Fast start, slow finish for Panthers

The 2020 Heber Springs High School Homecoming Queen Hope Evans with her escorts, her father, Ben Evans; crown attendant Lexi Euton and ball attendant Reid Logan. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

A tale of two halves best described Friday’s 2-4A Conference football game between Bald Knob and Heber Springs at Panther Stadium.

The Panthers (0-4 conference, 1-6 overall) led 7-0 at halftime, but the Bulldogs (2-2 conference, 5-3 overall) dominated the second half for a 35-15 win and spoiled Heber Springs’ homecoming.

Bald Knob scored touchdowns after four Heber Springs turnovers and outgained the Panthers, 238-92 in the second half. The Panthers compiled 61 of their 92 yards during the second half on the final possession, which ended with a touchdown.

Heber Springs had six turnovers for the game — four interceptions and two fumbles, including an onside kickoff. The Bulldogs finished with a 341-203 advantage in total offense.

“Bald Knob beat us on the line of scrimmage,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “They knew that they could run the ball against us, which opened up their passing game. We couldn’t move the ball in the second half.”

Bald Knob quarterback Leason Pierce completed 13-of-23 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns. Pierce was only 2-of-6 passing for 24 yards in the first half.

“The defense played well in the first half,” Wood said. “Bald Knob’s size on the line wore us down in the second half.”

Heber Springs held Bald Knob to 1-of-6 third-down conversions in the first half. The Bulldogs turned the tables in the final two quarters by converting 5-of-7 third-down plays.

The Panthers had 3-of-6 third down conversions in the first half and 3-of-5 in the second half. Heber Springs was 2-of-2 during its final scoring drive.
Bald Knob was successful on 2-of-8 fourth down plays, while the Panthers were 0-of-4.

“Our guys were still trying to keep battling,” Wood said. “The big issue were the turnovers and not adjusting to quick changes. We must learn how to fight through that. You can’t win games with that many turnovers.”

Heber Springs quarterback Matthew Cook completed 13-of-27 passes for 91 yards with four interceptions. Nathan McKee caught seven passes for 38 yards. Diego Rubio had 35 yards rushing on eight carries and scored one touchdown.

“We had a good drive on our first possession of the game,” Wood said. “Cook was playing with a lot of confident, but all of the sudden, he gets pressured by Bald Knob’s defense. Matthew looked at things he didn’t need to be looking at. We got to help him correct that. I need to figure out what we need to do to help him do his job better. The first drive was nice, but we didn’t have much success for the rest of the game.”

Heber Springs drove 51 yards on nine plays following the opening kickoff. Cook connected on a 16-yard pass to Easton Cusick, Rubio ran for 10 yards and McKee caught a 13-yard pass for a first-and-goal at the Bald Knob 8-yard line.

Two plays later, Cook scored on a 2-yard carry with 8:51 left in the first quarter. Gus Hannah kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.

Bald Knob’s only first-half scoring threat came on its final possession. The Bulldogs drove from their 31 to the Panther 20-yard line. Bald Knob’s Marcus McGahee missed a 37-yard field goal on the final play as Heber Springs led 7-0 at halftime.

Michael Wingo intercepted a Cook pass and set up Bald Knob’s first touchdown during the third quarter. The Bulldogs needed six plays to go 39 yards with Wingo scoring on a 24-yard run. McGahee kicked the extra point to tie the game at 7-7 with 5:23 left.

Bald Knob regained possession on a sack of Cook, who fumbled, and the Bulldogs recovered at the Heber Springs 20-yard line. Pierce completed the short drive by passing 13 yards to Wingo for the touchdown. McGahee added the conversion for the 14-7 lead.

The Bulldogs recovered an onside kickoff and later scored their third touchdown of the third quarter. Dane Lindsey caught a 19-yard pass from Pierce, increasing the lead to 20-7 going into the fourth quarter.

“We knew the onside kick was coming and practiced on it during the week,” Wood said. “You have to be aware where you are on the field and what you need to do in that situation. Bald Knob executed, and we didn’t.”

Bald Knob scored two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Pierce passed 38 yards to Josh Clark for a score with 10:46 to go. Clark had a 6-yard touchdown run with 4:27 left.  

McGahee ran for a 2-point conversion and then kicked an extra point, increasing Bald Knob’s lead to 35-7.

Jackson West capped a 10-play, 59-yard drive for the Panthers scoring on a 3-yard carry with 24 seconds to play. Hannah ran for the 2-point conversion.

Heber Springs will seek to rebound at Southside Batesville on Friday.

“Southside is another good team that has a big line and likes to runs the ball,” Wood said. “We must find a way to keep our defense from playing most of the time on the field and get the offense going. We took a step backwards against Bald Knob. We need to find out what we did wrong and fix it by Friday.”

The 2020 Heber Springs Homecoming Court. Queen Hope Evans with attendants Lexi Euton and Reid Logan. Senior maids, Sydney Buffalo and Jenna Gillespie. Junior maids, Vallie Cantrell and Hope Gilchrist. Sophomore maids, Jaylea Hooten and Lily Hendrix. Freshman maids, Cherlyn Acosta and Miah Tharp.

GAME STATS

SCORING   
Bald Knob (4-3, 2-2)      0  0  20  15 - 35
Heber Springs (1-6, 0-4)  7  0   0   8 - 15
FIRST QUARTER   
Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 2-yard run (Gus Hannah kick), 8:57
THIRD QUARTER   
Bald Knob, Michael Wingo 3-yard (Marcus McGahee kick), 5:22
Bald Knob, Leason Pierce to Wingo 13-yard pass (McGahee kick), 3:20
Bald Knob, Pierce to Dane Lindsey 19-yard pass (kick failed), 1:06
FOURTH QUARTER 
Bald Knob, Pierce to Josh Clark 38-yard pass (McGahee run), 10:46
Bald Knob, Clark 6-yard run (McGahee kick), 4:27
Heber Springs, Jackson West 3-yard run (Hannah run), 28.4

TEAM STATS   
First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 5, Bald Knob 11
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 8, Bald Knob 5
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 0, Bald Knob 1
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 13, Bald Knob 17
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 6/11, Bald Knob 6/13
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 0/4, Bald Knob 1/6
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 2/2, Bald Knob 4/5
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 18:21, Bald Knob 29:39
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 3/2, Bald Knob 0/0
Turnovers: Heber Springs 6, Bald Knob 0     
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, Bald Knob 27
Penalties: Heber Springs 4/53, Bald Knob 5/34
Rushing: Heber Springs 24/67/2.8, Bald Knob 43/185/4.3
Passing: Heber Springs 17/31-136-0/4, Bald Knob 13/23-156-3/0
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 41/203/5.0, Bald Knob 66/341/5.2 
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 1/8, Bald Knob 2/7
Punts: Heber Springs 2/43/21.5, Bald Knob 0/0
Inside 20: Heber Springs 0, CAC 0

INDIVIDUAL STATS   
OFFENSE     
RUSHING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 8/35, Jackson West 6/16/1, Matthew Cook 8/11/1, Easton Cusick 2/5. Bald Knob, Bradyn Cline 14/90, Josh Clark 10/62/1, Leason Pierce 8/25, Michael Wingo 6/14/1, Marcus McGahee 4/14, Team 1/(-6).
PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 13/27-91-0/4, John McBroome 4/4-45-0/0. Bald Knob, Leason Pierce 13/23-156-3/0.
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 7/42, Easton Cusick 2/32, Austin Winchester 2/26, Dakota Farmer 2/19, Diego Rubio 2/5, Gus Hannah 1/11, Jackson West 1/1. Bald Knob, Dane Lindsey 5/36/1, Michael Wingo 3/17/1, Matthew Smith 2/32/1, Josh Clark 1/38/1, Gage Dismuke 1/24, Elijah Bradley 1/9.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 102, John McBroome 45, Diego Rubio 35, Jackson West 16, Easton Cusick 5. Bald Knob, Leason Pierce 181, Bradyn Cline 90, Josh Clark 62, Michael Wingo 14, Marcus McGahee 14, Team (-6). 
PUNT RETURNS: None
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 2/45, Diego Rubio 1/17. Bald Knob, Dane Lindsey 1/7, Hayden McAnelly 1/0.
FUMBLE RETURNS: Bald Knob, Travis Kersey 1/15
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Bald Knob, Michael Wingo 2/24, Matthew Smith 1/21
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 87, Diego Rubio 57, Easton Cusick 37, Austin Winchester 26, Dakota Farmer 19, Jackson West 17, Matthew Cook 11, Gus Hannah 11. Bald Knob, Josh Clarke 100, Bradyn Cline 90, Michael Wingo 55, Matthew Smith 53, Dane Lindsey 43, Leason Pierce 25, Gage Dismuke 24, Marcus McGahee 14, Elijah Bradley 9.
SCORING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 6, Jackson West 6, Gus Hannah 3 (1/1 XPA). Bald Knob, Michael Wingo 12, Josh Clark 12, Dane Lindsey 6, Marcus McGahee 5 (4/5 XPA, 0/1 FGA. Missed 37).
DEFENSE    
PUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook  2/43/21.5 
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Heber Springs, Preston Roberson/Matthew Cook 1/8. Bald Knob, Travis Kersey 2/7
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Bald Knob, Travis Kersey, Marcus McGahee
INTERCEPTIONS: Bald Knob, Michael Wingo 2, Matthew Smith 1, Josh Clark 1

Panther Gameday: Heber Springs hosts Bald Knob for homecoming date

Heber Springs’ Matthew Cook fights for yards against CAC last week in North Little Rock. Also pictured, Zach Moore (4) and Parker Noyes (65). PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs will look to put all of the pieces together for an entire game as the Panthers will host Bald Knob for homecoming in a 2-4A Conference football game at 7 p.m. Friday.

Homecoming festivities are scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m., with the crowning of queen Hope Evans.

After losses to the three teams tied for the conference lead, Heber Springs (0-3 conference, 1-5 overall) will meet Bald Knob (1-2 conference, 4-3 overall), which will try and bounce back from last week’s 45-8 loss at Stuttgart.

The Panthers trailed fourth place Southside Batesville, Little Rock Mills and the Bulldogs by one game in the conference standings.

“The players were disappointed with the loss to Central Arkansas Christian (35-14),” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We trailed by seven points with eight minutes left in the game. After the game, I challenged the players to play at a higher level against Bald Knob.”

Wood said the players had three of their best practices all season during the week and believes it will carry over to Friday’s game.

“We had a better attitude and showed more spirit during practices,” he said. “I was pleased with the effort. I hope that effort will continue.”

Bald Knob features a run-oriented attack. Wood said one of the keys to success for the Heber Springs defense is to win the battle at the line of scrimmage.

“Bald Knob is a spread team that likes to run the ball,” Wood said. “We must make sure we have enough guys in the area to contain the run and force them to pass. The quarterback makes good decisions, and the running back is talented. The offensive line is big and strong.”

The Bulldogs play a 3-4 scheme on defense with the team’s strength at linebacker.

“Bald Knob’s defense is versatile,” Wood said. “The two outside linebackers will put pressure on the quarterback. They also react well in stopping the run. The defensive line is big and plays physical.”

Diego Rubio became the first Panther to rush for 100 yards in a game this season against CAC. Rubio had 143 yards on 10 carries, including a 58-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

The passing game was effective as quarterback Matthew Cook completed 19-of-29 passes for 149 yards. Nathan McKee led the receivers with eight catches for 65 yards.

“We keep building every week,” Wood said. “We are adding new plays and building on having more success. Cook stepped in and played well at quarterback and took charge of the offense. Diego is a hard runner and was able to get loose a few times last week.”

Wood said the defense also keeps improving, and he expects a good performance against Bald Knob.

“We know our roles better,” he said when asked about the defense’s improvement. “The key against Bald Knob, like last week, is winning the line of scrimmage.”

Wood said Preston Roberson and Thad Bray have played well on the defensive line, and a new player emerged against CAC.

“Roberson has played steady at end,” Wood said. “Bray plays aggressive and gets into the backfield. Jayden Bremmon had one of his best game against CAC. Bremmon showed the ability to move well and uses his hands to gain leverage.”

Wood also likes the play of the linebackers.

“(Kenan) Sneed has the ability to get to the ball. Jackson West has played well, along with Diego at the inside linebackers. Our secondary is improving.”

Wood hopes homecoming will give the team an emotional boost.

“Homecoming always is a double-edge,” Wood said. “I expect them to come out and play with a full effort.”

2-4A CONFERENCE STANDINGS

                            W L CP  W L PS  PA 
Stuttgart                   3 0 39  5 0 207  26 
Lonoke                      3 0 33  5 1 233 132
Central Arkansas Christian  3 0 31  6 0 202 111
Southside Batesville        1 2 13  2 4 120 198   
Bald Knob                   1 2  6  3 3 144 136  
Little Rock Mills           1 2 11  2 4 146 174  
Heber Springs               0 3  0  1 5 113 220
Clinton                     0 3  0  0 6 137 285 
 
Friday, October 9
Central Arkansas Christian 35, Heber Springs 14
Little Rock Mills 46, Clinton 35
Lonoke 52, Southside Batesville 21
Stuttgart 45, Bald Knob 8

Friday, October 16
Bald Knob at Heber Springs
Central Arkansas Christian at Southside Batesville
Little Rock Mills at Lonoke
Stuttgart at Clinton

NOTES

  • Kickoff: 7 p.m. Panther Stadium
  • 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. 

THE SERIES: Bald Knob leads 37-23-2

SERIES HISTORY: This will be the 63rd time these two schools have meet on the football field. Heber Springs and Bald Knob first played during the 1929 season, a 26-2, Panther victory. It would be 11 more seasons before the two teams played again, a 1940 12-0 victory by Heber Springs. Heber Springs would win the first three games in the series before Bald Knob would win 18 out of 20 games played (a 1950 34-13 win by the Panthers broke a five-game losing streak in the series while a 1964 12-7 win broke a 10-game losing streak). The series would be fairly even before Heber Springs won eight straight from 1976 through 1983 before the Bulldogs closed out the 1980s winning six-in-a-row. In the 1990s, the teams would meet seven times with the Panthers getting wins during the 1990 and 1999 seasons. Since the 2005 season, Heber Springs and Bald Knob have played nine times with the Panthers winning seven of those contests, including 34-7 last season.

Mustangs pull away late from Panthers

Heber Springs’ Diego Rubio escapes the tackle attempt of CAC’s Jackson Richmond Friday night in North Little Rock. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

NORTH LITTLE ROCK – Sometimes statistics don’t tell the entire story of a football game.

It happened when the Heber Springs Panthers lost to 2-4A Conference co-leader Central Arkansas Christian 35-14 at Mustang Mountain Friday.

CAC (3-0 conference, 6-0 overall) held a 13-yard advantage in total offense, but the Panthers (0-3 conference, 1-5 overall) averaged more per play, 5.7 to 5.6 yards. The Mustangs ran 60 plays from scrimmage to 57 for Heber Springs.

Diego Rubio became the first Panther to rush for 100 yards in a single game this season with 10 carries for 143 yards and scored one touchdown.

The passing game was effective as Heber Springs quarterback Matthew Cook completed 19-of-29 passes for 149 yards. Nathan McKee caught eight passes for 65 yards, while Jackson West had 46 yards on four receptions. CAC sacked Cook five times for a minus 24 yards.

“We had some success on offense, and the guys. executed well, but the problem was we didn’t do it for the entire game,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We have to count on everyone to execute every play. Sometimes we were not focused on what to do mentally. That is a failure on the coaches’ part, and we need to do a better job of getting the players prepared for games.”

CAC running back Tyler Williams was a one-player show, rushing for 148 yards and scoring three touchdowns, and catching five passes for 63 yards.
Mustang quarterback Palmer Gilbrech completed 15-of-22 passes for 194 yards and one touchdown. Jackson Richmond caught four passes for 61 yards.

Wood said momentum shifted to the Mustangs late in the first half. The game was tied 7-7 before CAC scored two touchdowns for the 21-7 halftime lead.

“They were rolling down the field with No. 5 (Williams) running,” Wood said. “We had a chance to make tackles and hit him high. When you try and tackle him high, you are not going to come out well. If we could have kept it at 14-7 going into halftime, it might have been different in the second half.”

CAC took the lead after recovering a McKee fumble, who caught an 8-yard pass from Cook, fumble at the Mustang 35-yard line after it appeared the ball went out of bounds. Williams rushed on 8-of-9 plays during the drive, scoring on a 2-yard carry with 31 seconds left in the first quarter. Isaac Rine kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.

Heber Springs answered with a 10-play, 50-yard drive following the kickoff. McKee’s 17-yard reception and Rubio rushed for 11 yards to start the drive. Cook finished the series by scoring on a 10-yard run on fourth-and-goal. Chandler Webber kicked the extra point to tie the game at 7-7 with 9:23 left in the first half.

Heber Springs’ Jackson West

CAC regained the lead by driving 53 yards after the ensuing kickoff. Williams scored on a 2-yard carry and capped the 10-play drive with 5:10 remaining in the first half. Rine kicked the extra point for the 14-7 lead.

Heber Springs threatened to tie the score when it had a first down at the CAC 30-yard line. Four plays later, the Mustangs held on downs at the 22-yard line.

CAC needed eight plays on the 78-yard drive, with Williams scoring on a 25-yard run with 23 seconds left. Rine kicked the extra point for the 21-7 halftime lead.  

“If we had been down 14-7 going into the half, it might have been different in the second half,” Wood said. “We had the ball at the beginning of the third quarter, but we didn’t execute well.”

Heber Springs drove to the CAC 17 in the third quarter. A holding penalty moved the Panthers back as the Mustangs held on downs at the 10-yard line.

After two defensive stops, Heber Springs pulled to within a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Cook connected on a 17-yard pass to McKee before Rubio broke into the clear, ran around a defender and scored on a 58-yard run. Webber kicked the extra point, reducing CAC’s lead to 21-14 with 8:14 left in the game.

“Diego is a warrior for the team,” Wood said. “He keeps going and going and makes things happen. Diego is only 5-feet-4, but he plays with a big heart.”

CAC regained a two-touchdown lead on an 8-play, 57-yard drive, all runs by Williams. The Mustangs had a first-and-goal at the 10-yard line, but the Heber Springs defense stiffened on the next three plays and forced fourth-and-goal at the 1.

Williams plunged into the end zone with 4:38 remaining in the game. Rine kicked the extra point, increasing CAC’s lead to 28-14.

“We needed a stop on defense,” Wood said. “We knew No. 5 would get the ball. I told the guys on fourth-and-goal they needed to get into the backfield and tackle him. He just wanted it more than we did.”

CAC’s Jake Sheehy’s 82-yard interception return wrapped up the scoring.

Heber Springs will host Bald Knob for homecoming on Friday.

Heber Springs’ Matthew Cook looks to escape a CAC defender.

GAME STATS

SCORING   
Heber Springs (1-5, 0-3)                  0   7  0  7 - 14 
Central Arkansas Christian (6-0, 3-0)     7  14  0 14 - 35 
FIRST QUARTER   
CAC, Tyler Williams 2-yard run (Isaac Rine kick), :31
SECOND QUARTER   
Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 10-yard run (Chandler Webber kick), 9:28
CAC, Williams 1-yard run (Rine Kick), 5:18
CAC, Palmer Gilbrech to Williams 25-yard pass (Rine kick), :23
FOURTH QUARTER 
Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 58-yard run (Webber kick), 8:14
CAC, Williams 1-yard run (Rine kick), 4:38
CAC, Payton Talbert 82-yard interception return (Rine kick), 1:41

TEAM STATS   
First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 11, CAC 8
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 4, CAC 8
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 2, CAC 2
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 17, CAC 18
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 4/10, CAC 2/11
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 2/5, CAC 4/5
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 1/2, CAC 3/4
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 23:32, CAC 24:28
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 3/1, CAC 1/0
Turnovers: Heber Springs 3, CAC 0      
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, CAC 14 
Penalties: Heber Springs 10/87, CAC 9/73
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 57/325/5.7, CAC 60/338/5.6
Rushing: Heber Springs 28/176/6.3, CAC 38/144/3.8
Passing: Heber Springs 19/29-149-0/2, CAC 15/22-194-1/0
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 1/4, CAC 5/24
Punts: Heber Springs 1/36/36, CAC 3/117/39
Inside 20: Heber Springs 0, CAC 0

INDIVIDUAL STATS   
OFFENSE     
RUSHING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 10/143/1, Matthew Cook 16/25/1, Nathan McKee 2/8. CAC, Tyler Williams 27/148/3, Ethan Demarco 1/4, Palmer Gilbrech 7/4, Team 3/(-12).
PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 19/29-149-0/2. CAC, Palmer Gilbrech 15/22-194-1/0.
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 8/65, Jackson West 4/46, Easton Cusick 3/7, Isaac King 2/5, Austin Winchester 1/13, Diego Rubio 1/3. CAC, Tyler Williams 5/63/1, Jackson Richmond 4/61, Jackson Morse 2/42, Carlito London 2/8, Cauy Blevins 1/12, Jake Sheehy 1/8.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 174, Diego Rubio 143, Nathan McKee 8. CAC, Palmer Gilbrech 198, Tyler Williams 148, Ethan Demarco 4, Team (-12).
PUNT RETURNS: None
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Jackson West 3/41, Isaac King 1/0. CAC, Carlito London 1/31, Tyler Williams 1/26.
FUMBLE RETURNS: Heber Springs, Thad Bray 1/5. CAC, Carlito London 1/(-3).   
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: CAC, Jake Sheehy 1/81/1, Palmer Gilbrech 1/38
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 146, Jackson West 87, Nathan McKee 73, Matthew Cook 25, Austin Winchester 13, Easton Cusick 7, Isaac King 5, Thad Bray 5. CAC, Tyler Williams 237, Jake Sheehy 89, Jackson Richmond 61, Jackson Morse 42, Palmer Gilbrech 42, Carlito London 36, Cauy Blevins 12, Ethan Demarco 4, 
SCORING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 6, Diego Rubio 6, Chandler Webber (2/2 XPA). Lonoke, Tyler Williams 24, Jake Sheehy 6, Isaac Rine 5 (5/5 XPA).
DEFENSE    
PUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 1/36/36/0. CAC, Palmer Gilbrech 3/117/39/0.
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Heber Springs, Preston Roberson/Thad Bray 1/4. CAC, Jake Sheehy 2/8, Cole Shoemaker 1/6, Henry Handley 1/5, Jeremiah Wingfield 1/5 
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: CAC, Ty Bahnks
INTERCEPTIONS: CAC, Jake Sheehy, Palmer Gilbrech

Gameday: Panthers travel to Mustang Mountain

Heber Springs’ Thad Bray (58) and Trevor Weathers (75).

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs spent most of the week adjusting its defense.

The Panthers faced pass-oriented teams in the first five games, but that will change in Friday’s 2-4A Conference matchup against run-oriented Central Arkansas Christian at Mustang Mountain in North Little Rock. Kickoff is scheduled at 7 p.m.

Tyler Williams, who rushed for 149 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries last season against Heber Springs, leads the Mustangs’ run game with 757 yards on 116 carries and 13 touchdowns. Williams rushed for 120 yards and one touchdown in last week’s 20-14 win against Little Rock Mills.

But Williams is not the only threat. Quarterback Palmer Gilbrech has rushed for 169 yards and reached the end zone once. Gilbrech ran for 37 yards on seven carries against Mills.

“CAC has a good tailback (Williams) and a big offensive line,” Heber Springs head coach Todd Wood said. “Williams is a powerful runner and capable of bouncing to the outside. We intend to put CAC’s running game in a bad situation.”

CAC also has an effective passing game. Gilbrech, who rushed for 31 yards against Mills, has completed 62-of-96 passes for 915 yards and five touchdowns. He connected on 15-of-31 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown against Mills.

Jackson Richmond is the leading receiver with 26 catches for 535 yards and four touchdowns. Richmond caught six passes for 98 yards against Mills.

Wood said Williams and Gilbrech were talented players, but the game will be decided at the line of scrimmage.

“The battle will be on the front line,” Wood said. “We must be in the right spots and execute our coverages in the secondary. We match up well. CAC doesn’t have the speed of Lonoke or Stuttgart, but it will make up for it by playing with discipline.”

Seniors Nathan McKee and Hunter Kent, two-way starters for the Panthers, were injured against Stuttgart. Wood said both players returned to practice this week, and he expects McKee to play against CAC. Kent is listed as questionable for the game.

Matthew Cook will start at quarterback for the fourth straight game. Cook has completed 50-of-84 passes for 703 yards and seven touchdowns in the last three games.

Diego Rubio remains the starting running back, but Kenan Sneed may become more involved with the offense.

“CAC has not played a team that plays our type of offense, so we may need to adjust early in the game, depending on how the Mustangs play us,” Wood said. “CAC is strong on the defensive line and has played a 3-4 scheme. The linebackers will pressure you. We plan to try and spread the field against them.”

Wood said Dakota Farmer, who has been a starter on defense, and Jackson West will play more at receiver.

“I’m happy about how the younger guys who are picking up the pace,” Wood said. “I’ve seen a lot of growth from those players.”

Wood said containing CAC’s running game is one of the keys for success.

“We must contain him (Williams),” he said. “We need more production from the offense. Execution will be very important. If we execute, we will do well.”

2-4A STANDINGS

                            W L CP  W L PS  PA 
Stuttgart                   2 0 26  4 0 162  18 
Lonoke                      2 0 20  4 1 181 111
Central Arkansas Christian  2 0 18  5 0 167  97
Southside Batesville        1 1 13  2 3  99 146   
Bald Knob                   1 1  6  3 2 136  91  
Little Rock Mills           0 2  0  1 4 100 139  
Heber Springs               0 2  0  1 4  91 185
Clinton                     0 2  0  0 5  91 239 
 
Friday, October 2 
Central Arkansas Christian 20, Little Rock Mills 14
Stuttgart 42, Heber Springs 6
Southside Batesville 38, Clinton 21
Lonoke 13, Bald Knob 6

Friday, October 9
Heber Springs at Central Arkansas Christian
Clinton at Little Rock Mills
Southside Batesville at Lonoke
Bald Knob at Stuttgart

NOTES

  • Kickoff: 7 p.m. at Mustang Mountain, North Little Rock
  • Admission: All vouchers claimed (No tickets available to attend)
  • Radio/Streaming: Billy Morgan with handle the play-by-play with Lance Hamilton providing color on KSUG 101.9 The Lake. Panther Pregame begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by the game. 

THE SERIES: Series tied at 4-4

SERIES HISTORY: The two teams first meet in the 2000 season when the Panthers and Mustangs played nonconference games, both won by CAC. The two teams would not face each other again until CAC was paired with Heber Springs in the 4A-2 conference in 2014. Since then, the Panthers have won four out of six meetings. CAC’s only conference wins against Heber Springs came in 2015 with a 48-12 win and last season, 24-6.

CONCORD CONNECTION: Central Arkansas Christian was in the same conference with Concord during its only two seasons of varsity football action (1975 and 1976). The Panthers defeated Concord, 48-12, in 1975, and 47-12 in 1976.

PALMER THE FORMER PANTHER: Central Arkansas Christian senior quarterback Palmer Gilbrech played junior high football at Heber Springs before transferring to CAC.

FORMER HOG: Former University of Arkansas and NFL receiver Joe Adams is an assistant coach at Central Arkansas Christian.

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.

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

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 

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.


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.