Gameday: Panthers travel to Mustang Mountain

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


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.

Panther PostGame

Heber Springs falls to CAC, 24-6, in 4A-2 contest

Heber Springs’ Landon Johnson looks to make a tackle against CAC. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

October 11, 2019

Heber Springs struck first, but didn’t have an answer for Central Arkansas Christian’s Wildcat formation in a 24-6 setback at Panther Stadium.

Both teams were unable to do anything offensively on their first possessions of the contest as Adam Martin’s 55-yard punt was downed at the CAC 1 by Nathan McKee. The Mustangs did manage to pick up a first down before Kaden Hughes brought down CAC quarterback Palmer Gilbrech for the first of his two sacks on the night of the Mustang signal-caller.

After a 34-yard punt, Heber Springs (1-2 in the 4A-2) took over near midfield. A false start penalty, one of 13 on the night for the Panthers, forced a third and long for Heber Springs. Julio Rubio for the Panthers ripped off three consecutive runs that lead to the Heber Springs’ only score of the night with a 30-yard jaunt by the senior. The PAT kick was no-good with 1:42 to play in the first quarter.

The Mustangs responded on their next possession with a 10-play, 67-yard drive to take a 7-6 lead with 9:03 to play in the first half. The big play on the drive came on a fourth-and-2 from the Mustang 41 when Gentry Miller picked up 12 yards to keep the drive going. Tyler Williams capped it off with a 3-yard run six plays later.

Heber Springs wouldn’t threaten again in the contest until the game was out of reach in the fourth quarter and interception on the games final play sealed the win for the Mustangs.

Heber Springs managed to reach Gilbrech four times on the night for sacks before he was replaced by Williams who lined-up in the Wildcat package and rushed 26 times for 139 yards, the majority of those coming in the second half when CAC exclusively used the formation. Miller also broke the century mark for the Mustangs, running for 141 yards on 13 attempts.


CAC (1-2, 3-3)                0   7   7  10  - 24   
Heber Springs (1-2, 1-5)      6   0   0   0  -  6   

Heber Springs - Julio Rubio 30-yard run (kick failed), 1:42 
CAC - Tyler Williams 3-yard run (Eli Jenkins kick), 9:03
CAC - Tyler Williams 1-yard run (Eli Jenkins kick), 1:42  
CAC - Eli Garrison 26-yard field goal, 10:06
CAC - Gentry Miller 11-yard run (Eli Jenkins kick), 2:21 


First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 6, CAC 11  
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 9, CAC 1  
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 4, CAC 0  
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 19, CAC 12  
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 4/12, CAC 2/12  
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 0/2, CAC 3/4  
Red-Zone Possessions: Heber Springs 0/2, CAC 4/4    
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 21:17, CAC 26:43 
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 2/1, CAC 1/0   
Turnovers: Heber Springs 2, CAC 0   
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, CAC 0    
Penalties/Yards: Heber Springs 13/100, CAC 11/105   
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 63/257/4.1, CAC 57/300/5.3  
Rushing: Heber Springs 31/108/3.5, CAC 49/262/5.4  
Passing: Heber Springs 17/32-149-0/1, CAC 6/8-38-0/0   
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 4/21, CAC 2/11 
Punts: Heber Springs 7/316/45.1, CAC 6/254/42.3   
Punts Inside 20: Heber Springs 3, CAC 3  


OFFENSE RUSHING: Heber Springs, Julio Rubio 13/73/5.6, Adam Martin 12/10/.8, Landon Johnson 6/25/4.2. CAC, Tyler Williams 26/139/5.4, Gentry Miller 13/141/10.8, Palmer Gilbrech 5/(-16)/(-3.2), Eli Jenkins 3/5/1.7, Carlito London 1/(-2), Team 1/(-5).    
RUSHING RUNS OF 50+: CAC, Gentry Miller (1)
RUSHING RUNS OF 40+: CAC, Gentry Miller (1)
RUSHING RUNS OF 30+: Heber Springs, Julio Rubio (1). CAC, Gentry Miller (1).  
RUSHING RUNS OF 20+: Heber Springs, Julio Rubio (1). CAC, Gentry Miller (1).
RUSHING RUNS OF 10+: Heber Springs, Julio Rubio (2). CAC, Gentry Miller (4), Tyler Williams (4).
PASSING: Heber Springs, Adam Martin 17/32-149-0/1. CAC, Palmer Gilbrech 6/8-38-0/0, Tyler Williams 0/2-0-0/0 
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Tri Johnson 7/48, Landon Johnson 3/30, Fate Berry 2/26, Matthew Cook 2/7, Julio Rubio 1/18, Hunter Kent 1/14. CAC, Tyler Williams 3/5, Eli Garrison 2/15, Eli Jenkins 1/18.   
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Adam Martin 155, Julio Rubio 73, Landon Johnson 25. CAC, Gentry Miller 141, Tyler Williams 139, Palmer Gilbrech 22, Eli Jenkins 5, Carlito London (-2), Team (-5).
PUNT RETURNS: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 1/(-2). CAC, Gentry Miller 1/11. 
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Tri Johnson 2/45. CAC, Carlito London 2/33
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Tri Johnson 93, Julio Rubio 91, Landon Johnson 55, Fate Berry 26, Hunter Kent 14, Adam Martin 10, Matthew Cook 7, Nathan McKee (-2). CAC, Gentry Miller 152, Tyler Williams 144, Carlito London 96, Eli Jenkins 23, Eli Garrison 15, Team (-5), Palmer Gilbrech (-16).
DEFENSE TACKLES (Shared/Solo/Total): Heber Springs, Landon Johnson 6/7/13, Diego Rubio 7/2/9, Fate Berry 4/3/7, Kaden Hughes 4/3/7, Nathan McKee 3/2/5, Lawrence Baureis 5/0/5, Matthew Cook 4/1/5, Hunter Kent 3/1/4, Tri Johnson 3/0/3, Nicholas Hitchcock 1/2/3, Levy Phillips 1/1/2, Jackson Harrod 0/1/1, Harley Hannah 0/1/1.
TACKLES FOR LOSS: Heber Springs, Fate Berry 2, Nicholas Hitchcock 2, Kaden Hughes 2, Landon Johnson 1, Diego Rubio 1, Lawrence Bauries 1. 
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Heber Springs, Kaden Hughes 2/10, Fate Berry 1/7, Tri Johnson .5/4, Nicholas Hitchcock .5/4. CAC, Rhett James 1/7, Drew Donaghy 1/2 
INTERCEPTIONS: CAC, Carlito London (1).
PUNTING: Heber Springs, Adam Martin 7/316/45.1, Eli Garrison 6/254/42.3  
PUNTS INSIDE 20: Heber Springs, Adam Martin (3). CAC, Eli Garrison (3).   

Panther GameDay

Heber Springs hosts CAC looking to stay in 4A-2 race

  • Kickoff: 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium
  • Admission: $5
  • Radio: 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.


Panthers win at Mustang Mountain


Landon Johnson carries the ball in the second half against the Ricebirds. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Heber Springs claims win at Stuttgart


                            W L CP  W L PS  PA  
Riverview                   2 0 23  4 1 168 124  
Lonoke                      2 0 15  3 2 176 171   
Southside Batesville        1 1 13  3 2 151 136    
Bald Knob                   1 1  7  1 4  78 151   
Little Rock Mills           1 1  3  2 3 104 126   
Heber Springs               1 1  1  1 4 137 172 
Central Arkansas Christian  0 2  0  2 3 163 160   
Stuttgart                   0 2  0  0 5 125 189  
Friday, October 4  
Heber Springs 28, Stuttgart 27 
Lonoke 38, Bald Knob 36 
Riverview 35, Southside Batesville 7  
Little Rock Mills 38, Central Arkansas Christian 35  
Friday, October 11  
Central Arkansas Christian at Heber Springs  
Stuttgart at Bald Knob 
Lonoke at Southside Batesville  
Little Rock Mills at Riverview 



THE SERIES: Heber Springs leads, 4-3.

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 five meetings. CAC’s only conference win against Heber Springs came in 2015 with a 48-12 win.

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 junior quarterback Palmer Gildbrech 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.

PLAYOFF SEEDINGS: The top two seeds out of the conference are paired with the 4A-8 conference (Crossett, DeWitt, Dumas, Hamburg, Helena-West Helena Central, Monticello, Star City and Warren) while the conference’s lower three seeds are paired with the 4A-1 conference (Shiloh Christian, Berryville, Gravette, Gentry, Green Forest, Lincoln, Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove). The No. 1 seed out of the 4A-2 hosts the No. 5 seed out of the 4A-8. The No. 2 seed hosts the No. 4 seed out of the 4A-8. The No. 3 seed hosts the No. 3 out of the 4A-1. The No. 4 seed travels to the No. 2 seed out of the 4A-1, while the No. 5 seed travels to No. 1 seed out of the 4A-1.



Heber Springs 35 34 13 55 - 137 (27.4) 
Opponent      25 49 55 43 - 172 (34.4) 

First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 59, Opponent 43 
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 28, Opponent 42 
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 2, Opponent 6 
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 89, Opponent 92 
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 32/66 (48.5), Opponent 18/50 (36) 
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 10/20 (50), Opponent 5 /9 (55.6) 
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 11/14 (11 tds), Opponent 16/19 (15 tds, 1FG) 
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 8/6, Opponent 8/2 
Turnovers: Heber Springs 12, Opponent 5 
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 13, Opponent 28
Penalties/Yards: Heber Springs 41/290, Opponent 31/261
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 318/1971/6.2, Opponent 288/1713/5.9 
Rushing: Heber Springs 226/1219/5.4, Opponent 175/757/4.3
Rushing Per Game: Heber Springs 243.8, Opponent 151.4 
Passing: Heber Springs 50/91-751-5/5, Opponent 75/125-956-12/3 Passing Per Game: Heber Springs 150.2, Opponent 191.2 Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 15/86, Opponent 7/33 
Punts: Heber Springs 12/459/38.3, Opponent 17/574/33.8 


RUSHING (ATT/YARDS/PER ATTEMPT/PER GAME/TDS): Adam Martin 101/531/5.4/106.2/3, Julio Rubio 97/478/4.9/95.6/9, Landon Johnson 28/150/5.4/30/3, Nathan McKee 1/6/6/1.2/0, Tri Johnson 1/(-2)/(-2)/(-.5)/0. 
BIG CAT RUNS (50+): Adam, Martin 1, Julio Rubio 1 
RUNS OF 40+: Adam Martin 1, Julio Rubio 1 
RUNS OF 30+: Julio Rubio 2, Adam Martin 2 
RUNS OF 20+: Adam Martin 6, Julio Rubio 4, Landon Johnson 1
RUNS OF 10+: Adam Martin 17, Julio Rubio 12, Landon Johnson 4 
100-YARD RUSHING GAMES: Adam Martin 3, Julio Rubio 2 
PASSING (ATT/COMP-YARDS-TDS/INT): Adam Martin 50/91-751-5/5  
250-YARD PASSING GAMES: Adam Martin 1 
RECEIVING (REC/YARDS/PER CATCH/TDS): Julio Rubio 10/121/12.1, Matthew Cook 10/141/14.1, Nathan McKee 10/133/13.3/2, Fate Berry 8/115/14.4/1, Hunter Kent 4/32/8, Tri Johnson 4/150/37.5/2, Landon Johnson 4/49/12.3 
100-YARD RECEIVING GAMES: Tri Johnson 1, Julio Rubio 1 
TOTAL OFFENSE (OFFENSE/PER GAME): Adam Martin 1282/256.4, Julio Rubio 478/95.6, Landon Johnson 150/30, Nathan McKee 6/1.2, Tri Johnson (-2)/(.5) 
KICKOFF RETURNS:  Tri Johnson 6/125/20.8, Matthew Cook 4/62/15.5, Hunter Kent 3/46/15.3, Julio Rubio 3/44/14.7, Levy Phillips 2/14/7,  Jackson West 2/11, Nathan McKee 1/11/11, Diego Rubio 1/13/13, Lawrence Baureis 1/10, Harley Bresnahan 1/ 6, Tristan  Thissen 1/0. 
PUNT RETURNS: Nathan McKee 2/14, Tri Johnson 1/(-3) 
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Nathan McKee 1/10, Dalton McCollum 1/4, Fate Berry 1/2 
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS (YARDS/PER GAME): Julio Rubio 643/128.6, Adam Martin 541/108.2, Tri Johnson 270/67.5, Matthew Cook 203/40.6, Landon Johnson 199/39.8,  Nathan McKee 174/34.8, Fate Berry 117/23.4, Hunter Kent 78/15.6, Levy Phillips 14/2.8, Diego Rubio 13/2.6, Jackson West 11/2.2, Lawrence Baureis 10/2, Harley Bresnahan 6/1.2, Dalton McCollum 4/.7,  
TACKLES (ASST/SOLO/TOTAL): Fate Berry 39/15/54, Landon Johnson 23/12/35, Lawrence Baureis 12/9/21, Hunter Kent 12/8/20, Kaden Hughes 13/6/19, Matthew Cook 15/4/19, Levy Phillips 10/7/17,  Diego Rubio 12/4/16,Nathan McKee 8/5/13, Tri Johnson 6/5/11, Harley Bresnhan 6/3/9, Dalton McCollum 4/4/8, Jackson West 6/2/8, Julio Rubio 6/1/7, Nicholas Hitchcock 4/0/4, Preston Jones 1/2/3, Tristan Thissen 1/2/3, Trent Barnes 1/1/2, Devon Doxey 2/0/2, Jackson Harrod 1/0/1, Spencer Evans 1/0/1, Harley Hannah 1/0/1, Gus Hannah 1/0/1. 
TACKLES FOR LOSS: Landon Johnson 10.5, Fate Berry 9, Kaden Hughes 4.5, Lawrence Baureis 2, Levy Phillips 2, Tri Johnson 1, Nicholas Hitchcock, Harley Bresnahan 1. 
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Levy Phillips 1/ 5, Kaden Hughes 2/14, Harley Bresnahan 1/ 4, Tri Johnson 2/ 18, Fate Berry 3/21, Diego Rubio 1/5, Julio Rubio .5/9, Landon Johnson .5/3, Matthew Cook .5/3.
INTERCEPTIONS: Dalton McCollum 1, Nathan McKee 1, Fate Berry 1 
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Nathan McKee 1, Landon Johnson 1 
PUNTING (No./Yards/Avg./Inside20): Adam Martin 12/459/38.3/2 SCORING: Julio Rubio 66 (11 tds),  Adam Martin 18 (3 td), Landon Johnson 18 (3 tds), Jackson Harrod 17 (17-18 PAT), Tri Johnson 12 (2 td), Nathan McKee 12 (2 td), Fate Berry 6 (1 td)




OFFENSE – Adam Martin. DEFENSE – Nathan McKee


OFFENSE – Fate Berry. DEFENSE – Landon Johnson


OFFENSE – Tri Johnson. DEFENSE – Dalton McCollum


OFFENSE – Harley Hannah. DEFENSE – Levy Phillips


OFFENSE – Adam Martin and Julio Rubio. DEFENSE – Fate Berry

Heber Springs senior running back Julio Rubio.


The Heber Springs junior high football team claimed its first win of the season with a 22-12 victory over Central Arkansas Christian Thursday night at Mustang Mountain in North Little Rock. The Panthers set at 1-4 on the season.


The Heber Springs seventh-grade team fell to 3-2 on the year with a 30-0 setback to CAC on Thursday.


  • Saturday, October 12 – Cross Country at Bryant
  • Tuesday, October 15 – Volleyball vs. Dover, 4:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 17 – Volleyball vs. Lonoke, 4:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 17 – 7th-Grade Football vs. Bald Knob, 5:30
  • Thursday, October 17 – Junior Football vs. Bald Knob, 7 p.m.

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Panthers run free on Mustang Mountain, crush CAC

October 5, 2018


NORTH LITTLE ROCK – Heber Springs scored 42 unanswered points and cruised to 52-21 victory over Central Arkansas Christian in 4A-2 conference play Friday.

The Panthers trailed 14-10 with just over four minutes to play in the first half before junior quarterback Adam Martin connected with senior Rocky Finney for a 39-yard touchdown pass to put the Panthers up, 17-14. Heber Springs (2-4, 2-1 in the 4A-2) added another touchdown late in the first half and then scored on it’s four possessions of the second half to claim the win.

The 52 points were the most scored by a Panther team since Sept. 16, 2016, when Heber Springs defeated Stuttgart, 56-29.

Senior Blaze Nelson paced the Panthers with 180 yards rushing and four touchdowns as Heber Springs finished the night with 326 yards on the ground as team.

“I wouldn’t want to run behind any other line,” Nelson said. “They were great all night with the blocks.”

Coming into the contest, Heber Springs coach Darren Gowen, who improved to 3-1 as head coach against CAC, said he wanted to take away the Mustang running attack and make them one dimensional. 

CAC (3-3, 2-1) finished with 153 yards on the ground, with a majority of those yards coming on a fourth-quarter, 58-yard touchdown run by CAC’s Krishaun Watson.

“Their run game turned into screens (passes),” Gowen said. “So we did a pretty good job there. We knew if we kept forcing them have to make plays, we would have chances (at interceptions).” 

The Panther defense did take advantage of those chances as Finney picked off two Palmer Gilbrech pass attempts while Fate Berry added another interception.

“Those were big plays for us,” Gowen said.

Each interception led to a Panther touchdown with Finney’s first pick coming late in the first half with the Mustangs driving into Panther territory. After a 55-yard return, Nelson would run the ball into the end zone a few plays to put Heber Springs up 24-14 at the half.

The Panthers also picked up three CAC fumbles to finish the game with a season-high six takeaways.

Heber Springs returns to Panther Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday for Homecoming. The Panthers will face Bald Knob (3-3, 1-2), a 35-0 loser to Stuttgart last week.


The first of the six CAC turnovers came on the Mustangs first play from scrimmage as Dalton Hall stripped Watson of the football after a 10-yard run and Nelson pounced on it to give Heber Springs possession at the Mustang 48.

The Panthers first drive appeared to stall at the 41, but on fourth-and-3, Martin found Finney all alone for a 38-yard completion. 

“We saw some stuff (on film that) they were doing that we thought we could take advantage of,” Gowen said. “Rocky ran a great route, Adam found him and that got us down there. Then we scored.”

That score would come on the next play as Nelson punched it in from three yards out to put Heber Springs up, 7-0, after the Julian Cameron PAT, with 9:39 to play in the first quarter.

“I told our kids we have got to start early,” Gowen said. “We haven’t started early yet (all season).

“We come out and get a turnover on the first play, and offensively we haven’t clicked on the first drive all season, then we had to have a big play on fourth down.”


Last season, Palmer Gilbrech was quarterbacking the Heber Springs Junior High team, but the sophomore transferred to CAC over the summer and he would lead his new team downfield on a 10-play, 74-yard drive to tie things up 7-7 with 5:10 left in the first quarter.

After connecting with Gentry Miller on a 31-yard completion to push the ball into Panther territory, CAC faced a fourth-and-9 when Finney broke up the third-down pass attempt by Gilbrech. But the sophomore used his legs for an 11-yard, first-down run, and three plays later connected with Brock Hendrix for a 19-yard score.


Neither team could hold onto the football to close out the first quarter.

Heber Springs went first. After a Hall 21-yard run had moved the ball to the CAC 38 at the 4:38 mark, the Panthers coughed it up on the next play.

Three plays later, the Mustangs would return the favor when Julio Rubio would fall on a loose football at the CAC 43 with 3:41 left in the first.

On the Panthers first play of the possession, they would again lose control of the pigskin as the Mustangs recovered it on their own 44.

After a 33-yard Gilbrech to Crews pass put the Mustangs deep in Panther territory, Nelson would recover the football for Heber Springs at the CAC 14 with 1:31 showing on the first quarter clock.

“Blaze continued to have a good night after I changed the footballs out,” Gowen said jokingly after the game. “I had slick footballs in there for those two possessions. That was my fault. I must have gave them the wrong footballs. 

“We changed that and got some sandpaper balls out.”


A large contingent of Heber Springs students made the trip to North Little Rock on Friday to follow the Panthers.

During the season, the group has used the popular soccer chant, “Ole, Ole, Ole,” to cheer on kicker Julian Cameron, who is also a member of the Panther soccer team, whenever he gets a chance to get kick.

On Heber Springs’ next possession, the students got their chance.

Nelson gained 26 yards on four carries to move the ball to the Panther 44.

Martin then connected with Hall for a 38-yard completion before the Heber Springs drive fizzled out at the Mustang 21.

Cameron came on and booted the 38-yarder through the uprights to give the Panthers a 10-7 advantage with 10:38 to play before the half.

“It’s always great to have that in your backpocket when you get inside the 30- to 25-yard line,” Gowen said. “I don’t want to settle for field goals often, but that puts us up right there.”


The Mustangs responded with an 11-play, 70-yard drive to go up 17-14 with 6:54 to play in the half as Gilbrech connected with Miller for a 14-yard touchdown pass. The big play on the drive came when Gilbrech found Crews for a 24-yard, first-down pass completion on a fourth-and-6 play from the Panther 38.

Heber Springs’ did likewise on its next possession. Facing a fourth-and-2 from the Mustang 46, Nelson carried for seven yards before Martin found Finney for the 39-yard touchdown pass on the next play to put the Panthers up 17-14 with 4:06 to play in the second quarter.

The Panthers wouldn’t trail again.


The Mustangs appeared ready to have an answer to Heber Springs’ score as they moved the ball into Panther territory.

But Finney stepped in front of a Gilbrech pass at the Panther 22 and raced to the Mustang 28 before things got a little touchy.

Both teams were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the play continued on the Mustang sidelines as Fate Berry continued his block on the return. Those penalties offset each other, but the Mustangs were flagged an additional 15 yards after a player allegedly said something to an official.

“We had a big turnover there,” Gowen said. “Rocky steps in front of one, and Fate’s doing a great job blocking a kid (on the return). He kinda off blocks him over to the track and the kid didn’t like it.

“You never know with young kids, but Fate did a good job of keeping his cool. I just pulled him away just to let him know that we needed him stay in the game, and that we needed him next week too.”

A player ejection would have carried over to the next week.

That series of events seemed to fire-up the Panthers.

After an officials inadvertent whistle cost Nelson a nice gain on the first play from scrimmage, Martin connected with Finney to move the ball to the 2. Nelson would score on the next play to put Heber Springs up, 24-14 with 49 seconds left in the half.


At halftime, Gowen told his team that they needed to “impose our will” on the first drive.

“We had a 10-point lead, and we could put a lot of pressure on them if we go down there and score,” he said. “If we go down and have a drive to stall or turn it over, then they go score then it’s a ballgame.”

Evidently the players were listening to their coach as the Panthers took to the ground.

Nelson picked up 17 on two carries to move the ball to the Panther 37. After a seven-yard run by Martin, Hall gained 27 to push it the Mustang 29 before Nelson would finish off the drive with a 29-yard run to put Heber Springs in control, 31-14, with 10:18 to play in the third quarter.

“We had a full house backfield with him,” Gowen said of Nelson. “He showed his speed, ran down the sideline and scored. He’s a special dude.”


Nelson needs 71 more yards to top the thousand-yard rushing mark for the season, and if the football field had been longer Friday night, he might have gotten all of that on his last rushing attempt of the night.

After the Panther defense had forced the Mustangs to turn the ball over on downs with 7:24 left in the quarter at the Panther 35, Nelson ran to the left, made a defender miss, spun past two more defenders and then raced 65 yards to put Heber Springs up 38-14 at the 7:11 mark of the third.

“We were thinking we could come out and hit ‘em in the mouth,” Nelson said. “At that point, you could tell they were down on each other, they were tired and wore out.

“We just kept going.”


After Berry picked-off a Gilbrech pass at the Panther 35, Martin found Nelson for a 13-yard gain on a screen pass before Hall carried two more times to move the ball to the Mustang 35.

From there, Julio Rubio got a chance to carry the football and five plays later he found paydirt for his first touchdown of the season on a 14-yard run with 1:22 to go in the third. Heber Springs led 45-14 at the point.


Rocky Finney was not done. 

On the Mustangs’ ensuing possession, the senior stepped in front the Gilbrech pass attempt at the Panther 14 and raced 61 yards to put the ball deep in CAC territory at the 25.

“I just watched the quarterback,” Finney said. “I seen my guy in front of me, so I just focused on where he was and placed myself in the perfect position.”

Five plays later, sophomore Nicholas Hitchcock scored his first touchdown of his senior high career with a 3-yard run to make it 52-14 with 9:02 to play and invoking the Arkansas Activities Association 35-point mercy-rule, which meant a continuous running clock the rest of the contest. 

Senior Seth Dickeson connected on his first PAT kick of the season.


Heber Springs finished with 469 yards of total offense on the night as neither team attempted a punt.

Rocky Finney had 207 all-purpose yards on the night while Blaze Nelson finished with 192 yards of total offense.

“I haven’t been matching the intensity of my teammate, Blaze,” Finney said, “so I wanted to step up and contribute to the team as he does.”

Dalton Hall also finished over the century mark with 102 yards of total offense.



First Downs: Heber Springs 20, CAC 21

Third-Downs: Heber Springs 2-5, CAC 4-9

Fourth-Downs: Heber Springs 2-2, CAC 2-4

Rushing Att.-Yards-Avg: Heber Springs 41-326-8, CAC 26-153-5.9

Passing Att.-Comp-Yards-Int: Heber Springs 6-9-143-0, CAC 20-32-247-3

Total Offense: Heber Springs 469, CAC 393

Sacks-Yards: Heber Springs 1-7, CAC 0-0

Penalties-Yards: Heber Springs 9-65, CAC 5-50

Fumbles-Lost: Heber Springs 4-2, CAC 3-3

Punts-Avg.: Heber Springs 0-0, CAC 0-0


Rushing: Heber Springs, Blaze Nelson 18-180-4, Julio Rubio 9-67-1, Dalton Hall 6-65, Nicholas Hitchcock 3-15-1, Adam Martin 3-7, Team 2-(-8). CAC, Krishaun Watson 11-108-1, Blake Smith 9-25-1, Palmer Gilbrech 6-20.

Passing: Heber Springs, Adam Martin 6-9 143 1-0. CAC, Palmer Gilbrech 20-31 247 1-3, Eli Garrison 0-1 0 0-0.

Receiving: Heber Springs, Rocky Finney 3-94-1, Dalton Hall 2-37, Blaze Nelson 1-12. CAC, Brock Hendrix 5-75-1, Seth Crews 5-72, Gentry Miller 4-48, Krishaun Watson 2-11, Garrett Overstreet 1-17, Eli Jenkins 1-14, Eli Garrison 1-8, Blake Smith 1-2.