“Conner had another great game,” West said. “He is handling the pressure of running the offense. He generated a lot of offense not only with his scoring, but getting the ball to other players for open shots.”
Ryan Crocker had one of his best performances this season by scoring 20 points.
“I challenged Ryan to be that type of player before the game,” West said. “He handled the pressure, did a good job of rebounding, utilized his size on defense and gave the other team a lot of trouble. He also did a good job of driving to the basket. We need to get that every game from him to do well in conference.”
After a 12-12 tie at the end of the first quarter, Heber Springs pulled ahead by scoring scoring quickly during the next two minutes. Logan Monahan made a 3-pointer and Riddle’s basket built the lead to 17-12.
Searcy responded with three unanswered baskets, but the Panthers regained the lead on a 3-pointer by Riddle, 20-18.
Searcy rallied for a 23-18 lead, but the Panthers finished the second quarter strong, outscoring the Lions 9-1 and led 29-24 at halftime.
Heber Springs survived a charge by the Lions during the third quarter. Crocker scored at the buzzer, giving the Panthers a 40-39 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Searcy took the lead midway through the fourth quarter and held off Heber Springs’ late challenge.
“Searcy switched from a zone to a man-to-man defense in the second half,” West said. “That was the difference in the game. I told the players before the game that the pressure was not on us to win because Searcy is a 6A school. The games that matter are conference games. We just need to go out there and give it our best shot, and we did that.”
Five nonconference games remain, but West said the team’s focus will be to become successful during conference play and make a run for the regional tournament.
“Games like against Searcy will help get us ready for conference play,” West said. “Our last two games (Riverview and Searcy) are similar teams in playing style of most of the conference teams. We are excited about Friday’s game.”
Searcy 12 12 15 21–60 Heber Springs 12 17 11 15–55 Searcy scorers — Braden Watson 16, Cameron Hicks 14, Ckyler Tenger 7, Jack Stafford 6, A’mariyon Briscoe 5, Willie Bowser 4, Landon Hambrick 2, Daniel Perry 2, Zyron Williams 2, Eli Wilson 2. Heber Springs scorers — Conner Riddle 24, Ryan Crocker 20, Logan Monahan 7, Gus Hannah 2, Austin Winchester 2.
Heber Springs never successfully solved Conway St. Joseph’s change of defense during the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s nonconference basketball game at the Panther Den.
St. Joseph went on a 21-7 fourth quarter scoring run and defeated the Panthers, 43-33.
Heber Springs led 18-16 at halftime and took a 26-24 lead into the fourth quarter.
“St. Joseph made defensive adjustments against what we were doing in the first half at halftime,” Heber Springs coach Dusty West said. “They were playing a 2-3 zone and a soft man-to-man defense during the first half. They switched to a full-court man defense and forced us to play at a different pace during the second half. We took a lot of quick shots and were held to seven points in the fourth quarter.”
West said work remains on the team’s conditioning, so the players can maintain that pace for four quarters.
“We looked tired and fouled too much,” he said. “We have been working on our conditioning. St. Joseph’s man defense made a difference in the fourth quarter. We were getting good shots in the second quarter, but we didn’t do that during the second half.”
St. Joseph built an 11-5 lead and increased it to 14-5 by early in the second quarter.
Conner Riddle led the Heber Springs’ rally, scoring eight points, while Ryan Crocker made a 3-pointer and Austin Winchester scored as Heber Springs led 18-16 at halftime.
The Panthers kept the momentum at the start of the second half and led 26-22 going into the fourth quarter.
Riddle scored 17 points for Heber Springs. Luke Bruich led St. Joseph with 18 points.
“Conner had a good game,” West said. “He handled the ball and the pressure of bringing the ball up well. I’m proud of how he played. The team keeps improving overall, but we let this game get away from us. We led going into the fourth quarter and had a change at winning.”
Heber Springs (1-5) will play Riverview in Searcy at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“Riverview will be a challenge,” West said. “It will be a different style of game because Riverview will play at a faster pace. We are giving a great effort, and that is all you can ask from them.”
Conway St. Joseph 11 5 6 21–43 Heber Springs 5 13 8 7–33 Conway St. Joseph scorers — Luke Bruich 18, Luke Pope 8, Jake Hill 7, Jacob Williams 6, Gage Kordsmeier 3, Matt Brorman 1. Heber Springs scorers — Conner Riddle 17, Ryan Crocker 6, Austin Winchester 4, Gus Hannah 3, Logan Monahan 3.
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.
TRUMANN – Heber Springs beat the threat of COVID-19 and completed the 2020 football season, but the conclusion didn’t go as planned.
Heber Springs (2-9) finished the year with a 43-14 loss to Trumann at RMC Stadium in the opening round of the Class 4A football playoffs Friday.
“If you had told me nine weeks ago we would play 11 games, I would have said you were crazy,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We were blessed to play 11 games. A lot of players who were inexperienced before the start of the season gained experience, and they will be coming back next year. I’m proud of the players for never giving up at any time during the season.”
Trumann followed a similar script of previous Heber Springs’ opponents by converting turnovers into touchdowns. The Wildcats scored two of their three first-half touchdowns following an interception and a fumble recovery.
The Panthers held a 7-6 advantage in first downs during the first half. But Trumann had 154 yards of offense, 127 coming on the ground, to 89 for Heber Springs. The Wildcats had three quarterback sacks for a minus 18 yards.
Trumann scored touchdowns on its first two possession of the second half.
Overall, Trumann outgained Heber Springs 348-198. The Wildcats compiled 305 of their 348 yards on the ground, but only held the ball five more minutes than the Panthers (26:43-21:17). Trumann finished by sacking HSHS quarterbacks seven times for a minus 45 yards.
“It was the same story from most of the season, when we hang onto the ball, we did well,” Wood said. “When we didn’t, teams took advantage and put us in a hole. That happened again. You can’t do that against a playoff team.”
Senior quarterback Matthew Cook led the Panthers by completing 14-of-24 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Cook rushed nine times for a minus 6 yards, including sacks.
Senior running back Diego Rubio rushed for 65 yards on seven carries. Junior Jackson West ran for 50 yards on five attempts. Senior Nathan McKee caught seven passes for 63 yards and one touchdown. Freshman Parker Brown had 57 all-purpose yards and caught his first high school touchdown pass.
Rian King led Trumann with 109 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns. Milton Lewis ran for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Gavin Morgan also had 78 yards and scored one touchdown.
King’s interception put Trumann in position for the game’s first touchdown. The Wildcats drove 53 yards on six plays with King scoring on a 2-yard carry with 5:13 left in the first quarter. Efrain Garcia kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.
Trumann recovered a fumble at the Heber Springs 13 to set up its second touchdown. Two plays later, Lewis ran six yards for a touchdown with 11:56 left in the first half. Garcia kicked the extra point for the 14-0 lead.
Heber Springs answered with an 8-play, 54-yard drive following the kickoff. Cook passed 10 yards to McKee and Rubio broke loose on a 16-yard run to get the drive moving. Later, Rubio’s 11-yard run gave the Panthers a first-and-goal at the Trumann 1.
Two plays later, Cook rolled out and flipped a 3-yard touchdown pass to Brown with 8:31 remaining in the first half. A 2-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful as Heber Springs trailed, 14-6.
“We felt good after getting it to 14-6,” Wood said. “We had a good offensive drive and gained some momentum. I thought we could piece things together, get a defensive stop and get the ball back. Credit Trumann for coming out and doing some things different than we saw on film.”
Trumann regained a two-score lead before halftime by driving 54 yards on 12 plays. King scored on a 14-yard run with 1:56 to go for a 20-6 lead.
“I challenged the players at halftime to get a defensive start at the beginning of the third quarter,” Wood said. “We needed a defensive stop. Unfortunately, we were not healthy and had other players unable to play. We were just outmatched.”
Trumann began the third quarter on a 5-play, 58-yard drive. King broke free and ran 46 yards for the touchdown with 9:45 left. McClain ran for a 2-point conversion and increased the lead to 28-6.
The Wildcats held on downs and drove 59 yards on 11 plays. King capped the drive by scoring on a 9-yard run with 10:49 left in the game. Garcia kicked the extra point for the 35-6 lead.
Heber Springs’ second touchdown came on a 5-play, 61-yard drive. Cook connected on a 31-yard scoring pass to McKee with 8:44 left. Cook ran for the 2-point conversion as the Panthers trailed, 35-14.
Trumann recovered the attempted onside kickoff and scored two plays later. Morgan had a 46-yard touchdown run with 8:26 remaining. Lewis ran for the 2-point conversion.
Heber Springs (2-9) 0 6 0 8 - 14
Trumann (6-5) 7 13 8 15 - 43
Trumann, Rian King 2-yard run (Efrain Garcia kick), 5:13
Trumann, Milton Lewis 7-yard run (Garcia kick), 11:56
Heber Springs, Matthew Cook to Parker Brown 3-yard pass (pass failed), 8:31
Trumann, Lewis 14-yard run (kick failed), 1:50THIRD QUARTER
Trumann, King 46-yard run (Connor McClain run), 9:43
Trumann, King 9-yard run (Garcia kick), 10:49
Heber Springs, Cook to Nathan McKee 2-yard pass (Cook run), 8:44 Trumann, Gavin Morgan 46-yard run (Lewis run), 8:26
TEAM STATS First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 6, Trumann 13
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 5, Trumann 1
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 1, Trumann 0
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 12, Trumann 14
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 5/10, Trumann 3/7
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 1/3, Trumann 3/3
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 2/1, Trumann 4/4
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 21:17, Trumann 26:43
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 2/1, Trumann 1/1
Turnovers: Heber Springs 2, Trumann 1
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, Trumann 14
Penalties: Heber Springs 6/30, Trumann 6/52
Rushing: Heber Springs 26/83/3.2, Trumann 44/305/6.9
Passing: Heber Springs 16/27-115-2/1, Trumann 6/7-43-0/0
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 53/198/3.7, Trumann 51/348/6.8
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Mills 7/45
Punts: Heber Springs 0, Trumann 1/41
Inside 20: Trumann 1
INDIVIDUAL STATS OFFENSERUSHING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 7/65, Jackson West 5/50, Nathan McKee 2/(-3), Matthew Cook 9/(-6), John McBroome 3/(-23). Trumann, Rian King 14/109/3, Milton Lewis 13/78/2, Gavin Morgan 7/78/1, Murphy Williams 3/33, Parks McNair 1/13, Connor McClain 1/4, Team 1/(-4), Garner Henderson 1/(-6).
PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 14/24-105-2/1, John McBroome 2/3-10-0/0. Trumann, Connor McClain 6/7-43-0/0.
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 7/63/1, Diego Rubio 2/8, Gus Hannah 1/25, Jackson West 1/5, Isaac King 1/8, Austin Winchester 1/8, Parker Brown 1/3/1, Chris Roberts 1/2, Easton Cusick 1/(-1). Trumann, Parks McNair 4/22, Gavin Morgan 1/11, Rian King 1/1.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 99, Diego Rubio 65, Jackson West 50, Nathan McKee (-3), John McBroome (-13). Trumann, Rian King 109, Milton Lewis 78, Gavin Morgan 78, Connor McClain 47, Murphy Williams 33, Parks McNair 13, Garner Henderson (-6).
PUNT RETURNS: None
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 3/54, Kenan Sneed 1/0, Austin Winchester 1/0. Trumann, Murphy Williams 1/0.
FUMBLE RETURNS: None
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Trumann, Rian King 1/22
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 73, Nathan McKee 60, Parker Brown 57, Jackson West 55, Gus Hannah 25, Isaac King 8, Austin Winchester 8, Chris Roberts 2, Easton Cusick (-1), Matthew Cook (-6), John McBroome (-23). Trumann, Rian King 132, Gavin Morgan 89, Milton Lewis 78, Parks McNair 35, Murphy Williams 33, Connor McClain 4, Garner Henderson (-6).
SCORING: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 6, Nathan McKee 6, Matthew Cook 2. Trumann, Rian King 18, Milton Lewis 14, Gavin Morgan 6, Efrain Garcia 3 (3/4 XPA), Connor McClain 2.
DEFENSEPUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20/BLOCKED: Trumann, Connor McClain 1/41/1
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Trumann, Garen Smithson 2/9, Garner Henderson 2/15, Eli Evett 1/10, Connor McClain 1/5, Desmond Langston 1/7
The Entrance of a new quarterback helped Little Rock Mills University Studies to turn the tide during the third quarter against the Heber Springs Panthers at Panther Stadium on Friday.
Freshman Achilles Ringo completed 8-of-10 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown and led the Comets to a 34-24 win against the Panthers in a 2-4A Conference game. Mills earned a No. 5 seed for the Class 4A football playoffs.
Ringo replaced sophomore starter Q.J. King, who completed 4-of-5 passes for 84 yards and rushed for 44 yards on eight attempts during the first half. King moved to receiver during the second half and caught four passes for 58 yards and one touchdown.
“He (Ringo) is Mills’ all-everything quarterback,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “He has a better arm than the other quarterback (King) and was more accurate. We knew when he came into the game, Mills was going to throw the ball more, take advantage of its speed and try and spread the field. That was the difference in the game.”
Wood said Ringo forced the Heber Springs defense to alter its game plan during the second half.
“Mills put us in a situation of defending the entire field and tackling in open spaces,” Wood said. “That made it difficult on us.”
The running game also was another difference in the game. Heber Springs had 25 yards to 185 yards for Mills. The Panthers reached the red zone six times, scoring a touchdown and kicking a field goal.
Keilon Dais rushed for 94 of his 117 yards during the second half for the Comets. Heber Springs quarterback Matthew Cook was held to 13 yards rushing, including three quarterback sacks. Mills converted 6-of-11 third-down plays, 5-of-7 in the first half. The Panthers were 2-of-10 on third down. Mills held a 374-309 advantage in total offense.
The loss ended Heber Springs’ bid to qualify for the playoffs. However, the Panthers will participate because of the Arkansas Activities Association allowing all teams into the playoffs because of COVID-19.
Heber Springs (1-6 conference, 2-8 overall) will play a play-in game at Trumann (3-4 3-4A Conference, 5-5 overall) starting at 7 p.m. Friday. The winner will advance to play Malvern in the first round.
Heber Springs controlled the first half thanks to quarterback Matthew Cook’s pin-point passing. Cook completed 15-of-21 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns during the first half and 23-of-37 for 211 yards with one interception. Nathan McKee completed 2-of-2 passes for 71 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown pass to Gus Hannah in the first half.
McKee was the leading receiver with nine catches for 69 yards, followed by Easton Cusick, who caught five passes for 49 yards. Hannah had four receptions for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Jackson West caught four passes for 28 yards and one touchdown.
Heber Springs received the opening kickoff and drove 62 yards on seven plays to take the initial lead. On the second play of the game, Hannah caught a pass from Cook and ran for a 26-yard gain and a first down at the Mills 20-yard line. Cook rushed for 16 yards for a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line.
The Panthers netted a minus four yards on the next three plays, but they decided to go for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal at the 8-yard line.
Cook passed to West for the touchdown with 9:51 left in the first quarter. Heber Springs failed on a 2-point conversion and led, 6-0.
Heber Springs scored again before the end of the quarter. After holding on downs at the Mills 29-yard line, the Panthers increased their lead when McKee passed to Hannah with 1:17 remaining. Diego Rubio ran for a 2-point conversion and the 14-0 lead.
Mills reduced the Heber Springs lead in half on a five-play, 52-yard drive. King connected with freshman Kylon Deadman on a 49-yard touchdown pass with 9:48 left in the first half. The Comets’ 2-point conversion attempt failed.
Heber Springs responded with a four-play, 40-yard drive. Cook passed 37 yards to Hannah for the score with 8:12 left in the first half. Hannah kicked the extra point for the 21-6 lead.
Mills scored before halftime on Keilon Davis’ 2-yard run with 4:12 remaining. The 2-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful as the Panthers led 21-12 at halftime.
“It felt good going into halftime leading by nine points,” Wood said. “We were scoreboard watching because we needed Clinton to lose and win by eight points against Mills. We led by 12 points later and felt good about everything. Unfortunately, we stalled on a couple of drives and then came the turnovers.”
Heber Springs increased its lead to 24-12 on Hannah’s 22-yard field goal with 7:26 left in the third quarter.
A shift of momentum began on the next series when Mills needed eight plays during a 60-yard drive. Ringo finished by scoring on a 3-yard run with 4:27 left in the third quarter. The Comets’ 2-point conversion failed as the Panthers’ lead was reduced to 24-18.
Mills took the lead with 1:14 to go in the third quarter. Davis broke free at the line of scrimmage and scored on a 64-yard run. He also ran for the 2-point conversion, giving Mills a 26-24 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Comets scored an insurance touchdown with 11:26 left in the game when Ringo passed 33 yards to King. Davis ran for a 2-point conversion.
“The players showed a lot of fight, like that they did in previous games,” Wood said. “Since Aug. 3, I watched the players improve every day in practice and in games. That is a tribute to the players. I could not ask any more from them.”
Little Rock Mills (3-4, 4-6) 0 12 14 8 - 34
Heber Springs (1-6, 2-8) 14 7 3 0 - 24
Heber Springs, Matthew Cook to Jackson West 8-yard pass (run failed), 9:51
Heber Springs, Nathan McKee to Gus Hannah 29-yard pass (Diego Rubio run), 1:17
Mills, Q.J. King to Kylan Deadmon 49-yard pass (run failed), 9:47
Heber Springs, Cook to Hannah 37-yard pass (Hannah kick), 8:12
Mills, Keilon Davis 2-yard (run failed), 4:12
Heber Springs, Hannah 22-yard kick, 7:26
Mills, Achilles Ringo 3-yard pass (pass failed), 4:27
Mills, Davis 64-yard run (Davis run), 1:14
Mills, Ringo to King 33-yard pass (Davis run), 11:36
TEAM STATS First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 3, Mills 5
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 7, Mills 8
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 3, Mills 0
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 13, Mills 13
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 2/10, Mills 6/11
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 2/6, Mills 2/4
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 7/3, Mills 3/2
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 23:26, Mills 24:34
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 3/2, Mills 5/3
Turnovers: Heber Springs 3, Mills 3
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, Mills 8
Penalties: Heber Springs 8/59, Mills 14/119
Rushing: Heber Springs 15/25/1.7, Mills 37/185/5
Passing: Heber Springs 25/39-283-3/1, Mills 12/16-189-2/0
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 54/308/5.7, Mills 53/374/7.1
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Mills 3/24
Punts: Heber Springs 1/36, Mills 0
Inside 20: Heber Springs 1
INDIVIDUAL STATS OFFENSERUSHING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 10/18, Diego Rubio 4/11, Nathan McKee 1/(-4). Mills, Keilon Davis 18/117/2, Q.J. King 9/62, Achilles Ringo 3/(-2), Nikolas Watson 2/12, Team 2/(-4), Carlos Deadmon 1/(-2).
PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 23/37-211-2/1, Nathan McKee 2/2-71-1/0. Mills, Achilles Ringo 8/10-105-1/0, Q.J. King 4/6-84-1/0.
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 9/69, Easton Cusick 5/49, Gus Hannah 4/120/2, Jackson West 4/28/1, Diego Rubio 2/9, Austin Winchester 1/7. Mills, Keilon Davis 6/66, Q.J. King 4/58/1, Kylan Deadmon 1/49/1, Jalon Davis 1/16.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 229, Nathan McKee 77, Diego Rubio 11. Mills, Q.J. King 142, Keilon Davis 117, Achilles Ringo 103, Nikolas Watson 12.
PUNT RETURNS: Clinton, none
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Jackson West 2/3, Nathan McKee 1/23, Diego Rubio 1/6. Mills, none.
FUMBLE RETURNS: Mills, Wesley Guy 1/8
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Mills, Dylan Parks 1/15
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Gus Hannah 120, Nathan McKee 88, Easton Cusick 49, Jackson West 31, Diego Rubio 26, Matthew Cook 18, Austin Winchester 7. Mills, Keilon Davis 183, Q.J. King 120, Kylan Deadmon 49, Jalon Davis 16, Dylan Parks 15, Nikolas Watson 12, Wesley Guy 8, Achilles Ringo (-2),
SCORING: Heber Springs, Gus Hannah 16 (1/1 XP/XPA, 1/1 FGA. Made: 22-yards), Jackson West 6, Diego Rubio 2. Mills, Keilon Davis 16, Kylan Deadmon 6, Achilles Ringo 6, Q.J. King 6.
DEFENSEPUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20/BLOCKED: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 1/36/36/1/0.
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Mills, Wesley Guy 1/11, Hunter Lowery 1/8, Nikolas Watson 1/4.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Heber Springs, Kenan Sneed, Diego Rubio (onside kick), Chris Edwards (onside kick). Mills, Wesley Guy.
INTERCEPTIONS: Mills, Carlos Deadmon
CLINTON — Time ran out on the Heber Springs Panthers to win their first Battle of the Little Red trophy at Jim Tumlison Field Friday.
Quarterback Matthew Cook’s pass for Diego Rubio was batted away by Clinton defenders Spencer Banister and Harley Tobin at the goal-line as the Panthers lost to the Yellowjackets 32-26 in a 2-4A Conference football game.
Clinton’s Nick Epley scored the winning touchdown on a 52-yard run with 50 seconds left in the game.
Cook started Heber Springs’ final drive with a 14-yard completion to Easton Cusick for a first down at the Clinton 47-yard line., Parker Brown, who was playing his first high school game, caught a 16-yard pass, advancing the ball to the 31. A five-yard penalty against Clinton set up the game’s final play.
“We were able to move down the field on the drive with different guys at receiver,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We had a shot on the final play and that is all you can ask of your team. I told Matthew before the play to throw into the end zone.”
Brown was referring to Nathan McKee, the leading receiver for the Panthers, who was injured during the third quarter and unable to return.
Clinton forced a punt and drove 71 yards for the winning touchdown with 1:33 left in the game. Nick Epley caught a 13-yard pass from Harley Tobin for a first down at the Yellowjacket 45-yard line. Tobin kept the ball for three years before and threw an incomplete pass before Epley’s touchdown run on third-and-seven.
“We knew they could pass or run well,” Wood said. “Clinton has a good quarterback who can run or pass and a lot of speed in the backfield. It was a great call by them with less than a minute left. We were anticipating a pass. You have to make the tackle in that situation and we didn’t do it on that play.”
The teams played nose-to-nose during the first half with Clinton gaining one more yard (163-162) than Heber Springs. The Panthers rushed for 88 yards and passed for 74, while the Yellowjackets had 92 yards rushing and 71 passing.
For the game, Clinton outgained the Panthers 425-354 yards in total offense and held a 23-18 advantage in first downs. Heber Springs rushed for 201 yards and passed for 153. The Yellowjackets had 277 yards on the ground and 148 passing.
Heber Springs converted 1-of-10 opportunities on third down and 4-of-6 on fourth down. Clinton was 6-of-10 on third down and 1-of-2 on fourth down.
Cook completed 15-of-32 passes for 153 yards and one touchdown, and rushed 17 times for 167 yards and one touchdown. He accounted for 320 all-purpose yards. Rubio had 28 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns. McKee caught eight passes for 91 yards. Cusick had three catches for 39 yards and one touchdown. Parker Brown caught two passes for 18 yards.
Tobin completed 8-of-15 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown for Clinton. Epley rushed 18 times for 149 yards and one touchdown.
Clinton received the opening kickoff and marched 59 yards on seven plays for the early lead. Jacob Hutto capped the drive by scoring on a 5-yard run with 9:06 in the first quarter. Aldrick Infante kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.
Heber Springs tied the game on a 10-play, 57-yard drive in the second quarter. Cook’s 30-yard carry put the Panthers in scoring position at the Clinton 15-yard line.
The Panthers needed a fourth-down conversion to keep the drive alive. McKee caught a 7-yard pass from Cook for a first-and-goal at the 3-yard line. Two plays later, Rubio dove into the end zone from one yard out with 8:43 left in the first half. Gus Hannah kicked the extra point for the 7-7 tie.
Clinton regained the advantage on its next possession when Infante kicked a 32-yard field goal with 4:07 to go for a 10-7 lead.
But the Panthers didn’t wait long to respond. Heber Springs drove 62 yards on 10 plays, with Cook connecting on a 20-yard touchdown pass to Cusick. Hannah kicked the extra point for the 14-10 lead with 38 seconds remaining until halftime.
Clinton pulled to within one point on Infante’s 40-yard field game with two seconds left as Heber Springs led 14-13 at halftime.
Heber Springs started the second half at its 48 thanks to McKee’s kickoff return. Cook passed twice to McKee for a first-and-goal at the 4. Two plays later, Rubio scored from the 1, increasing the lead to 20-13. The 2-point conversion was no good.
Clinton pulled to within one point before the end of the third quarter. Tobin capped a six-play, 35-yard drive by scoring on a 1-yard sneak. The Panthers kept their 20-19 lead on Clinton’s bad snap on the try for the extra point.
Heber Springs increased its lead when Thad Bray recovered a Clinton fumble at the Panther 10-yard line. The Yellowjackets held on the next three plays as the Panthers faced a fourth-and-eight at the 12.
A fourth-down conversion helped Heber Springs to increase its lead. The Panthers elected to go for the first down. Cook took the snap, went to his left and broke to the outside. He outran the Yellowjacket defense and scored on an 88-yard run with 7:16 left in the game. After a failed 2-point play, the Panthers led, 26-19.
“We had two choices,” Wood said. “We could keep moving the ball down the field or give it back Clinton on a short field where it probably would score quickly. It was not a tough decision.”
Clinton tied the game when Brody Emberton caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Tobin with 3:48 left. Infante kicked the extra point to tie the game at 26-26.
Epley scored the winning touchdown with 50 seconds left, and Clinton held the Panthers out of the end zone on the game’s final series.
Heber Springs (1-5 conference, 2-7 overall) will host Little Rock Mills in the final regular season game on Friday.
“Mills will be big and physical,” Wood said. “The game will show how much character that we have. We have to come back with our heads high and finish the regular season strong.”
Heber Springs (1-5, 2-7) 0 14 6 6 - 26
Clinton (2-4, 2-7) 7 6 6 13 - 32
Clinton, Jacob Hutto 5-yard run (Aldrick Infante kick), 9:06
Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 1-yard run (Gus Hannah kick), 8:43
Clinton, Infante 32-yard field goal, 4:07
Heber Springs, Matthew Cook to Easton Cusick 20-yard pass (Hannah kick), :38
Clinton, Infante 40-yard field goal, :02
Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 1-yard run (pass failed), 10:24
Clinton, Harley Tobin 1-yard run (run failed), :02
Heber Springs, Cook 88-yard run (run failed), 5:30
Clinton, Tobin to Brody Emberton 21-yard pass (Infante kick), 3:48
Clinton, Nick Epley 52-yard run (kick failed), :50
TEAM STATS First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 8, Clinton 14
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 8, Clinton 8
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 2, Clinton 1
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 18, Clinton 23
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 1/10, Clinton 6/10
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 4/6, Clinton 1/2
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 5/3, Southside 1/0
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 22:02, Clinton 25:58
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 2/1, Clinton 2/2
Turnovers: Heber Springs 1, Clinton 2
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 6, Clinton 0
Penalties: Heber Springs 4/40, Clinton 4/41
Rushing: Heber Springs 27/201/7.4, Clinton 47/277/5.9
Passing: Heber Springs 15/32-153-1/0, Clinton 8/15-148-1/0
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 59/354/6, Clinton 62/425/6.9
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Clinton 2/11
Punts: Heber Springs 2/60, Clinton 1/34
Inside 20: None
INDIVIDUAL STATS OFFENSERUSHING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 17/167/1, Diego Rubio 9/28/2, Nathan McKee 1/6. Clinton, Nick Epley 18/149/1, Jacob Hutto 15/64/1, Brody Emberton 4/33, Harley Tobin 10/29/1, Cody Davis 1/2.
PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 15/32-153-1/0. Clinton, Harley Tobin 8/15-148-1/0.
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 8/91, Easton Cusick 3/39, Parker Brown 2/18, Jackson West 1/3, Diego Rubio 1/2. Clinton, Brody Emberton 3/65/1, Nick Epley 3/43, Jasper Burgess 1/28, Blaine Emberton 1/12.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 320, Diego Rubio 28, Nathan McKee 6. Clinton, Harley Tobin 182, Nick Epley 149, Jacob Hutto 64, Brody Emberton 33, Cody Davis 2.
PUNT RETURNS: Clinton, Jacob Hutto 1/4
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 2/33, Nathan McKee 1/38, Parker Brown 1/4, Gus Hannah 1/0, Austin Winchester 1/0. Clinton, Cody Davis 2/31, Nick Epley 2/21, Brody Emberton 1/11.
FUMBLE RETURNS: None
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: None
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 167, Nathan McKee 135, Diego Rubio 53, Easton Cusick 39, Parker Brown 22, Jackson West 3. Clinton, Nick Epley 213, Brody Emberton 109, Jacob Hutto 68, Cody Davis 33, Jasper Burgess 28, Blaine Emberton 12.
SCORING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 12, Matthew Cook 6, Easton Cusick 6, Gus Hannah 2 (2/2 XPA). Clinton, Aldrick Infante 8 (2/3 XPA, 2/2 FGA. Made: 32, 40), Nick Epley 6, Jacob Hutto 6, Harley Tobin 6, Brody Emberton 6.
DEFENSEPUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20/BLOCKED: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 2/60/30/0/0. Clinton, Aldrick Infante 1/34/34/0/0
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Clinton, Jasper Burgess 1/8, Josh Witt 1/6
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Heber Springs, Isaac King, Thad Bray. Clinton, Ashton Hoyle.
SOUTHSIDE — The Heber Springs Panther defense demonstrated a new step of maturity against Southside Batesville late in the fourth quarter at Stewart Field Friday night.
After a questionable fumble call at the goal-line, the Panthers forced the Southside into a three-and-out and maintained possession during the final 3:37 for a 22-17 road win.
Heber Springs (1-4 2-4A Conference, 2-6 overall) won its first conference game for coach Todd Wood and moved into fifth-place tie with Little Rock Mills and Southside with two weeks remaining in the regular season.
“We talked about responding to quick-turnovers all season,” Wood said. “They wanted to go out there and do something about it this time. The players seemed to play with more energy on that series than other series in the game. We had a lot of big plays by a lot of players. Jayden Bremmon made two big plays. Preston Roberson moved back to linebacker and also made a lot of big plays.”
Wood noticed a different attitude among players. Instead of talking about the questionable fumble play, the defense made its biggest stand of the season yet.
“They played like their backs were against the wall and didn’t want to give Southside anything,” he said. “They had something to prove. I told the players after the game that they always were capable of playing that way and finally did it.”
Wood also had praise for the play of his linemen.
“It starts up front and I can’t say enough good things about all of those guys on the offensive line,” he said.
Big plays happened throughout the game, but Wood said one of the most important came on the final play of the third quarter. Heber Springs faced a fourth-and-10 at the Southside 34 when quarterback Matthew Cook connected on a 32-pass completion to Easton Cusick for a first down at the Southerner 7.
“We (coaching staff) noticed Cusick was open when we tried that play earlier in the game,” Wood said. “I told Matthew to watch for Easton. Matthew was throwing against the wind. Easton bobbled the ball a bit, but he brought the ball back to his chest and caught it.”
Cusick described the play.
“As soon as I saw the safety come up, the ball was there right in my hands,” he said. “Matthew passed the ball perfect to me. It was a great fourth-down play.”
Cook, who completed 9-of-12 passes for 159 yards and and rushed for 85 yards, said Wood told him before the play that Cusick might be open.
“He (Cusick) was open and I threw it to him,” Cook said. “We need those fourth-down conversions.”
Two plays later, Diego Rubio scored from the 1.
Southside controlled the first half, outgaining Heber Springs. The Southerners rushed for 131 yards, 81 coming on Brendan Frazier’s touchdown run. The Panthers were held to 53 yards — 10 yards rushing and 43 passing. Southside sacked Cook and John McBroome four times for losses of 28 yards.
Frazier’s scoring run and Skyler Anorve’s extra point kick gave Southside a 7-0 lead with 4:39 left in the first quarter. Frazier finished with 120 yards on 13 carries.
Heber Springs led for the first time in the game when Nathan McKee scored on a 2-yard carry, and Cook passed to Gus Hannah for the 2-point conversion. The Panthers led 8-7 with 11:56 to go in the first half.
Southside regained the lead with 4:14 left until halftime. The Panthers held on downs at the 2, but the Southerners’ Jamie Riggs scooped up a Diego Rubio fumble and scored. Anorve kicked the extra point for the 14-8 lead.
Heber Springs reached the goal line in the closing seconds, but the drive ended on a Cook interception in the end zone.
The second half became a different game. Heber Springs rushed for 106 yards and passed for 114 yards. Southside was held to 64 yards
Thad Bray set up the first touchdown of the third quarter when he blocked a punt. Bremmon recovered the ball at the Southside 20-yard line. Four plays later, Rubio scored on a 1-yard dive with 8:39 left in the third quarter. Jackson West caught a 3-yard pass from Cook for the 2-point conversion, giving the Panthers a 16-14 lead.
The Southerners regained the lead for the final time when Anorve kicked a 33-yard field. Southside led 17-16 with 4:31 remaining in the third quarter.
Heber Springs started its 11-play, 79-yard drive for the eventual winning score late in the third quarter. Cusick’s fourth-down catch put the Panthers in scoring position. Rubio scored from two yards out with 11:14 to play. The 2-point conversion try failed as Heber Springs led, 22-17.
McKee’s 55-yard catch of a Cook pass put the Panthers in position to increase the lead. McKee caught three passes in all for 81 yards on the night.
“I made a move to the outside and turned upfield.” McKee said. “Matthew saw I was open and put the ball where I could go and catch it.”
Cook said the play worked like Wood told him while on the sidelines earlier.
“Nathan was open, and I threw the ball to him,” Cook said. “The ball went right in his hands like it is suppose to.”
Heber Springs reached the Southside 7 when McKee apparently scored, but officials ruled he fumbled before crossing the goal line.
Heber Springs held on downs the next series and then maintained possession for the rest of the game.
“It was a good feeling after so much disappointment,” Cook said. “We’ve been through a lot of things this year. It felt great and it was against Southside. It was a relief. I had a big smile for the win with my teammates after the final play.”
Heber Springs will play at Clinton Friday in the fifth annual Battle of the Little Red.
“This was a great victory,” Wood said. “We will start preparing for the Clinton game. We have two more games to to take care of before looking at the playoffs.”
The Panthers will conclude the regular season by hosting Little Rock Mills.
Heber Springs (1-4, 2-6) 0 8 8 6 - 22
Southside Batesville (1-4, 2-6) 7 7 3 0 - 17
Southside Batesville, Brendan Frazier 81-yard run (Skyler Anorve kick), 4:39
Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 2-yard run (Matthew Cook to Gus Hannah pass), 11:56
Southside Batesville, Jamie Riggs 2-yard fumble return (Anorve kick), 4:15
Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 1-yard run (Cook to Jackson West pass), 8:39
Southside Batesville, Anorve 33-yard field goal, 4:22
Heber Springs, Rubio 1-yard run (pass failed), 11:14
TEAM STATS First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 4, Southside 4
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 6, Southside 2
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 3, Southside 0
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 13, Southside 6
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 5/10, Southside 1/8
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 1/2, Southside 0/2
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 5/3, Southside 1/0
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 28:55, Southside 19:05
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 3/2, Southside 1/1
Turnovers: Heber Springs 3, Southside 2
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 8, Southside 7
Penalties: Heber Springs 7/43, Southside 8/75
Rushing: Heber Springs 43/126/2.9, Southside 30/172/5.7
Passing: Heber Springs 10/14-157-0/1, Southside 4/7-23-0/1
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 57/283/5.0, Bald Knob 37/195/5.1
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Southside 5/29
Punts: Heber Springs 4/107/26.8, Southside 3/61/20.3
Inside 20: Heber Springs 1, Southside 1
Blocked Punts: Heber Springs 1, Southside 0
INDIVIDUAL STATS OFFENSERUSHING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 21/85, Diego Rubio 13/26/2, Nathan McKee 5/24/1, Jackson West 1/4, Team 1/(-3), John McBroome 2/(-10). Southside Batesville, Brendan Frazier 13/120/1, Brycen Sutton 12/39, Jacob Dunne 3/29, Chase Duncan 1/1, Team 1/(-17).
PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 9/12-159-0/1, John McBroome 1/2- (-2)-0/0. Bald Knob, Chase Duncan 4/7-23-0/0
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 3/81, Jackson West 3/27, Easton Cusick 2/50, Diego Rubio 1/1, Matthew Cook 1/(-2). Southside Batesville, Bo Trucks 2/19, Jacob Dunne 1/4, Isaac Smith 1/0.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 244, Diego Rubio 26, Nathan McKee 24, Jackson West 4, John McBroome (-12). Southside Batesville, Brendan Frazier 120, Brycen Sutton 39, Jacob Dunne 29, Chase Duncan 24.
PUNT RETURNS: Southside Batesville, Isaac Smith 1/12
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Austin Winchester 2/0
FUMBLE RETURNS: Southside Batesville, Jamie Riggs 1/2
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: None
OTHER RETURNS: Jayden Bremmon 1/18
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 105, Matthew Cook 83, Easton Cusick 50, Jackson West 31, Diego Rubio 27, Jayden Bremmon 18. Southside Batesville, Brendan Frazier 120, Brycen Sutton 39, Jacob Dunne 33, Chase Duncan 24, Bo Trucks 14, Isaac Smith 12, Jamie Riggs 2.
SCORING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 12, Nathan McKee 6, Gus Hannah 2, Jackson West 2. Southside Batesville, Brendan Frazier 6, Jamie Riggs 6, Skyler Anorve 5 (2/2 XPA, 1/1 FG - Made: 33).
DEFENSEPUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20/BLOCKED: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 3/50/16.6, John McBroome 1/57/1/0. Southside Batesville, Blayne Warden 2/61/30.5/1, Team 1/0/0/1.
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Southside Batesville, Vern Deering 2/13, Lincoln Fair 1/9, Ricky Vickers 1/6, Alex Allen 1/1
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Southside Batesville, Jamie Riggs
BLOCKED PUNTS: Heber Springs, Thad Bray
BLOCKED PUNT RECOVERIES: Heber Springs, Jayden Bremmmon
INTERCEPTIONS: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee. Southside Batesville, Justin Vannattan
Heber Springs’ approach against 2-4A Conference foe Southside Batesville will not change from the previous its two games.
The Panthers (0-4 conference, 1-6 overall) will focus on winning the battle at the line of scrimmage against Southside (1-3 conference, 2-5 overall).
Kickoff is scheduled at 7 p.m. Friday at Stewart Field in Southside.
Heber Springs is coming off a 35-15 loss to Bald Knob, while the Southerners lost 21-14 at Central Arkansas Christian.
“We must win the battle up front,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “That will be the biggest key. We need to play well, particularly on the defensive line. The team who can maintain control of the line of scrimmage will win.”
The Panthers hope for a quick start against Southside.
Heber Springs had its best drive following the opening kickoff last week against Bald Knob. The Panthers drove 52 yards on 10 plays and took a 7-0 lead. Turnovers and field position shifted the momentum in the second half. Heber Springs has 24 turnovers in seven games.
Bald Knob had scoring drives of 39 and 20 yards following Panther turnovers and returned an onside kickoff for three of its five touchdowns. Southside features a one-two running punch in quarterback Duncan Pierce and Brycen Sutton.
Sutton rushed for 121 yards on 23 attempts and scored one touchdown against CAC. Pierce ran for 84 yards on six carries and had one touchdown. Wood said his team could benefit from playing the third consecutive team with a similar offensive philosophy — running the ball.
“We knew what areas that we needed work,” he said. “Southside will take advantages of your mistakes. It’s a tough offense to prepare for.”
Heber Springs’ offense gained new life when Wood inserted senior Matthew Cook, a starting wide receiver for most of his career, at quarterback in the third game of the season.
Cook has completed 83-of-150 passes for 953 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior Nathan McKee leads the Panthers in receiving with 31 catches for 374 yards and three touchdowns. Two sophomores have emerged as targets in the passing game. Isaac King has caught 17 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Easton Cusick has 14 receptions for 160 yards.
Senior Diego Rubio is the leading rusher with 329 yards on 59 attempts and scored four touchdowns.
Wood expects the offense to perform at a higher level against the Southerners.
“Matthew (13-of-27 passing for 91 yards with four interceptions) had a tough game against Bald Knob,” he said. “We tried to take the pressure off during practice in preparing for this game. Matthew tried too hard to make things happen. (Junior) Jackson West and (senior) Gus Hannah keep improving at receiver. All we need to do is do what we have been doing, but do it better.”
Southside plays a 3-4 defense with linebacking the strength of the unit. Wood said it’s a scheme that the team has faced in most of its games this season.
“Southside has two good linebackers,” Wood said. “They can stop the run and also cover the pass. All we need to do is improve from what we did last week.”
The defense continues to improve, even though statistics may not reveal that. Heber Springs is allowing 301 yards of offense per game — 146 rushing and 155 passing.
“Preston Roberson became a force after switching from linebacker to the defensive line,” Wood said. “He does a good job of containing runners, has good instincts and makes plays. Jayden Bremmon has been playing well at nose guard and Diego Rubio at linebacker. Kenan Sneed has played steady at linebacker. Gus Hannah moved to cornerback and made several plays against Bald Knob.”
Wood expects continued improvement from the defense.
“We were a little tired in the second half against Bald Knob,” he said. “The defense continues to improve every game. We need to do a better job in sudden-change situations when momentum shifts. We got to make more defensive stops.”
Heber Springs will be without the services of senior center Zach Thomas, who was injured last week against Bald Knob.
2-4A CONFERENCE STANDINGS
W L CP W L PS PA
Stuttgart 4 0 52 6 0 242 33
Lonoke 4 0 44 6 1 262 150
Central Arkansas Christian 4 0 38 7 0 223 125
Bald Knob 2 2 19 4 3 179 151
Southside Batesville 1 3 13 2 5 134 219
Little Rock Mills 1 3 11 2 5 164 203
Heber Springs 0 4 0 1 6 128 255
Clinton 0 4 0 0 7 144 315
Friday, October 16
Bald Knob 35, Heber Springs 15
Central Arkansas Christian 21, Southside Batesville 14
Lonoke 29, Little Rock Mills 18
Stuttgart 35, Clinton 7
Friday, October 23
Heber Springs at Southside Batesville
Lonoke at Central Arkansas Christian
Clinton at Bald Knob
Little Rock Mills at Stuttgart
Kickoff: 7 p.m. at Southside Batesville
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: Heber Springs lead 12-2
SERIES HISTORY: This will be the 15th time these two teams have meet on the football field since Southside Batesville started its football program in 2006. Heber Springs won the first 10 meetings in the series before the Southerners claimed a 24-20 victory at home in 2016 before the Panthers would win the next two. Southside Batesville won last season, 48-20, for the its only victory at Panther Stadium in the series.