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.

Stuttgart dominates Heber Springs

Heber Springs’ Easton Cusick and Stuttgart’s Arlie Lee battle at the line of the scrimmage during Friday’s contest at Panther Stadium. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs quickly learned at Panther Stadium Friday night that Stuttgart deserved all of the preseason hype and the favorite’ roles to win the 2-4A Conference football championship.

The Ricebirds (2-0 conference, 4-0 overall) scored touchdowns on all six first-half possessions and defeated the Panthers (0-2 in conference, 1-4 overall), 42-6.

Stuttgart remained in a tie for the conference lead with Lonoke and Central Arkansas Christian. Heber Springs played Lonoke early this season and will play at CAC on Friday.

“Stuttgart is the best team in the conference, and I expect them to make it to War Memorial Stadium (state championship game),” Heber Springs head coach Todd Wood said. “They are one of the top teams in the state. Stuttgart did the same thing to other teams this year that it did to us.”

Heber Springs’ Jackson West

The Ricebirds had 394 yards of offense and held the Panthers to 180 yards. Stuttgart did most of its damage through the air and in the first half. Quarterbacks Pate Kleinbeck and Jaden Strange combined to complete 11-of-16 passes for 322 yards and six touchdowns.

Arlie Lee continues to be a thorn in the side of the Heber Springs defense. Lee caught six passes for 175 yards and four touchdowns.  He caught 12 passes for 125 yards and one touchdown last season when Stuttgart lost 28-27 to the Panthers.

“I told our players after the game if you want to be one of the big and bad like Stuttgart, you need to get in the weightroom now and in the offseason,” Wood said.

Running back Diego Rubio provided most of the Panthers’ offense. Rubio rushed 11 times for 31 yards and had 84 yards in kickoff returns for 115 all-purpose yards. Matthew Cook completed 11-of-23 passes for 100 yards with one interception. Cook also ran for 39 yards on eight attempts. Jackson West caught three passes for 45 yards.

Two Heber Springs senior two-way starters — Nathan McKee and Hunter Kent — left the game in the first half because of injuries. Wood said Jackson West, who started on defense, stepped in at receiver and played well.

“Jackson is one of the guys we challenged to become more involved on the offense,” Wood said. “He is learning the receiver position. I expect him to show improvement every game.”

Wood said it was encouraging that the players keep a “no quit attitude.”

“They keep fighting,” he said. “I didn’t see any quit and that is good. When you are being physically dominated, it’s easy to give up. We kept fighting and that is what I like to see.”

Stuttgart scored two touchdowns during the first quarter. Lee caught a 58-yard scoring pass from Strange on the third play of the game. Kleinbeck connected on a 4-yard toss to Lee at the end of a 10-play, 88-yard drive.

The Ricebirds reached the end zone four times in the second quarter.

Kleinbeck passed 45 yards to Strange and Lee caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from Strange. Kleinbeck connected on a 22-yard scoring pass to Strange and Strange concluded the scoring on a 33-yard touchdown run.
Jack Hosman kicked the extra points as Stuttgart led 42-0 at halftime.

Heber Springs avoided a shutout by driving 94 yards on 11 plays. Rubio and Cook had runs of 15 and 28 yards, respectively, early in the drive. West’s 21-yard pass reception from Cook put the Panthers in position. Rubio finished the drive by scoring on a 3-yard run with 8:13 left in the game.

“We wanted to score and had two big plays on the drive,” Wood said. “It was good to get the ball into the end zone.”

Heber Springs’ Matthew Cook

GAME STATS

SCORING   
Stuttgart (4-0, 2-0)         14  28  0  0 - 42 
Heber Springs (1-4, 0-2)      0   0  0  6 -  6 
FIRST QUARTER   
Stuttgart, Jaden Strange to Arlie Lee 58-yard pass (Jack Hosman kick), 10:26
Stuttgart, Pate Kleinbeck to Lee 4-yard pass (Hosman kick), 1:52
SECOND QUARTER   
Stuttgart, Kleinbeck to Strange 45-yard pass (Pass failed), 10:02
Stuttgart, Strange to Lee 37-yard pass (Strange run), 4:49
Stuttgart, Kleinbeck to Strange 22-yard pass (Hosman kick), 3:04
Stuttgart, Kleinbeck to Strange 33-yard pass (Hosman kick), 1:17
FOURTH QUARTER 
Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 3-yard run (Kick failed), 8:21

TEAM STATS   
First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 5, Stuttgart 3
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 4, Stuttgart 8 
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 3, Stuttgart 0
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 12, Stuttgart 11 
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 1/7, Stuttgart 6/8
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 1/3, Stuttgart 0/0
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 1/2, Stuttgart 2/2
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 26:52, Stuttgart 21:08
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Stuttgart 2/0
Turnovers: Heber Springs 1, Stuttgart 0       
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, Stuttgart 7  
Penalties: Heber Springs 4/22, Stuttgart 13/120 
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 47/180/3.8, Stuttgart 36/394/10.9
Rushing: Heber Springs 24/80/3.3, Stuttgart 20/72/3.6
Passing: Heber Springs 11/23-100-0/1, Stuttgart 11/16-322-6/0
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Stuttgart 2/18
Punts: Heber Springs 3/69/23, Stuttgart 2/88/44
Inside 20: Heber Springs 0, Stuttgart 2

INDIVIDUAL STATS   
OFFENSE     
RUSHING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 8/39, Diego Rubio 11/31, Kenan Sneed 3/16, Isaac King 2/(-6). Stuttgart, Daniel Poole 6/38, AJ Higgins 4/21, Jaxson Robinson 3/10, Tymir Coppins 1/5, Xavier Hobbs 2/5, Jack Hosman 1/2
PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 11/23-100-0/1. Stuttgart, Pate Kleinbeck 7/11-186-4/0, Jaden Strange 4/5-136-2/0.
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Jackson West 3/45, Kenan Sneed 3/25, Isaac King 2/14, Nathan McKee 2/8, Easton Cusick 1/8. Stuttgart, Arlie Lee 6/175/3, Jaden Strange 3/100/3, Jaxson Robinson 1/27, Tymir Coppins 1/20.  
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 139, Diego Rubio 31, Kenan Sneed 16, Isaac King (-6). Stuttgart, Pate Kleinbeck 186, Jaden Strange 136, Daniel Poole 38, AJ Higgins 21, Jaxson Robinson 10, Tymir Coppins 5, Xavier Hobbs 5, Jack Hosman 2.
PUNT RETURNS: Suttgart, Tymir Coppins 1/(-1) 
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 5/84. Stuttgart, Kendrick Hawkins 1/7, Deontre Starks 1/0.
FUMBLE RETURNS: None   
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Stuttgart, Bryer West 1/21
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 115, Jackson West 45, Kenan Sneed 41, Matthew Cook 39, Isaac King 8, Nathan McKee 8, Easton Cusick 8. Stuttgart, Arlie Lee 175, Jaden Strange 100, Daniel Poole 38, Jaxson Robinson 37, Tymir Coppins 24, AJ Higgins 21, Bryer West 21, Kendrick Hawkins 7, Xavier Hobbs 5, Jack Hosman 2. 
SCORING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 6, Chandler Webber (0/1 XPA). Lonoke, Jaden Strange 20, Arlie Lee 18, Jack Hosman 4 (4/4 XPA).
DEFENSE    
PUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 3/69/23/0. Stuttgart, Jaden Strange 2/88/44/2.
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Stuttgart, Kameron Harper 2/8
Fumble Recoveries: None
Interceptions: Stuttgart, Bryer West

GAMEDAY: Ricebirds invade Panther Stadium

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Moving forward became the theme throughout the week at football practice for the Heber Springs Panther football team.

Heber Springs (0-1 2-4A Conference, 1-3 overall) will host undefeated Stuttgart (1-0 conference, 3-0) at 7 p.m. Friday.

Central Arkansas Christian and Bald Knob joined Stuttgart and Lonoke at the top of the conference standings after the first weekend of play.

Heber Springs held leads of 6-0, 12-7 and 19-14 against Lonoke. The Jackrabbits broke up a competitive game by scoring three touchdowns late in the second quarter in the 47-31 win against the Panthers.

Stuttgart shut out Southside Batesville 42-0 in its conference opener.

“I told the players that we need to build on the positives,” Heber Springs head coach Todd Wood said. “We are keeping that attitude going into Friday’s game.”

Quarterback Pate Kleinbeck and running back Cedric Hawkins lead Stuttgart’s offense. Kleinbeck has completed 24-of-46 passes for 500 yards and six touchdowns in three games. Hawkins is the team’s leading rusher with 149 yards on 15 carries and scored two touchdowns, plus a 96-yard kickoff return for a score.

Seven receivers have caught passes, led by Arlie Lee, who has 10 catches for 207 yards and three touchdowns.

“Stuttgart has speed, size and will take advantage of your mistakes,” Wood said. “We need to do a better job of protecting the ball (14 turnovers in four games) and play with more focus on defense. Our effort was encouraging against Lonoke. We are beginning to understand that we never quit, regardless of the score or situation in a game.”

Increased production by the Heber Springs offense started two games ago when Matthew Cook became the starting quarterback. Cook has completed 39-of-61 passes for 603 yards and seven touchdowns.

The return of Nathan McKee, who had been sidelined by an injury, also gave the offense a boost. McKee has caught 13 passes for 242 yards and three touchdowns in the last two games.

“McKee had a great game at Lonoke, and I hope that will continue,” Wood said. “It was only the second start for Matthew at quarterback. He made some mistakes, but he also did a lot of good things.”

Wood said one of the keys to Friday’s game will be more production from the running game. The Panthers rushed for 18 yards against Lonoke.

“We need to control the line of scrimmage,” he said. “We must be able to run the ball successful.”

Wood said preventing big plays and winning the turnover battle are areas that also need improvement.

“We stressed the importance during the week of containing the other team’s offense,” he said. “We need to do a better job of tackling and win the turnover battle.”

  • Kickoff: 7 p.m. at 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: Stuttgart leads the all-times series, 10-3. The two teams first meet in 2006 when the Ricebirds dropped from class 5A down to 4A and were placed in the same conference with Heber Springs. Stuttgart won the first four meetings before the Panthers claimed a 20-14 win in 2010.

2-4A STANDINGS

                            W L CP  W L PS  PA 
Stuttgart                   1 0 13  3 0 120  12 
Lonoke                      1 0 13  3 1 168 105
Central Arkansas Christian  1 0 12  4 0 147  83  
Bald Knob                   1 0  6  3 1 130  78  
Little Rock Mills           0 1  0  1 3  86 119  
Heber Springs               0 1  0  1 3  85 143
Southside Batesville        0 1  0  1 3  61 125   
Clinton                     0 1  0  0 4  70 201 
 

Friday, September 25 
Central Arkansas Christian 47, Clinton 35
Stuttgart 42, Southside Batesville 0
Lonoke 47, Heber Springs 31
Bald Knob 14, Little Rock Mills 8 
Friday, October 2 
Little Rock Mills at Central Arkansas Christian
Stuttgart at Heber Springs 
Clinton at Southside Batesville
Lonoke at Bald Knob

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.

GAMEDAY: Heber Springs opens conference play at Lonoke

Heber Springs’ Thad Bray and Diego Rubio bring down Dover’s Dawson Branch in action last week at Panther Stadium. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs lost to two of the state’s top-ranked 3A teams in non-conference, but that will not have an effect on the 2-4A Conference football opener Friday.

The Panthers (1-2) will start the chase for a conference championship at Lonoke (2-1). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

“I told the team after last week’s game (a 42-6 win against Dover) we will start with a clean slate against Lonoke,” Heber Springs head coach Todd Wood said. “We used the non-conference games as a learning experience. Winning the conference title is our goal. It is a new season, and we hope to put things together like last week.”

Heber Springs broke out of its offensive slump. The Panthers more than doubled its total offense and committed no turnovers. Heber Springs had eight turnovers in the first two games.

Matthew Cook completed 16-of-22 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns in his first start at quarterback. Heber Springs rushed for 134 yards with six receivers catching passes.

“Scoring on our first drive gave us confidence,” Wood said. “Hopefully, it will grow and we keep improving. We challenged the players before the Dover game to execute better, and they did.”

Heber Springs sophomore Isaac King flips the ball to an official after scoring last week against Dover. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Wood said the decision to start Cook at quarterback was one of the keys to the success of the offense.

“Cook will get better at quarterback,” Wood said. “Matthew passes well, and he is also a good runner. Cook did a good job of throwing to more than one receiver.”

Wood also said the offensive linemen showed improvement.

“The line played better,” Wood said. “We did a better job of protecting the quarterback.”

Quarterback Spence Pepper and running back Ja’coree Womack lead Lonoke’s offense. The Jackrabbits played Newport even for three quarters before the Greyhounds pulled away by scoring four fourth-quarter touchdowns.

“Lonoke has a lot of good athletes and speed like Newport and Harding Academy,” Wood said. “We will be playing a well-coached team again. Playing those teams helped in preparing for this game.”

The defense also had its best performance. Dover gained 65 of its 110 yards on the final drive. Wood said lineman Thad Bray, inside linebacker Kenan Sneed, cornerback Easton Cusick and safety Conner Riddle led the way.

Wood said the defense is ready for the challenge against Lonoke.

“The quarterback is not only a good runner, but a good passer,” he said. “Lonoke tries to balance its offense between the run and pass. It is going to be a challenge for our defense. We must stop big plays, keep them contained and tackle well.”

“I am on the different end of this one. I don’t think it has hit me yet. Matter of fact, I had one of the coaches come up to me and whisper in my ear and say ‘congratulations on your first win’. It hasn’t hit me yet so when I walk off the field and think about that I have been doing this for 27 years and this is the first time. I’ve been a head baseball coach and been a part of some great teams in that situation, but I’ve always been an assistant coach for football so to finally get my opportunity to be out here and be the leader of a young group and to be able to get a win is something that about and you sit back and soak in the feelings. It’s a great night for everybody.”

Heber Springs coach Todd Wood after getting his first win as a head coach last week against Dover
  • Kickoff: 7 p.m. at Lonoke
  • 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.  You can listen live here.

CONFERENCE SCOREBOARD WEEK 3

  • Heber Springs 42, Dover 6
  • Central Arkansas Christian 32, Carlisle 6
  • Dardanelle 34, Clinton 14
  • Trumann 27, Southside Batesville 0
  • Valley View 56, Bald Knob 24
  • Newport 47, Lonoke 19
  • Stuttgart, Covid canceled with DeWitt
  • Little Rock Mills, bye

CONFERENCE SCHEDULE WEEK 4

  • Heber Springs (1-2) at Lonoke (2-1)
  • Southside Batesville (1-2) at Stuttgart (2-0)
  • Bald Knob (2-1) at Little Rock Mills (1-2)
  • Central Arkansas Christian (3-0) at Clinton (0-3)

The Series: Lonoke leads the all-time series, 14-10

The two teams first meet in 1931, a 25-0 victory by the Jackrabbits in Lonoke. The schools would play eight times between 1931 and 1942 with the Panthers lone victory coming in 1933, 19-0. The two teams wouldn’t meet again for almost 50 years when the two schools were both part of the 5AA-North conference for the 1991-92 cycle with the Jackrabbits winning both of those conference contests. Fourteen years later in 2006, Heber Springs and Lonoke would again be placed in the same conference (the 4A-2). Since 2006, the Panthers have won nine out of 14 contests, including five straight in the series before Lonoke won last season.

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

Pirates, Cox return to Panther Stadium

Heber Springs senior running back Diego Rubio gets a block from teammate Hunter Kent(1) in last week’s loss at Harding Academy. Also picture, Harding Academy’s Cooper Welch (45). PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

BY LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

It’s not a one-game football season, but Friday’s nonconference finale may set the tone going into conference play.

Heber Springs hopes to take a step forward and build momentum for the 2-4A Conference opener with a win against Dover at Panther Field. Kickoff is scheduled at 7 p.m.

The Panthers (0-2) played two of the top ranked Class 3A teams in the first two games — No. 1 Harding Academy and No. 4 Newport.

Dover (0-3) lost its first three games by a combined score of 126-22 to Hector, Atkins and Salem.

“We will be looking for growth against Dover,” Heber Springs head coach Todd Wood said. “We want to settle into the way we want to play on offense and defense during the conference games. We want a win and also show improvement in all areas.”

Dover head coach Will Cox said it was mixed emotions coming back to Panther Stadium. Cox coached the last two years at Heber Springs and was the interim head coach last season.

“Three coaches I worked with closely are still on staff,” Cox said. “I was very close to coach (Drew) Lawrence, (E.G.) Dew and (Hunter) Davis. It will be different being on the other side of the field. But it’s going to be exciting to be back in Heber.”

Cox said emphasis is on the game against the Panthers.

“Our focus will be on ourselves and  building the Dover program in the right way,” he said. “It probably helped with preparation because I coached some of Heber’s players in the past. Those guys can make plays. I’ve got a lot of respect for all of those guys and know what they are capable of doing.”

Heber Springs is averaging 150 yards of offense and four turnovers through two games. Wood plans more personnel changes for Friday’s game, in an attempt fore more production.

“We must have better execution,” Wood said. “We have not had it for an entire game yet. You can’t give up the ball as many times we did in the last two games (eight turnovers) and win.”

Wood noticed more positives in practice and hope it carries over to the game.

“We had good practices,” he said. “We are continuing to learn and trying to figure everything out. It was a positive week.”

Heber Springs senior Matthew Cook at quarterback last week against Harding Academy. Cook is expected to start at quarterback tonight against Dover. Also pictured for Heber Springs is Tristan Thissen (56) blocking a Wildcat defender. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Wood said Matthew Cook, who was the backup for the first two games, will start at quarterback. Sophomore Conner Riddle, who completed 6-of-7 passes for 47 yards against Harding Academy in the second half, also is expected to play.

“Conner played well, but he still has a long way to go,” Wood said. “He is still learning the offense.”

Sophomore Isaac King, who started at safety, played receiver in the second half and may play a bigger role against Dover.

“Isaac stepped in for Nathan McKee at safety and also caught passes (6-47),” Wood said. “He will probably start again at safety and at receiver.”  

Wood said changes are planned for the  offensive and defensive line.

“We don’t have much depth and the injuries are affecting us,” he said. “(Preston) Roberson will probably not play because of a bad back for the second straight week.”

The injury list increased with the loss of Gus Hannah, and Wood said Chris Smith is questionable on the line. Payton Owens is expected to play against Dover, along with the return of McKee.

Dover will depend on Dawson Branch and Brantley Craig from its version of a winged offense. Craig is expected to start at quarterback. The Pirates also will utilize the talents of Jon Greathouse.

“It has been a juggling act,” Cox said when asked about Dover’s offense. “Dawson and Branley have played quarterback. Branley is a dynamic player with speed and settling into the offense.”

Cox said one of the keys to the game will be the play of Dover’s defense.

“We need to tackle well and create turnovers,” he said. “We need to do what is necessary to pick up a win.”

Wood said the Panthers played balanced offenses in the first two games, but Dover will be a different challenge with emphasis on the running game.

“Dover established its running game,” Wood said. “We must do a better job of going to the ball and play more aggressive on defense.”

NOTEBOOK

RADIO/VIDEO STREAMING: 101.9 The Lake. Billy Morgan will handle play-by-play with Lance Hamilton providing the color commentary. Pregame begins at 6:45 with kickoff at 7 p.m. 

Heber Springs vs. Dover 
The Series 
Dover leads 6-3
LAST MEETING: 1997 in Heber Springs, Heber Springs 32, Dover 7
LAST WEEK: Heber Springs lost to Harding Academy, 45-6; Dover lost to Salem, 46-0
TONIGHT: This will be the 10th time these two teams have played each other. The first meeting was in 1987, a 20-14 nonconference victory for Heber Springs. The teams would split four nonconference games from 1987-90, with Dover winning in 1988 (13-7) and 1989 (14-6) and the Panthers winning in 1990, 40-0.
OLD CONFERENCE FOES: The next time Dover and Heber Springs would meet on the gridiron would come in the 1993 season when the Panthers and Pirates meet as members of the 4AA-East conference for three seasons, with Dover winning all three. The two teams would remained paired in the new 5AA-North conference for two seasons (1996-1997) with the teams splitting those two games. 
HIATUS: Tonight's game is the final nonconference contest for the Panthers and Pirates. Newport and Dover replaced Greenbrier and Clinton (now in the same conference). Heber Springs has lost to Newport (45-6) and Harding Academy (45-6) while Dover has lost to Hector, 30-8 in week 0; Atkins, 48-14, in week 1; and Salem, 46-0 in week 2. Dover is idle next week after conference-foe Subiaco Academy opted to play 8-man football this season giving the Pirates the opportunity to play four nonconference games.  
NONCONFERENCE WOES: Heber Springs has lost eight consecutive regular-season nonconference games. The Panthers last regular season nonconference win came on Sept. 15, 2017, at Panther Stadium against Harding Academy, 35-14. 
LOSING STREAK: Dover has lost 13 consecutive games. The Pirates last win came on Nov. 1, 2018 with a 46-42 victory over Waldron.  

-- Notes by Philip Seaton