Sophomores shine on Senior Night

Brown scores 5 touchdowns, Lindley 2, as Panthers roar past CAC
Heber Springs sophomore Xander Lindley looks downfield as his teammate, Dalton Yancey (18), looks to make a block. CAC’s Jackson Morse (14) is picture in pursuit. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO


Heber Springs didn’t wait long to bounce back in a big way and jumped back into the 2-4A Conference playoff chase.

Sophomore running back Parker Brown rushed 16 times for 223 yards and four touchdowns and caught three passes for 44 yards and one touchdown as the Panthers rolled through Central Arkansas Christian, 47-26, at Panther Stadium on Friday. Quarterback Zander Lindley, also a sophomore, completed 11-of-13 passes for 113 yards and ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns.

Brown became the first Panther in 100 seasons of the program to have a 200-yard game rushing and a 200-yard game receiving during the same season. He caught three passes for 220 yards, all for touchdowns, earlier this year against Dover.

“I could not be any more proud of the players after the last two weeks when it was tough on them,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “At any point in time, they could have said we’re done, we’re finished. They didn’t do that.”

Wood didn’t hesitate in receiving the ball when winning coin toss, instead of playing defense first. The game plan was to find opportunities for Brown in the opening field.

“We wanted to get the ball to Parker in the open field early in the game,” Wood said. “We know if he got the ball in the open field, he could do dynamic things. He did that on the first play, and we never look back. It set the tone.”

Wood also said Lindley’s performance was a contributing factor in the win.

“I asked him (Lindley) to step up his play,” Wood said. “He is maturing and learning more how to play. Zander and Parker make a good running and passing duo. It was good see our other pieces of the offense do well. This is a great sign for the future.”

The Panthers compiled 484 yards of offense (373 rushing and 113 passing) with 23 first downs. Brown and Lindley each averaged 10 yards per run.

Brown and Lindley earned the headlines, but Wood said the improved play of the offensive line led to more success.

“The coaches challenged the linemen, who have been getting beat down for the last two games,” Wood said. “We told them we need to show dominance from the beginning. It was important to win the battle on the line of scrimmage.”

Wood smiled when asked about no turnovers by his offense.

“I was screaming at running backs to keep two hands on the ball during the second half,” he said. “That was a big factor in the win. It shows what can happen when you don’t turn the ball over.”

The Heber Springs defense kept Williams contained for most of the game. Williams rushed for 138 yards on 26 carries and scored three touchdowns. He completed 17-of-23 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown. Williams was responsible for 320 of his team’s 337 yards.

“Our goal was not let him get explosive plays,” Wood said. “He did have a couple of big plays.”

The Panthers recovered an onside kickoff attempt and scored on the game’s first play when Brown broke free on a 59-yard touchdown run. Gideon Tate kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.

“The line blocked well and let us pass and run,” Brown said. “On that play, I got to the corner and ran into the secondary.”

The kicking game put CAC into position for its first touchdown. Williams’ 62-yard punt pushed Heber Springs to its 9-yard line. The Mustangs forced a punt and took possession at the Panther 37-yard line.

Williams capped a 7-play drive with a 24-yard scoring run with 2:43 left in the first quarter. The try for a 2-point conversion failed.

The Panthers increased their lead on a 4-play, 57-yard drive following the kickoff. Brown scored on a 43-yard run and Tate’s kick for the conversion sent Heber Springs into the second quarter leading, 14-6.

Heber Springs threatened to pull away after Kenan Sneed recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. The Panthers went 45 yards on eight plays. Brown scored on a 6-yard carry with 9:51 left in the first half. Tate kicked the conversion for a 21-6 lead.

After holding on downs at the 1-yard line, Heber Springs needed six plays on a 99-yard scoring drive. Lindley passed to Austin Winchester for one first down and then Brown ran 39 yards for a first down at the CAC 30-yard line. Lindley connected with Brown through the air for a touchdown with 1:17 left in the first half. Tate kicked the extra point for the 28-6 lead.

The Mustangs responded with an 8-play, 58-yard drive before halftime. Vance Strange snagged a 1-yard toss from Williams for the touchdown with 15 seconds to go. The try for a 2-point conversion was unsuccessful as the Panthers led, 28-12.

CAC pulled to within one score early in the third quarter. The Mustangs received the second half kickoff as Williams ran 44 yards on the second play. Shawn Rycraw caught a pass from Williams for the 2-point conversion.

The Panthers answered with an 8-play, 65 yard drive, with Lindley scoring on a 1-yard keeper with 7:46 to go in the third quarter. Heber Springs was unsuccessful on a 2-point conversion try

A defensive stop put the Panthers for their next score. Heber Springs drove 71 yards on nine plays, with Brown scoring from the 1-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter. Tate kicked the conversion for a 41-20 lead.

Lindley had the drive’s key play when he retrieved a bad snap on first-and-15 at the CAC 34-yard line. After Lindley picked up the ball near midfield, he picked up a first down on the 16-yard play for a first down at the 18-yard line.

“That was amazing, and I felt good after that play,” he said. “I thought about jumping on the ball, but no one was close to me. I picked it up and ran.”

CAC didn’t go away and reduced the Heber Springs on a 6-play, 63-yard drive. Williams ran for a 21-yard touchdown with 9:31 left in the game. The Mustangs attempted a 2-point conversion unsuccessfully and trailed, 41-26.

Heber Springs added an insurance touchdown on Lindley’s 35-yard run with 8:51 left.

“This game is a confidence builder,” Wood said. “The players showed what they are capable of doing.”

Defensively, Kenan Sneed finished with 21 tackles. He was one of four Panthers to finish in double digits in tackles — Hayden Johnson (13), Jackson West (12), and Tristan Thissen (11) were the others.

October 8, 2021 
Central Arkansas Christian (2-4, 0-3)   6   6   8   6 - 26 
Heber Springs (2-3, 1-2)               14  14   6  13 - 47
HS - Parker Brown 59-yard run (Gideon Tate kick), 11:47
CAC - Tyler Williams 24-yard run (run failed), 2:43
HS - Brown 43-yard run (Tate kick), 1:22
HS - Brown 6-yard run (Tate kick), 9:51
HS - Xander Lindley to Brown 30-yard pass (Tate kick), 1:17
CAC - Williams to Vance Strange 1-yard pass (pass failed), :15.1
CAC - Williams 44-yard run (Williams to Shawn Rycraw pass), 11:29
HS - Lindley 1-yard run (pass failed), 7:46
HS - Brown 1-yard run (Tate kick), 11:57
CAC - Williams 21-yard run (run failed), 9:31
HS - Lindley 35-yard run (pass failed), 8:51
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 34/373, CAC 36/155
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 11-13-0, CAC 17-23-0
RUSHING: HS, Parker Brown 16/223/4, Xander Lindley 13/134/2, Jackson West 2/17, Dalton Yancey 1/6, Team 2/(-7). CAC, Tyler Williams 26/138/3, Shawn Rycraw 3/11, Vance Strange 6/3, Judah Ward 1/3. 
PASSING: HS, Lindley 11/13-113-1/0. CAC, Williams 17/23-182-1/0
RECEVING: HS, Brown 3/44/1, Easton Cusick 3/18, Yancey 2/20, West 1/23, Austin Winchester 1/10, Chris Edwards 1/4. CAC, Strange 9/61/1, Rycraw 3/48, Jackson Morse 2/39, Ward 1/22, Cauy Blevins 1/9, Brady Velek 1/3.
KICKOFF RETURNS: HS, Edwards 1/0. CAC, Strange 3/28, Velek 1/3.
PUNTS: HS, Lindley 1/23. CAC Williams 1/62

Historic Night: Heber Springs’ Parker Brown

Heber Springs sophomore Parker Brown celebrates with his teammates after a 47-26 victory over Central Arkansas Christian Friday night. Brown rushed for 223 yards and four touchdowns in the win. He also added three receptions for 44 yards and another touchdown. With the 200-yard rushing performance to go along wit his 200-yard receiving performance earlier this season at Dover, Brown became the first Panther in 100 seasons of football to rush for 200 yards in game and have 200 yards receiving in game in the same season. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Heber Springs Junior High Stats (through 6 games)

Heber Springs offensive lineman Cade James attempts to hold off Central Arkansas Christian’s Jesse Sharp as Panther quarterback Liam Buffalo looks for running room. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO





RUSHING (ATT/YDS/AVG/TD): HS 123/886/7.2/12, Opp 161/950/5.9/10

PASSING (COMP/ATT-YARDS-TD/INT): HS 51/89-762-10/1, Opp 27/55-343-2/3


RUSHING (Att/Yds/Tds): Liam Buffalo 69/630/11, Weston Warden 34/189/1, Lucas Carcia 6/49, Carter Julian 2/16, Logan Rutledge 5/14, Cooper Holmes 3/10

PASSING (Comp/Att-Yds-Tds/Int): Liam Buffalo 51/89-762-10/1

RECEIVING (Rec/Yds/Tds): Weston Warden 21/453/6, Carter Julian 11/122/3, Seth Dudeck 8/133/1, Logan Rutledge 6/38, Cooper Holmes 2/24, Ty West 2/22

TOTAL OFFENSE: Liam Buffalo 1392, Weston Warden 189, Lucas Garcia 49, Carter Julian 16, Logan Rutledge 14, Cooper Holmes 10

KICKOFF RETURNS: Logan Rutledge 4/59, Cooper Holmes 3/25, Emmitt Dwyer 1/11, Weston Warden 1/2

PUNT RETURNS: Weston Warden 1/19

INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Weston Warden 1/83/1, Caleb Carr 1/29, Emmitt Dwyer 1/9

ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Weston Warden 716, Liam Buffalo 630, Carter Julian 144, Seth Dudeck 133, Logan Rutledge 111, Cooper Holmes 59, Lucas Garcia 49, Caleb Carr 29, Ty West 22, Emmitt Dwyer 9

SCORING: Liam Buffalo 76, Weston Warden 52, Carter Julian 24, Seth Dudeck 6, Logan Rutledge 4, Ty West 2

PUNTS (No/Yds/Avg): Liam Buffalo 9/363/40.3

Panther GameDay: Panthers hope to corral Mustangs on Senior Night

Heber Springs senior Austin Winchester. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO


After playing the two teams predicted during the preseason to finish one-two in the 2-4A Conference, the Heber Springs Panthers hope to start on a winning streak that leads to a state football playoff berth.

Heber Springs (0-2 in the 2-4A, 1-3 overall) will host Central Arkansas Christian (0-2, 1-4) at 7 p.m. Friday. The Panthers opened the conference season with losses to Lonoke and Stuttgart. CAC dropped games to Clinton and Little Rock Mills.

“The players knew what they were up against at Stuttgart,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We played the two teams picked to be at the top of the conference standings. The next five games will decide who goes to the playoffs.”

Senior Tyler Williams will be the focus of the Heber Springs defense. Williams, who played tailback last season, moved to quarterback this season and responsible for 1,185 of the 1,484 yards for the Mustangs.

Williams leads CAC in rushing with 781 yards on 114 carries and scored 12 touchdowns. He has completed 39-of-74 passes for 404 yards and four touchdowns. Williams ran for 148 yards and three touchdowns and caught five passes for 63 yards and one touchdown in last year’s win against the Panthers.

Vance Strange and Isaac Rine are the Mustangs’ primary targets in the passing game. Strange has caught 15 passes for 122 yards and scored one touchdown. Rine has 10 catches for 151 yards and one touchdown.

“He (Williams) runs the ball most of the time, and we are preparing for that,” Wood said. “But we also have to be ready to defend the pass. I expect him to run 35 to 40 times.”

Heber Springs hopes to get sophomore Parker Brown into the open field against CAC. Brown has been one of the Panthers’ best offensive threats with 273 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns. He has caught five passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns.

“CAC primarily plays a 3-5-3 defense and blitz at least two players every play,” Wood said. “They stacked the box against Mills (a 60-16 loss) last week. Being a defensive coordinator in a similar system in the past, I understand some things will open up, and we must take advantage of them.”

The Mustangs have allowed 46 points per game. Wood is confident that other aspects of the Heber Springs offense will benefit and have similar success that it had against Dover (a 44-0 win).

“CAC is going through a similar situation with a lot of young players,” Wood said. “It has played good teams. Our goal is to prevent them from getting too many big plays and have big plays on offense.”

Heber Springs will have two players sidelined by non-Covid illnesses back on the field — offensive lineman-inside linebacker Tristan Thissen and center-defensive lineman Joenah Cordell.

“We were down to 22 players for Stuttgart,” Wood said. “Both players will help us at their positions and provide the team more depth.”

Wood expects better production from quarterback Xander Lindley, who has been playing behind a patched-up offensive line, and receivers Dalton Yancey and Easton Cusick. Receiver Gus Hannah, who injured an ankle against Lonoke, is questionable for the game.

The coach also said some players who had primarily played on defense will see action on offense.

“Kenan Sneed (inside linebacker) and Chris Edwards (cornerback) played at receiver last week,” Wood said. “Jackson West (outside linebacker) will play running back and receiver. Zane Lozeau (cornerback) will play at receiver. We will do whatever it takes to put us in position to win the game.”

Senior players will be recognized before the game for their contributions to the program.

“It will be a big night for the seniors,” Wood said. “It’s not their last home game, but a special night to reflect on what they have done, and the legacy they will leave. They want to get the fans a win at home.”

It’s not due or die, but a win would put the Panthers in good position to challenge for a postseason.

“We have five games left and critical for the playoffs,” Wood said. “We probably will need three wins to get into the playoffs. Our backs are up against the wall. We must come out fighting.”


  • Kickoff: 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium (Senior Night festivities start around 6:15)
  • 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. Streaming is available on The Lake’s YouTube page.

THE SERIES: CAC leads the leads the series at 5-4

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 2-4A conference in 2014. In conference play, the Panthers won four out of the first five meetings between the schools (CAC’s win came in 2015 with a 48-12 decision). Since then, the Mustangs have won back-to-back games (a 24-6 game in 2019 and 35-14 last season).

FORMER HOG: Former University of Arkansas and NFL receiver Joe Adams is an assistant coach at Central Arkansas Christian.

                            W L CP  W L PS  PA 
Little Rock Mills           2 0 26  5 0 248 113 
Lonoke                      2 0 26  5 0 161  67
Stuttgart                   2 0 16  4 1 166  93 
Southside Batesville        1 1 13  3 2 159  82                      
Clinton                     1 1 13  2 3 130 151  
Heber Springs               0 2  0  1 3  65 120  
Bald Knob                   0 2  0  0 5  55 153
Central Arkansas Christian  0 2  0  2 3 133 231    

Thursday, September 30
Stuttgart 42, Heber Springs 0
Friday, October 2 
Little Rock Mills 60, Central Arkansas Christian 16
Southside Batesville 35, Clinton 20
Lonoke 14, Bald Knob 0
Friday, October 9
Central Arkansas Christian at Heber Springs
Stuttgart at Bald Knob
Lonoke at Southside Batesville
Little Rock Mills at Clinton

Senior Spotlight: Austin Winchester

Heber Springs senior Austin Winchester


Austin Winchester appreciates an opportunity of playing for the Heber Springs Panthers in the football program’s 100th year.

Winchester switched positions at the beginning of the season and can’t wait for Friday’s 2-4A Conference game against Central Arkansas Christian at Panther Stadium.

“It’s good to be a part of this (100th year),” Winchester said. “The players are wearing a special sticker on the back of their helmets. We talked about how we are lucky to play on this team. I didn’t get here until my sophomore year, but I’m glad to be a part of this.”

Winchester played defensive end during his first two years before moving to receiver. He quickly agree to the change and scored his first career touchdown in the win at Dover. He looks forward to the senior night ceremony.

“Senior night means a lot to me,” he said. “After watching CAC on film, we believe we can stop them and win the game. My goal for the reminder of the season is catch 95 percent of the passes thrown to me and score touchdowns.”

Winchester said Friday’s game is only a start of the process to earn a postseason berth.

“Our focus is on this game, not the playoffs,” he said. “We only need to focus on the next game.”