By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY
Heber Springs held up against Southside Batesville’s physical and aggressive style of football early in the game, but a blocked punt late in the first quarter opened the door as the Southerners spoiled homecoming for the Panthers with a 35-7 win Friday.
The loss dropped Heber Springs (2-3 in 2-4A Conference, 3-4 overall) into a fifth-place tie with Little Rock Mills (2-3 in 2-4A Conference, 6-2 overall). Mills lost to conference-leading Stuttgart (5-0 in 2-4A Conference, 7-1 overall), 63-28.
Clinton (3-2 in 2-4A Conference, 4-4 overall) routed Bald Knob (0-5 in 2-4A Conference, 0-8 overall) and took sole possession of fourth place. Southside (4-1 in 2-4A Conference, 6-2 overall) remained tied for second place with Lonoke (4-1 in 2-4A Conference, 7-1 overall).
Heber Springs held the Southerners to four yards until the blocked punt late in the first quarter. Southside finished with 322 yards — 299 yards rushing and 23 yards passing.
Seth Case and Landen Haas provided the big plays in Southside’s running game. Case had 122 yards on eight carries, while Haas ran seven times for 103 yards.
“Southside is a very good football club,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “They are trained in what they do well and play physical. They beat you down over time, and that is what they have done every game.”
The Panthers had a promising start before making the game’s first mistake.
“Our defense played well in the beginning and moved the ball on offense with short passes,” Wood said. “We played toe-to-toe with them during the first quarter.”
Heber Springs quarterback Easton Cusick completed 17-of-32 passes for 149 yards and one touchdown. Gideon Tate led the Panthers in rushing — four carries for 11 yards. Jackson West led the receivers with five catches for 37 yards, while Austin Winchester had four receptions for 26 yards. Chris Edwards caught three passes for 44 yards and one touchdown.
Heber Springs was held to zero rushing yards for the game as a team.
“Southside’s job was to stop Parker Brown (the team’s leading rusher),” Wood said. “We moved him to different spots and tried to use him as a decoy. I was proud of the way Easton played. He is still learning and made some good throws.”
The Panthers lost the services of sophomore outside linebacker Hayden Johnson to an injury. Johnson, the team’s second-leading tackler, was injured during the second quarter.
Southside’s Alex Allen blocked Cusick’s punt and took possession at the Heber Springs 15-yard line. Three plays later, Nicky Risner scored on a 5-yard run with 11:26 left in the first half. Brandon Lopez kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.
Cusick’s 51-yard punt pinned the Southerners at its 5-yard line. Southside responded with a 9-play, 95 yard drive as Case ran 46 yards for a touchdown with 7:20 remaining until halftime. Lopez executed the kick for the conversion, increasing the lead to 14-0.
The Southerners struck quickly on their next possession Haas broke free on an 80-yard touchdown run with 4:33 left in the first half. Lopez kicked the extra point.
Southside scored again before halftime by driving 55 yards on seven plays. Blayne Warden caught a 10-yard scoring pass from Haas with two seconds to go. Lopez kicked the extra point for a 28-0 halftime lead.
Southside received the second half kickoff and needed four plays on a 52-yard drive. Bryson Duncan scored on a 2-yard dive with 10:15 to go in the third quarter. Lopez kicked the extra point.
Heber Springs finished the game with an efficient 87-yard drive on nine plays. Tate ran for one first down, while Cusick passed to Austin Winchester for another first-and-10. With the clock running down, Cusick connected on a 24-yard touchdown pass to Chris Edwards with 14 seconds to play. Tate kicked the extra point.
“That was a good drive and a good way to end the game,” Wood said. “Austin Winchester and Chandler Webber caught passes. Edwards made a good catch for the touchdown.”
Heber Springs will host Clinton in the sixth Battle of the Little Red on Friday.
“We need to learn from this game and move on,” Wood said. “Clinton is next, and we need to stay focus and build momentum.”
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SOUTHSIDE BATESVILLE AT HEBER SPRINGS October 15, 2021 Heber Springs (3-4, 2-3) 0 0 0 7 - 7 Southside Batesville (6-2, 4-1) 0 28 7 0 - 35 SECOND QUARTER SS - Nicky Risner 5-yard run (Brandon Lopez kick), 11:26 SS - Bryson Duncan 46-yard run (Lopez kick), 7:20 SS - Landen Haas 80-yard run (Lopez kick), 4:33 SS - Haas to Blayne Warden 10-yard pass (Lopez kick), :28 THIRD QUARTER SS - Duncan 2-yard run (Lopez kick), 10:15 FOURTH QUARTER HS - Easton Cusick to Chris Edwards 24-yard pass (Gideon Tate kick), :00 TEAM STATISTICS FIRST DOWNS: HS 12, SS 12 RUSHES-YARDS: HS 16/0, SS 33/299 PASSING YARDS: HS 149, SS 23 COMP-ATT-INT: HS 17-32-1, SS 2-5-0 TOTAL OFFENSE: HS 149, SS 285 FUMBLES: HS 1, SS 0 PENALITIES-YARDS: HS 6/60, SS 9/100 PUNTS-AVERAGE: HS 5/28.8, SS 3/46 INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS RUSHING: HS, Gideon Tate 4/11, Parker Brown 4/2, Easton Cusick 7/(-2), Team 1/(-11). SS, Seth Case 8/122, Landen Haas 7/103, Nicky Risner 5/32, Bryson Duncan 4/15, Jacob Dunne 3/11, Steven Riggs 2/8, Kaleb West 1/7, Jacob Bunn 1/5, Colby Harris 1/4, Team 1/(-8). PASSING: HS, Cusick 17/32-149-1/1. SS, Haas 2/5-23-1/0 RECEVING: HS, Jackson West 5/23, Austin Winchester 4/26, Chris Edwards 3/21, Dalton Yancey 3/27, Gus Hannah 1/11, Chandler Webber 1/5. SS, Dunne 1/13, Blayne Warden 1/10. KICKOFF RETURNS: HS, West 2/38 PUNT RETURNS: None INTERCEPTION RETURNS: SS, Justin Vannattan 1/5 FUMBLE RETURNS: Team 1/10. PUNTS: HS, Cusick 4/144/36.0, Team 1/0/1 blk. SS, Warden 3/138/46