Panthers fall to Comets, head to playoffs

Heber Springs’ Jackson West, Preston Roberson and Nathan McKee celebrate after teammate Chris Edwards recovers an onside kick to start the second half. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO


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

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

RUSHING: 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.
PUNTS/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

Panther PostGame

Heber Springs tops Mills, heads to playoffs

Heber Springs’ Hunter Kent (21) and Nathan McKee (22) celebrate a touchdown against Mills Friday night. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

November 8, 2019


LITTLE ROCK – With a playoff berth and seeding secured for Heber Springs, the Panthers took care of business Friday night with a 28-14 victory over Little Rock Mills.

Earlier in the week the drama had been taken out of Friday’s night game when the Arkansas Activities Association ruled that the Comets had used an ineligible player forcing the Mills to forfeit all four of their wins, including all three conference contests. That ruling assured that the Panthers would be in the playoffs regardless of the outcome of Friday’s game.

Friday night Adam Martin passed for two touchdowns and ran for another while Nathan McKee caught one of those touchdown passes and also had an interception in the win.

The two teams traded possessions to open the contest before the Panthers took over on their own 47 driving to the Mills 13 before the drive stalled on fourth down.

The Comets took over and drove to the Heber Springs 47 after converting on a fourth-and-3 play. On the next play, Lavell Carnell connected with Zack Smith for a 47-yard scoring strike to make it 6-0 after the PAT kick failed with 11:01 to play in the half.

The Panthers responded with an 11-play, 60-yard drive that Martin capped with a 5-yard touchdown run with 6:51 to play in the first half. Jackson Harrod kicked the PAT and Heber Springs led, 7-6

The Panther defense got a stop on the Comets next possession stopping Mills on a fourth-and-3 own their own 40 for a two-yard loss. On the next play, Martin found Hunter Kent in stride for a 38-yard touchdown pass with 3:31 to play in the second quarter.

Mills had a response with a 55-yard drive that Carnell finished off with a 1-yard quarterback sneak with 9 seconds left in the half. Carnell added the two-point conversion to make it 14-all at the break.

Nicholas Hitchcock recovered the onside-kick attempt for Heber Springs to start the second half, and the Panthers appeared to be marching in for a score after Martin connected with Landon Johnson for a 29-yard gain on third-and-10 to move the ball to the Mills 15. But Martin was sacked for a 6-yard loss by Shon Moore forcing a third-and-14, Heber Springs was unable to convert turning the ball over on downs at the Comet 10.

The Panther defense came up big keeping Mills pinned inside the 10, including almost recording a safety on back-to-back to plays. Punting from his own end zone, Carnell shanked the punt giving Heber Springs a short field at the Comet 13.

Four plays later Julio Rubio punched the ball in from the 2 to make it 21-14 with 6:10 left in the third quarter.

Mills’ next drive stalled the Panther 38 when McKee stepped in front of the Carnell pass attempt at the 20 returning to the 36. But Heber Springs went backwards on the ensuing drive thanks in part to holding and false start penalties.

The Panthers got another turnover as junior Diego Rubio pounced on a loose football at the Heber Springs 46, the third straight week Rubio has recovered a fumble. Back-t0-back unsportsmanlike penalties against the Comets after the fumble, which led to the ejection of Carnell, gave the Panthers the ball on the 24.

On the ensuing play, Martin connected with McKee to put Heber Springs up 28-14 with 53 seconds left in the third.

Mills threatened again with 9:06 left after Julius Graves intercepted a Martin pass attempt at the Panther 21, but the Panther defense stiffened in the red zone forcing the Comets to turn the ball over on downs at the 9.

After a three-and-out, Mills got the ball back with 4:37 left at the Panther 40 and reached the Panther 7 with 1:02 to play but an incomplete pass on fourth down sealed the win for Heber Springs.


Heber Springs’ Matthew Cook


Heber Springs (4-3, 4-6)                 0  14   0   0  - 14    
Little Rock Mills (0-7, 0-10             0  14  14   0  - 28    

Mills - Lavell Carnell to Zack Smith 47-yard pass (kick failed), 11:01 
Heber Springs - Adam Martin 5-yard run (Jackson Harrod kick), 6:51
Heber Springs - Adam Martin to Hunter Kent 38-yard pass (Harrod kick), 3:31
Mills - Carnell 1-yard run (Carnell run), :09
Heber Springs - Julio Rubio 2-yard run (Harrod Kick), 6:10
Heber Springs - Martin to Nathan McKee 24-yard pass (Harrod kick), :53
Heber Springs’ Adam Martin


First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 6, Mills 8
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 9, Mills 3
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 0, Mills 1
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 15, Mills 12
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 4/11, Mills 4/16
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 0/2, Mills 5/8
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 2/4, Mills 1/3
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 23:23, Mill 24:37
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Mills 2/2
Turnovers: Heber Springs 1, Mills 3   
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 7, Mills 0
Penalties: Heber Springs 8/53, Mills 11/90
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 57/246/4.3, Mills 64/224/3.5
Rushing: Heber Springs 28/70/2.5, Mills 41/121/2.9
Passing: Heber Springs 19/29-176-2/1, Mills 9/23-103-1/1 
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 1/0, Mills 2/15
Punts: Heber Springs 3/94/31.3, Mills 3/82/27.3
Punts Inside 20: Heber Springs 1, Mills 0
Heber Springs’ Nathan McKee with a second-half interception return. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO


RUSHING: Heber Springs, Julio Rubio 12/39/3.3/1, Adam Martin 10/29/2.9/1, Team 4/(-10)/(-2.5), Landon Johnson 2/12/6. Mills, Lavell Carnell 16/45/2.8, Reggie Swinton II 13/41/3.2, Keilon Davis 7/34/8.0, G'Kyson Wright 5/1.
RUSHING RUNS OF 20+: Heber Springs, Julio Rubio (1) 
RUSHING RUNS OF 10+: Heber Springs, Julio Rubio (2), Adam Martin (1). Mills, Lavell Carnell (2), Reggie Swinton II (1)
PASSING: Heber Springs, Adam Martin 19/29-176-2/1. Mills, Lavell Carnell 7/14-77-1/1, G'Kyson Wright 2/9-26-0/0
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 6/62/1, Landon Johnson 5/49, Hunter Kent 3/41/1, Matthew Cook 3/10, Fate Berry 1/12, Julio Rubio 1/2. Mills, Zack Smith 5/90/1, Keilon Davis 2/5, Kammarion Slade 1/6, Eugene Hinton 1/2.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Adam Martin 205, Julio Rubio 39, Landon Johnson 12, Team (-10). Mills, Lavell Carnell 122, Reggie Swinton II 41, Keilon Davis 34, G'Kyson Wright 27.
PUNT RETURNS: Mills, Keilon Davis 1/11.
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 1/14, Hunter Kent 1/6. Mills, Keilon Davis 2/25, Tamarion Hunter 2/12.
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 1/16. Mills, Julius Graves 1/14
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 92, Landon Johnson 61, Hunter Kent 47, Julio Rubio 41, Adam Martin 29, Fate Berry 12, Matthew Cook 10. Mills, Zack Smith 90, Keilon Davis 75, Lavell Carnall 45, Reggie Swinton II 41, Tamarion Hunter 12, Kammarion Slade 6, Eugene Hinton 2, G'Kyson Wright 1.  
TACKLES (Shared/Solo/Total): Heber Springs, Landon Johnson 14/1/15, Lawrence Baureis 9/1/10, Fate Berry 7/2/9, Nathan McKee 7/2/9, Nicholas Hitchcock 6/2/8, Julio Rubio 4/3/7, Diego Rubio 7/0/7, Kaden Hughes 4/1/5, Matthew Cook 2/2/4, Dalton McCollum 3/0/3, Levy Phillips 2/0/2, Hunter Kent 2/0/2, Trevor Weathers 1/0/1, Jackson Harrod 1/0/1 
TACKLES FOR LOSS: Heber Springs, Julio Rubio 6, Lawrence Baureis 4, Kaden Hughes 2, Nicholas Hitchcock 2, Landon Johnson 1, Nathan McKee 1
SACKS: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio .5, Landon Johnson .5. Mills, Eddie Brown 1/9, Shon Moore 1/6.
INTERCEPTIONS: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee. Mills, Julius Graves
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Heber Springs, Nicholas Hitchcock, Diego Rubio
PUNTING: Heber Springs, Adam Martin 3/94/31.3. Mills, Lavell Carnall 2/33/22, G'Kyson Wright 1/38
PUNTS INSIDE 20: Heber Springs, Adam Martin (1).



                            W L CP  W L  PS  PA   
Riverview                   5 2 52  7 3  337 278 
Southside Batesville        5 2 54  7 3  340 246
Central Arkansas Christian  5 2 59  7 3  296 220       
Lonoke                      5 2 47  6 4  293 297
Heber Springs               4 3 41  4 6  274 300        
Bald Knob                   3 4 13  3 7  160 310                 
Stuttgart                   1 7 13  1 9  238 341
Little Rock Mills           0 8  0  0 10 202 264    

Friday, November 1
Central Arkansas Christian 34, Bald Knob 6
Heber Springs 49, Riverview 35
Lonoke 35, Stuttgart 28
Southside Batesville 50, Little Rock Mills 23

Thursday, November 7
Lonoke 26, Riverview 14
Central Arkansas Christian 28, Stuttgart 6

Friday, November 8
Bald Knob 27, Southside Batesville 22
Heber Springs 28, Little Rock Mills 14

CORRECTION FROM LAST WEEK: In preparing the playoff scenarios for the 4A-2 in Friday’s game preview, the conference point was incorrect for Riverview. With the forfeits by Mills, every team that played them in conference received 13 conference points. Riverview had defeated Mills by 10, 37-27, October 11 but those adjusted points were inadvertently left out of the conference totals in Friday’s preview.

CONFERENCE CHAMPS: With Bald Knob’s win over Southside Batesville Friday night, it created a four-way tie at the top of the conference standings. As a result, Lonoke, Riverview, Southside Batesville and CAC all claim a share of the conference crown. It is the first conference title for Riverview. The fifth for CAC. The second for Southside Batesville and the 13th for Lonoke.

PLAYOFFS: No. 1 Riverview hosts Bauxite, No. 2 Southside Batesville hosts Star City, No. 3 CAC hosts Gentry, No. 4 Lonoke travels to Pea Ridge and No. 5 Heber Springs travels to Shiloh Christian.