By PHILIP SEATON
BALD KNOB – Heber Springs overcame a sluggish start to improve to 5-1 on the season with a 29-8 victory over Bald Knob in junior high football action Thursday night.
The Panthers, 3-1 in 2-4A play, trailed 8-7 late in the first half before scoring 22 unanswered to pull away from the Bulldogs. Liam Buffalo, who was 19 of 27 passing for 288 yards and four touchdowns, hit Parker Brown over the middle for a 57-yard scoring strike with 35.4 seconds left in the half. Buffalo connected with Xander Lindley for the 2-point pass to give Heber Springs a 15-7 advantage at the break.
From that point on, the Panther defense took control.
Bald Knob finished the night with 192 yards of total offense on the night, with the majority of that came in the first half, but Heber Springs limited the Bulldogs to 22 yards in the second half and forced three Bald Knob turnovers over that span (fumble recoveries by Axley Davis and Hayden Johnson, and an interception by Dalton Yancey).
Yancey’s interception set up the first score of the second half for the Panthers. Taking over on their own 32, Heber Springs used an 11-play, 68-yard drive to go up 22-8 when Buffalo connected with Yancey for a 3-yard touchdown pass with 42.6 seconds left in the quarter. Gideon Tate, who was three-for-three on PAT kicks on the night, kicked the extra point to make it 22-8. Buffalo was nine of 10 passing on the drive using five different receivers (Tate, Hud Haggard, Brown, Lindley and Yancey – who also had a first-half fumble recovery).
Another turnover set up the next score for Heber Springs in the fourth quarter, Brown sacked Bald Knob quarterback James Holder forcing the fumble. Johnson picked up the ball but was tripped up after a seven-yard return to put the ball on the Bulldog 34.
Heber Springs showed a different look on the next drive with Brown lined up in the “Wildcat” formation. A 12- and 8-yard run by Brown moved the ball to the Bulldog 14. A backwards pass attempt to Buffalo was mishandled on third down forcing a fourth-and-14 from the Bald Knob. But on fourth down, Buffalo took the snap connected with Lindley for the 26-yard touchdown pass.
Lindley finished the night six receptions for 104 yards and two touchdowns, including a 13-yard reception with 2:02 left in the first quarter that put Heber Springs up 7-0.
Bald Knob’s score came with 1:26 left in the first half as Holder connected with Garrett Swindle for an 8-yard touchdown pass. Javen Smith ran in the 2-point conversion.
The Panthers finished with 300 yards of total offense on the night. Brown led Heber Springs with 127 all-purpose yards (79 receiving, 21 rushing and 27 returns).
Bald Knob’s Jameson Hillis led all rushers with 75 yards on 20 carries. But as a team, the Bulldogs finished the night with 67 yards on the ground on 28 attempts.
Heber Springs will host Southside Batesville on Thursday at Panther Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.