Good pitching kept the Heber Springs Panthers close, but missed opportunities led to a 5-4 non-conference baseball loss in eight innings to Southside Batesville (4-11) at the Heber Springs Sports Complex Thursday.
Heber Springs (3-5 in 4-4A Conference, 4-10 overall) will try and bounce back against conference foe Clarksville (4-4 in conference, 7-7 overall) at 4:30 p.m. Friday at home. The Panthers trail third place Clarksville and fourth place Pottsville (3-4 in conference, 5-7 overall) by one game in the loss column.
Starter Corbin Jones allowed five hits, four runs (two runs earned), struck out four and walked two in seven inning. Cole Payton, the losing pitcher in relief, pitched the eighth inning. Payton limited the Southerners to one hit, yielded one earned run and struck out one batter.
“Corbin pitched a great game, and Cole pitched well,” Heber Springs coach Monterio May said. “Corbin mixed his pitches well and stayed ahead of the batters. We didn’t finish the game as a team. We wanted to win and keep the momentum from Tuesday’s game at Pottsville going into Friday’s game with Clarksville.”
May said one of the game’s determining factors was the Panthers not capitalizing on Southside’s mistakes.
“It’s the little plays over the course of a game that make the difference,” he said. “I remember about three or four times it happened. We are not capitalizing on little mistakes that teams make. We played a good game and swung the bats decent.”
Heber Springs took the lead during the bottom of the second inning. Gage Buford hit a single and later scored from third base on John McBroom’s RBI base hit.
Southside scored three runs on three hits and a Heber Springs fielding error in the top of the third inning for a 3-1 lead. The Southerners held the lead until the sixth inning.
J. T Spears singled and was replaced by courtesy runner Conner Riddle. McBroom followed with a base hit and Jones was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Riddle scored on Zachary Parker’s single and reduced Southside’s lead to 3-2.
Easton Cusick, who was a courtesy runner for McBroom, was tagged out on the same sequence at the plate.
The Panthers tied the game when Xander Lindley, a courtesy runner for Jones, scored from third base on a passed ball. Heber Springs took the 4-3 lead when Parker scored on Kenan Sneed’s sacrifice fly to the outfield.
Southside tied the game at 4-4 in the top of the seventh. The Southerners scored the winning run on a Heber Springs fielding error in the eighth.
May said Garrett Hudspeth and Spears have their rest and will be available to pitch against Clarksville on Friday.
“Our pitching is set and both are ready to go,” May said. “We want to go as high in the conference standings as we can and get a good seed for the playoffs. We are starting to play our best baseball and want to be in the top four for the conference tournament.”
Southside 003 000 11–5 3 3 Heber Springs 010 003 00–4 8 4 Southside Batesville hitters — Bo Trucks 2 singles, 1 RBI; Tyson Trucks single, 1 RBI; Blayne Bufford single, 2 stolen bases; Kaelan Duncan single, 1 stolen base; Carson McGhee single, 1 stolen base; Landen Haas 1 stolen base; Kyle Long 1 stolen base. Southside pitchers — Kaelan Duncan 5 hits 1 run, 1 strikeout in 5 innings; Bryson Duncan 2 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 walk in .1 inning; Blayne Bufford (W) 0 hits, 0 runs, 2 strikeouts, 1 walk in 2.2 innings. Heber Springs hitters — Matthew Cook single, double, 1 stolen base; John McBroome 2 singles, 1 RBI; Kenan Sneed single, 1 RBI; Zachary Parker single, 1 RBI; Cole Payton single; Gage Buford single; Garrett Hudspeth 1 stolen base. Heber Springs pitchers –Corbin Jones 5 hits, 4 runs, 2 earned runs, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks in 7 innings; Cole Payton (L 0-1) 1 hit, 1 earned run, 1 strikeout in 1 inning.
Monteri0 May will never forget his first win as head baseball coach at Heber Springs High School.
Garrett Hudspeth pitched the final two innings and hit a bloop single to drive home the winning run in the bottom of the eighth as the Panthers defeated Pottsville 8-7 in a 4-4A Conference game at the Heber Springs Sports Complex.
Hudspeth struck out five batters with one walk in relief of starter J.T. Spears.
Heber Springs picked up its first win in three games. The Panthers lost to conference foe Morrilton in the season opener and to Clinton in non-conference play.
Heber Springs loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Kenan Sneed hit a groundball against a drawn-in infield and Matthew Cook, who started the inning with a single, was thrown out at the plate for the second out.
Hudspeth hit a blooper behind second base that Pottsville shortstop Matthew Moore failed to catch as Xander Lindley scored from third base.
“We will take it anyway we can,” May said. “I told the players before the game we were going to fight every pitch, win every inning and let the outcome play out. I’m proud of how these guys completed with dedication every day. It paid off in this game.”
Heber Springs struggled at the plate during Thursday’s game at Clinton, and May challenged his team to reverse that trend.
“We want to swing through every pitch and try and stay away from check swings,” May said. “We wanted to put the ball in play. We struck out too much against Clinton and wanted to reduce that.”
Spears allowed seven hits and seven runs (one earned run) and struck out six batters in six innings.
“J.T. first met me in January and told said he had been working on pitching for the last year,” May said. “He said that he was going to be one of our best pitchers. He showed that in this game. I told him if he could throw strikes, he could become a good pitcher. We didn’t play great defense behind him, but he kept battling.”
May hoped to get five or six innings from Spears and then give the ball to Hudspeth.
“I told Garrett earlier in the day he will close out the game and be the leader that his teammates think he is,” May said.
Pottsville built a 4-1 lead by scoring one run in the top of the first inning and three runs in the second.
Heber Springs responded with three runs in its half of the second inning. The Panthers loaded the bases with one out as Cook scored from third base on an error. Spears then came home on an infield out. Lindley scored on Sneed’s RBI single to left field.
Pottsville increased its lead to 5-3 in the third inning.
Heber Springs led for the first time by scoring four runs in the bottom of the fourth. Conner Riddle scored on a bases-loaded walk to Cole Payton. Cook hit a 2-run single, scoring Sneed and Hudspeth, as the Panthers led, 6-5. Payton later came home on an error.
Pottsville tied the game at 7-7 in the fifth.
“This was a good win,” May said. “The field was wet and more rain was starting to come down. We hope to build on this and keep rolling along.”
Heber Springs (1-1 conference, 1-2 overall) is scheduled to play at Clarksville on Tuesday and return home to host Dardanelle on Friday in conference games.
Pottsville 131 020 00–7 7 5 Heber Springs 030 400 01–8 9 4 Pottsville hitters — Aiden Owens single, double 1 RBI; Zach Gray single, double; Cade Linker double, 2 RBIs; Easton Stevens single 1 stolen base. Pottsville pitchers — Matthew Moore 5 hits, 7 earned runs, 4 strikeouts, 5 walks in 4.2 innings; Jacob McCurry 2 hits, 0 runs, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk in 1 inning; Caden Caruthers 2 hits, 1 earned run, 2 strikeouts, 1 walk in 1.2 inning. Heber Springs hitters — Matthew Cook 2 singles, 2 RBIs, 1 stolen base; Garrett Hudspeth single, 1 RBI; Kenan Sneed single, 1 RBI; Conner Riddle single, 1 RBI; John McBroome single; Gage Buford single; J.T. Spears single; Xander Lindley single; Cole Payton 1 RBI. Heber Springs pitchers — J.T. Spears 7 hits, 7 runs, 1 earned run, 6 strikeouts in 6 innings; Garrett Hudspeth (W, 1-0) 0 hits, 0 runs, 5 strikeouts, 1 walk in 2 innings.
Heber Springs breezed into the fifth inning with a 6-1 lead and apparently on the way to give first year head coach Monterio May a win in his debut, but Morrilton rallied to tie the game at 6-6 by scoring five unearned runs in the fifth inning and took the lead in the sixth and defeated the Panthers 8-6 in the 4-4A Conference baseball opener at home.
Despite the loss, May said he was proud of his team’s effort.
“We committed two mental errors (in the fifth inning), but we will work on correcting those mistakes,” May said. “We kept competing until the end of the game. We talked in practice about not worrying when we make one mistake. We don’t want it to become two mistakes, but it turned into five. When we face adversity, we need to keep competing and finish the rest of the game strong. We had too many things happen at one time and couldn’t slow the game down. We need to learn to step back and take a deep breath.”
Heber Springs scored runs in the second and third innings. Cole Payton, who walked earlier in the second, scored on Conner Riddle’s infield grounder. The Panthers added one run in the bottom of the third on a bases-loaded walk for a 2-0 lead.
Morrilton scored one run in the top of the fourth, but Heber Springs answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning. Riddle led off with a single, stole second base and scored on Matthew Cook’s single. The Panthers loaded the bases as John McBroome was safe on a throwing error that got past the first baseman and rolled into right field for three runs and increased the lead to 6-1.
Morrilton took advantage of two Heber Springs errors for three runs in the top of the fifth. Cade Halbrook hit an RBI single and the Devil Dogs tied the game at 6-6 on Maddox Hogan’s base hit.
May said Garrett Hudspeth had a good performance in his first pitching start. Hudspeth allowed six runs (five unearned) on seven hits, struck out four and walked two. Cook relieved Hudspeth in the fifth. Gage Buford relieved Cook in the sixth.
“Garrett pitched well and into the fifth inning and showed he will be one of our team leaders,” May said. “Morrilton players showed relief in their faces when he came out of the game.”
Morrilton took the lead on an infield out in the sixth, followed by Drew Tiner’s RBI single.
Riddle and Kenan Sneed each had two singles for the Panthers.
“Conner was one of our bright spots,” May said. “This was the first time we hit against live pitching. We had a good collective team effort. Garrett made a great defensive play in the sixth when he caught a line drive at shortstop and stepped on second.”
Heber Springs was scheduled to play at Clinton in a nonconference game Thursday. The Panthers will host conference foe Pottsville at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Morrilton 000 152 0–8 13 2 Heber Springs 011 400 0–6 7 5 Morrilton hitters — Cade Halbrook 2 singles, double, 1 RBI, 2 stolen bases; Maddox Hogan 2 singles, 1 RBI; Jackson Dixon 2 singles, 1 stolen base; Drew Tiner single, 1 RBI; Luke Carter single, 1 RBI; Casey Jones single, 1 RBI; Beau McElroy single; Braydan Garrett single; Hunter White single; Maddox Hogan 2 stolen bases; Phillip Drilling 1 stolen base. Morrilton pitchers — Phillip Drilling 2 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 strikeouts, 5 walks in 3 innings; Braydan Garrett 4 hits, 4 runs, 1 earned run, 2 strikeouts in 1 inning; Casey Jons (W, 1-0), 1 hit, 0 runs, 7 strikeouts, 1 walk in 3 innings. Heber Springs hitters — Connor Riddle 2 singles, 1 RBI, 1 stolen base; Kenan Sneed 2 singles; Matthew Cook single, 1 RBI; Gage Buford single; Garrett Hudspeth single. Heber Springs pitchers — Garrett Hudspeth 7 hits, 6 runs, 1 earned run, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks in 4.2 innings; Mathew Cook (L, 0-1) 5 hits, 2 earned runs, 1 strikeout in 2/3 of an inning; Gage Buford 1 hit, 0 runs, 1 walk in 1.2 inning.
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 Heber Springs Panthers welcome another opportunity to play football in one of the most unique seasons in history.
Heber Springs (2-8) will meet Trumann (5-5) in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs at Roach Manufacturing Corporation (RMC) Stadium in Trumann Friday. Kickoff is scheduled at 7 p.m.
This will be the first meeting between these two teams in school history.
The Panthers finished the regular season with a 34-24 loss to Little Rock Mills University Studies, while Trumann defeated Cave City, 34-21.
The Panthers didn’t qualify for the playoffs as one of the conference’s top five teams, but opted to compete under the Arkansas Activities Association’s rule that all teams may compete this season because of COVID-19.
“We have had a lot of positive feedback from players and parents,” said Heber Springs coach Todd Wood when asked about participating in the playoffs. “They were happy that we are continuing our season. Our season is not over, and we hope to go out there and move forward in the playoffs. The game will be a good experience.”
The two teams played one common opponent during the regular season — Southside. Trumann shut out the Southerners 27-0 on Sept. 11, while the Panthers defeated Southside 22-17 on Oct. 23.
Quarterback Connor McClain and running back Milton Lewis are two of the players to watch when Trumann is on offense. The Wildcats operate from a form of the Single-Wing.
“Trumann prefers the run, but will pass,” Wood said. “The running attack is similar to what Clinton did. No. 2 (Lewis) is one of Trumann’s best athletes, and it likes to get the ball to him. We need to keep a close eye on him at all times. We must tackle well and have been stressing that during practice.”
Heber Springs’ preparation on offense will not change much from the last four opponents as Trumann plays a 3-4, defense.
Wood said the offense has shown improvement from game-to-game and he is looking for the team’s best performance against Trumann.
Heber Springs quarterback Matthew Cook is a running and passing threat, with Nathan McKee his primary target in the passing game. Cook has completed 130-of-231 passes for 1,476 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has rushed for 433 yards on 115 carries and scored four touchdowns. McKee is the team’s leading receiver with 51 catches for 615 yards and three touchdowns.
Wood also said he hopes for increased production from the running game. Diego Rubio has rushed for 394 yards on 85 attempts and scored eight touchdowns.
“If we can get into a good rhythm on offense, we will be OK,” Wood said. “It’s important to hold onto the ball and have no turnovers. The receivers also must make catches, and we need to protect the quarterback better. If we do that, it will open up our running game.”
Linebackers Preston Roberson and Kenan Sneed lead the defense. Wood expects the team will put lessons learned in recent games to good use against Trumann.
“We need to be in the right places and tackle well,” Wood said. “We must take it to Trumann and not let Trumann take it to us. We must win the battle at the line of scrimmage.”
Friday’s winner will play at Malvern (5-5) in the second round next week.
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
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.
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
Kickoff: 7 p.m. Panther Stadium
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.
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.”
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
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.