Big return helps Panthers mercy-rule Bulldogs

October 12, 2018

By PHILIP SEATON

HEBER SPRINGS – The pomp and circumstance wasn’t relegated to the crowing of homecoming queen Carlei Douglas and her court before Friday’s night 4A-2 contest between Heber Springs and Bald Knob at Panther Stadium.

Senior Rocky Finney provided a little bit of his own with a 94-yard interception return for a touchdown that helped spark the Panthers to 21-point lead at the half as they cruised to a 42-14 mercy-rule victory over Bald Knob to improve to 3-1 in conference play.

After a 39-yard touchdown run by Blaze Nelson gave the Panthers a 21-7 lead with 4:15 to play in the second quarter, the two teams traded possession before the Bulldogs (3-4, 1-3) appeared to be driving for a score to make it a seven-point game.

Bulldog quarterback Johnson Capps had led his team from the Bald Knob 26 to the Heber Springs 27 with a pair of completions to Eli Mean, but with just over 21 seconds to play before the half, Capps was looking for Mean again when Finney stepped in front of the pass in full stride from the Panther 6. He wouldn’t stop until he found the Bulldog end zone to give Heber Springs a 28-7 lead.

It was Finney’s third interception in the past two weeks.

“Last week, I had two that I took pretty far, but I didn’t get into the end zone,” Finney said. “On this one, I was determined to not let them stop me.”

And determined he was.

After racing down the Panther sideline, he split of pair of Bulldog offensive linemen near the Panther 35, cut across the field and avoided five tackle attempts before reaching the Bald Knob sidelines at the Bulldog 40 where he outran the Bald Knob players pursuing him for the score.

“The play of the game was Rocky’s interception,” Heber Springs coach Darren Gowen said. “He weaves back-and-forth, through people and around them, and takes it to the house.

“It put us up three touchdowns and we get the ball to start the second half. We go and score and put the mercy rule on them early in the second half.”

Finney finished the night with 290 all-purpose yards, including 157 yards receiving on seven receptions.

“You have a special guy and he is starting to come on,” Gowen said. “The last two weeks he has played really well.

“It’s a tribute to the way he practices, and he’s had two really good weeks of practicing hard. He’s showing out in games and I’m just proud of him.”

It was a big night for Nelson. The senior topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season with 127 yards on 18 carries for three touchdowns. He now has 1,050 yards on the ground.

His first score came with 11:40 to play in the second quarter with a five-yard run to cap off a nine play, 70-yard drive. After the Julian Cameron extra point, the Panthers led 7-0.

Bald Knob answered with its own nine play, 65-yard drive to tie things up at 7-all with 7:41 to play before the half after Capps connected with Mean for a 13-yard pass.

The Panthers wasted little time taking the lead as junior quarterback Adam Martin scored on a 1-yard sneak at the 6:04 mark of the second quarter to make it 14-7.

Martin finished the night completing 17 of 21 pass attempts for 232 yards.

One those passes, a 22-yarder to Finney, helped push the Panthers from the 50 to Bald Knob 28 on Heber Springs’ first drive of the second half. After Nelson carried three times to move the ball for the Bulldog 11, senior Dalton Hall took over picking up nine yards before scoring on a two-yard run with 8:40 to play in the third to put Heber Springs up 35-7.

After sophomore Matthew Cook picked up off a Capps pass at the Panther 13, Heber Springs marched 87 yards in nine plays as Nelson scored from five yards out with 4:14 to play in the third quarter. That score invoked the Arkansas Activities Association 35-point Mercy Rule which meant the clock would continuously run for the rest of the game.

Heber Springs will travel to Southside Batesville this week to tangle with the Southerners.

“When this game was over, I told them great job and it’s Southside week now,” Gowen said. “Last time we went there, they beat us and kept us from an outright conference championship.

“Last year, (they came here and) we kept them from being undefeated. They are going to be out for us.”

TEAM STATS

First Downs: Heber Springs 19, Bald Knob 16

Third-Downs: Heber Springs 2-8, Bald Knob 4-10

Fourth-Downs: Heber Springs 3-4, Bald Knob 1-1

Rushing Att.-Yards-Avg: Heber Springs 32-225-7, Bald Knob 25-133-5.3

Passing Comp.-Att-Yards-Int: Heber Springs 17-21 232 0, Bald Knob 11-23 100 2

Total Offense: Heber Springs 452, Bald Knob 233

Sacks-Yards: Heber Springs 0-0, Bald Knob 1-5

Penalties-Yards: Heber Springs 6-50, Bald Knob 3-24

Fumbles-Lost: Heber Springs 2-0, Bald Knob 1-1

Punts-Avg.: Heber Springs 1-28, Bald Knob 4-29.5

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Rushing: Heber Springs, Blaze Nelson 18-127-3, Levy Phillips 6-27, Dalton Hall 5-40-1, Adam Martin 2-14-1, Rocky Finney 1-17. Bald Knob, Josh Clark 8-47, Johnson Capps 6-30, Michael Wingo 5-29, Blain Willard 4-23, Tyrese Dinwiddie 2-4.

Passing: Heber Springs, Adam Martin, 17-21 232 0-0. Bald Knob, Johnson Capps 11-23 100 2-2.

Receiving: Heber Springs, Rocky Finney 7-157, Blaze Nelson 5-8, Dalton Hall 3-41, Fate Berry 1-22, Matthew Cook 1-4. Bald Knob, Eli Mean 5-74-1, Blain Willard 3-7, Colton Collins 2-13-1, Josh Clark 1-6.

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