Senior Spotlight: Zach Thomas

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By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Zach Thomas grew up a Panther and never doubted he would wear the uniform one day.

Thomas, a returning starter at center, battled mono and missed most of the preseason, plus two nonconference games. He survived the setback and returned against Lonoke in the 2-4A Conference opener.

It’s homecoming weekend, and Thomas is excited about playing Friday night against Southside Batesville as the Panthers continue the quest for a state playoff berth.

“It was difficult in my first game back because of conditioning, but we don’t have much depth, and I knew we needed more healthy players,” Thomas said. “I tired quickly early against Lonoke and messed up on plays. But I knew that I had to correct that and move forward.”

Thomas said he looked forward to the 100th year of Panther football, and it was special for many reasons.

“The 100th year is very special,” Thomas said. “I know a lot of the former players. We are playing for a lot of generations of Panthers. It’s an honor to do that.”

Heber Springs has won back-to-back games and challenging for the postseason. Thomas said he and his teammates plan to push forward and achieve their goal.

“Southside is a very tough and physical team,” Thomas said. “The offensive line has to start the game right. We played OK in the last two games, but we must do a much better job against Southside.”

Thomas and his fellow seniors are looking forward to homecoming activities as well as the game.

“It’s the final homecoming for the seniors,” he said. “We want to make it count.”

Senior Spotlight: Zane Lozeau

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By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Zane Lozeau didn’t take long to become a part of the 100th edition of the Heber Springs Panthers.

Lozeau, a starting cornerback and also plays wide receiver, transferred from Dover during the summer. He admitted it was a change from his hometown, but felt 100 percent acceptance.

“Nothing against Dover, but the team accepted me on the first day,” he said. “The school, community and fans really get behind the team. It feels great to be a part of the 100th year and the team.”

Lozeau said when the Panthers played at Dover, it felt strange, but the game turned into a memorable one.

“The touchdown I scored at Dover was my first one ever,” he said. “It also was the first time that I played on a high school team that won a game.”

Lozeau expects to play more on offense, especially after Easton Cusick moved to quarterback. Cusick became the new quarterback when Xander Lindley broke his collarbone early in last week’s game at Bald Knob.

“I play most of the time on defense, but I might play more receiver now,” he said. “One of the things I liked about the team is everyone gets behind you. That helps a player during a game.”

The Panthers are tied with Little Rock Mills and Clinton for fourth place in the 2-4A Conference and only one game behind second place Lonoke and Southside Batesville. Heber Springs will conclude the season against Clinton at home and a game at Mills.

Lozeau said the focus this week is on Friday’s homecoming game against Southside.

“This would be my first time to play in the playoffs if we go,” he said. “Every game counts, and I don’t want to leave anything out on the field. We will be ready for Friday’s game.”

Panther GameDay: Homecoming awaits

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By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

A mission awaits the Heber Springs Panthers for homecoming at Panther Stadium Friday.

The Panthers (2-2 in 2-4A Conference, 3-3 overall) will host Southside Batesville (3-1 in 2-4A Conference, 5-2) and hope not only to slow down the Southerners’ running game, but move up a notch in the conference standings. Southside and Lonoke are tied for second place in the conference, one game ahead of Heber Springs.

The Southerners rolled past Central Arkansas Christian 59-19 last week, while the Panthers escaped with a 14-7 win at Bald Knob.

“We were put in a difficult situation with our starting quarterback (Xander Lindley) was injured early in the game,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “The injury forced us to find other ways to win. We pulled it out and won on the road. That game built our confidence and tells the guys if you keep fighting, good things can happen.”

Lindley suffered a broken collarbone and will miss the remainder of the season. Easton Cusick, who starts at wide receiver, moved to quarterback. Cusick completed 9-of-16 passes for 56 yards and one touchdown, and he rushed nine times for 27 yards.

“Cusick played in other games and took snaps in practice, but he was put in a different situation,” Wood said. “We talked at halftime, made a few adjustments. He led the team well during the second half.”

Wood changed blocking assignments and adjusted two plays.

“We made changes at halftime for the offensive line and went with shorter patterns in the passing game,” Wood said. “The change gave more time to pass and helped Cusick to read the defense better.”

Wood said the defense kept the team in the game during the first half, stopping Bald Knob four times in five possessions, all that started on the Panthers’ side of midfield. Kenan Sneed’s interception return early during the fourth quarter keyed the Panthers’ comeback.

“I can’t say enough about the defense, especially during the first half,” Wood said. “The defense played lights out. Sneed’s interception return for a touchdown was the turning point. The Bulldogs surprised us by going for the first down late in the game. Our defense shut them down and got the ball back.”

Dalton Yancey caught two passes for 24 yards, but his 18-yard reception on fourth down late in the game set up the winning touchdown.

“If we don’t get the first down, we don’t have the last two plays and score the touchdown,” Wood said. “Dalton found a way to get open and got in a good spot. Eastern scrambled, threw a good pass and kept us alive.”

Heber Springs plans no major changes on defense, but preparing to slow down the Southside running game. The Southerners rushed for 480 yards and eight touchdowns against CAC.

“Southside is rolling with a win against Lonoke and took Stuttgart to the wire,” Wood said. “Their style of offense is difficult to defend. They have speed in the backfield, and the line is very athletic and strong.”

Quarterback Landen Haas directs Southside’s Wing-T attack with running threats like Nick Risner, Jacob Dunne, Brandon Lopez and Steven Riggs. Dunne ran for three touchdowns and Risner scored two touchdowns in last week’s game.

The Southerners also have the capability to throw the ball downfield. Tyler Jones is one of Haas’ primary targets.

“They have the pieces for a good team,” Wood said. “We need to control the ball and execute well. It’s a good combo when a team can run and pass the ball effectively. That puts pressure on the defense. We must be ready for the run and the pass.”

Coaches often worry about the  distractions at homecoming to players, but Wood said his team will handle them well.

“I mentioned to the players they need to enjoy all of the festivities,” Wood said. “They need to focus on the game when it is time to play.”

Wood explained the keys to a third straight win for the Panthers.

“Offensively, we need to control the ball and adjust to a new quarterback,” he said. “The game will be decided on the line of scrimmage. The defense must read its keys and play physical. We played well again CAC and Bald Knob, which were running teams. We need to force them to pass.”

NOTES

  • Kickoff: 7 p.m.
  • 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. Steaming is available on The Lake’s YouTube page.
  • Homecoming: The Homecoming parade begins at 2 p.m. and ends with a pep rally in downtown at 2:30 p.m. Tailgating starts at 4 p.m. A track-naming dedication ceremony for coaches Harold Wilson and Johnette Goldman at 5:30 p.m. and the homecoming ceremony at 6:15 p.m.

THE SERIES: Heber Springs lead 13-2

SERIES HISTORY: This will be the 16th time these two teams have meet on the football field since Southside Batesville started its football program in 2006. Heber Springs won the first 10 meetings in the series before the Southerners claimed a 24-20 victory at home in 2016 before the Panthers would win the next two. Southside Batesville has won only once at Panther Stadium,   48-20, in 2019. The Panthers won last season 22-17 at Southside Batesville.

 

2A-4 CONFERENCE STANDINGS
                            W L CP  W L PS  PA 
Stuttgart                   4 0 42  6 1 251 126 
Lonoke                      3 1 39  6 1 232 111
Southside Batesville        3 1 28  5 2 256 137                      
Clinton                     2 2 23  3 4 182 222
Little Rock Mills           2 2 26  5 2 282 186   
Heber Springs               2 2 20  3 3 126 153  
Bald Knob                   0 4  0  0 7  81 209
Central Arkansas Christian  0 4  0  2 5 178 337    

Friday, October 16
Heber Springs 14, Bald Knob 7
Southside Batesville 59, Central Arkansas Christian 19
Lonoke 35, Little Rock Mills 6
Stuttgart 43, Clinton 14
Friday, October 23
Southside Batesville at Heber Springs
Bald Knob at Clinton
Stuttgart at Little Rock Mills
Central Arkansas Christian at Lonoke

Heber Springs holds off Southside Batesville

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Heber Springs’ Logan Rutledge gets a block and looks downfield for yards against Southside Batesville Thursday night. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

SOUTHSIDE BATESVILLE – Liam Buffalo passed for 231 yards and two touchdowns in helping lead the Heber Springs junior Panthers to their sixth win of the season Thursday night, 22-14.

Logan Rutledge had a career-high eight receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown and finished with 182 all-purpose yards, while Weston Warden had four receptions for 122 yards and a score for the Panthers.

Warden’s score came on Heber Springs’ second possession of the game when he took a pass from Buffalo and raced 55 yards for a touchdown. The score capped off a five-play, 95-yard drive, after the Panther defense held the Southerners on a fourth-down play on the Heber Springs 5-yard line.

Rutledge recovered a fumble on the ensuing onside-kick attempt by Heber Springs, but the Panthers’ drive stalled at the Southside 24.

The Panther defense had another fourth-down stop, this time at the Heber Springs 1, but the Panthers couldn’t muster a drive before punting it back to the Southerners.

Southside Batesville took over on the Panther 49 and four plays later, Cameron Foree connected with Brayden Simpson for a 24-yard touchdown. Foree scored on  the 2-point conversion to take an 8-6 lead with 1:23 left in the half.

Two plays later, Heber Springs responded when Buffalo found Rutledge for a 44-yard touchdown pass. Warden caught the 2-point pass from Buffalo to make it 14-8 with 50 seconds left in the half.

In the second half, the two teams traded possessions before Rutledge picked off a Foree pass and returned it 45 yards with 33 seconds to go in the third quarter.

Five plays later, Buffalo rambled 13 yards to for a insurance score for the Panthers. Seth Dudeck’s 2-point pass reception made it 22-8 with 6:51 left.

Southside Batesville responded to the score by using a methodical time-consuming, 12-play, 68-yard drive to close the gap to 22-14 with 1:05 to play.

The Panthers recovered the onside-kick attempts and killed the clock to earn the win.

Heber Springs will close out its season Thursday night at Clinton. A win would give the Panthers the runner-up spot in the 2-4A behind Central Arkansas Christian.

HEBER SPRINGS AT SOUTHSIDE BATESVILLE
OCTOBER 21, 2021 
Southside Batesville      0   8   0   6 - 14 
Heber Springs             6   8   0   8 - 22
FIRST QUARTER 
HS - Liam Buffalo to Weston Warden 55-yard pass (pass failed), 4:03
SECOND QUARTER 
SS - Cameron Foree to Brayden Simpson 24-yard pass (Foree run), 1:23
HS - Buffalo to Logan Rutledge 44-yard pass (Buffalo to Warden run), :50
FOURTH QUARTER 
HS - Buffalo 13-yard run (Buffalo to Seth Dudeck pass), 6:51
SS - Louis Calhoun 4-yard run (run failed), 1:05
TEAM STATISTICS 
FIRST DOWNS: HS 11, SS 12
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 13/25, SS 33/197
PASSING YARDS: HS 231, SS 70
TOTAL OFFENSE: HS 256, SS 267
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 15-25-0, SS 4-11-1
FUMBLES: HS 0, SS 1
PENALITIES-YARDS: HS 5/46, SS 3/15
PUNTS-AVERAGE: HS 1/18, SS 1/35
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS 
RUSHING: HS, Liam Buffalo 7/53, Carter Julian 1/4, Weston Warden 1/2, Cooper Holmes 2/(-2), Team 3/(-32). SS, Louis Calhoun 18/100, Caden Rowlett 4/42, Jonathan Powell 3/41, Brodee Vanwinkle 3/13, Andrew Plumber 2/3, Cameron Foree 3/(-2).
PASSING: HS, Buffalo 15/25-231-2/0. SS, Foree 4/11-70-1/1.
RECEVING: HS, Logan Rutledge 8/114, Warden 4/122, Holmes 3/(-5). SS, Rowlett 2/40, Brayden Simpson 1/24, Rowlett 1/6.
KICKOFF RETURNS: HS, Rutledge 1/23
PUNT RETURNS: None
INT RETURNS: HS, Rutledge 1/45
FUMBLE RETURNS: None
PUNTS: HS, Buffalo 1/18. SS, Payton Barnes 1/35

HEBER SPRINGS JUNIOR HIGH SCHEDULE

(All Games Start at 7 p.m.)

Aug. 26 – Heber Springs 32, Clinton 28

Sep. 09 – Harding Academy 36, Heber Springs 16

Sep. 16 – Heber Springs 26, Dover 12

Sep. 23 – Heber Springs 34, Lonoke 12 *

Sep. 28 – Heber Springs 42, Stuttgart 32 *

Oct. 07 – Central Arkansas Christian 30, Heber Springs 14 *

Oct. 14 – Heber Springs 26, Bald Knob 8 *

Oct. 21 – Heber Springs 22, Southside Batesville 14 *

Oct. 28 – at Clinton *

(* – Denotes Conference Contest)

Southside Batesville downs Heber Springs 7th-Graders

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Heber Springs’ Rhett Herring gets a block from teammate, Carson Robitaille, during a first-half run at Southside Batesville Thursday night. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

SOUTHSIDE BATESVILLE – Southside Batesville used a safety and a long touchdown run to down the Heber Springs seventh-grade Panthers Thursday night.

The game was scoreless until in the first half when the Southerners were driving for an apparent score, but Brady Loethen recovered a fumble at the Panther 1 give the Panthers possession with less than a minute to go.

But three plays later, Southside Batesville’s Gabe Madison tackled Josiah Riggs in the end zone for safety with 10 seconds to play before halftime.

The Southerners would use their first possession of the second half to go up 8-0 after Jake Roberts ran 68 yards for a touchdown with 17:10 left in the game.

The Panthers threatened with under five minutes to play after Lachlan Tubbs connected with Samuel Bush for a 45-yard pass play to put the ball at the Southerner 5, but the Panthers were unable to capitalize and turned the ball over on downs.

Southside Batesville killed the clock to earn the win.

HEBER SPRINGS 7TH-GRADE SCHEDULE

(All Game Times are 5:30 p.m.)

Aug. 26 – Clinton 16, Heber Springs 14

Sep. 09 – at Harding Academy (Canceled)

Sep. 16 – Heber Springs 16, Dover 6

Sep. 23 – Lonoke 20, Heber Springs 6

Sep. 28 – Stuttgart 6, Heber Springs 0

Oct. 07 – Central Arkansas Christian 8, Heber Springs 0

Oct. 14 – Heber Springs 14, Bald Knob 0

Oct. 21 – Southside Batesville 8, Heber Springs 0

Oct. 28 – at Clinton

Final seconds belong to Panthers

Heber Springs’ Parker Brown gets a block from teammate Dalton Yancey Friday night at Bald Knob. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

BALD KNOB — Sometimes the best play is not one in the playbook, and it worked for the Heber Springs Panthers against Bald Knob.

Parker Brown caught a 15-yard pass from backup quarterback Easton Cusick with 5.6 seconds left for a 14-7 win in a 2-4A Conference football game on the rain-soaked grass at Bulldog Stadium on Friday.

The touchdown completed a fourth-quarter rally and the first time Heber Springs won back-to-back games since the 2019 season.

The win moved the Panthers (2-2 in conference, 3-3) into a tie fourth place with Clinton and Little Rock Mills in the conference standings.

Bald Knob led 7-0 at the half and at the end of the third quarter.

The winning drive started at the Bulldog 38 with 2:19 left in the game. Bald Knob forced the Panthers into a fourth-and-2 at the 30-yard line. Cusick rolled to his left and connected on a 15-yard pass to Dalton Yancey for a first down at the 15-yard line.

After Cusick threw incomplete, he hit Brown in stride at the 1-yard line for the game winner.

“We wanted to spread the defense,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We decided not to try and kick a field goal because we were going into the wind. We made two adjustments on the play and asked Parker to run to the middle, and he did that perfectly. Cusick hit him in stride.”

Parker caught the pass at the 1 and scored untouched.

“That was a great play call by coach Wood,” Cusick said. “Parker cut inside and caught the ball. It was a beautiful play and worked out perfectly.”

“We wanted to get it in the end zone,” Brown said. “The coaches said we could do it by getting the ball to the middle of the defense.”

Wood said Kenan Sneed’s 48-yard interception return earlier in the fourth quarter switched the momentum. Sneed’s score came with 10:02

“The game changed after Sneed’s pick six,” Wood said. “It gave energy to our team. We had turned the ball over on downs, but Sneed’s pick turned the tide.”

Bald Knob stopped Heber Springs on downs inside the Bulldog 30-yard line. Quarterback Leason Pierce’s pass bounced off the chest of a Bald Knob receiver into the hands of Sneed.

“The (Bald Knob) offensive line stepped back and I read the play immediately,” Sneed said. “The ball hit the player in the chest and popped into the air. I happened to be in the right place. I thought they would catch me and ran as fast as I could.”

Cusick, who had been a starting wide receiver, completed 9-of-16 passes for 56 yards. He replaced Xander Lindley, who suffered a broken collarbone.

“Hats off to Easton,” Wood said. “He took a few snaps in games and works at quarterback during practice. Easton came up to me on the sidelines and asked, ‘Coach, let me have the ball and let me go.’ I followed his lead, and he did a fantastic job.”

Cusick, who was not sacked during the second half, admitted that he was nervous in the beginning, but felt more comfortable after halftime.

“It’s more nerve wrecking in a game than in practice,” he said. “The second half was more relaxing, and we were moving the ball. We pulled together, and I could not have done this without my teammates.”

Sneed said the availability of a net helped Cusick and the team regroup at halftime.

“Easton kicked into a net during halftime inside the dressing room and also worked on passing. He was ready to play in the second half.”

Bald Knob started in Heber Springs territory on all five first-half possessions — 43-, 18-, 19-, 30- and 29-yard lines. The Panthers, who had only one penalty for 5 yards, held the Bulldogs to 84 of its 191 yards of offense during the first half and forced three turnovers on the night.

Heber Springs was limited to 13 yards during the first half and 139 yards for the game.

Pierce, who rushed for a game-high 121 yards on 29 carries, needed only one play to put Bald Knob on the scoreboard. After a short punt into the wind, he scored on a 19-yard keeper with 9:01 left in the first half. Marcus McGahee kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.

The Bulldogs had an opportunity to increase the lead, but McGahee, with the wind at his back, missed a 45-yard field goal attempt with 52 seconds to go until halftime.

“Our defense kept us in the game during the first half,” Wood said. “They understood the situation and did a fantastic job. We were in a situation when things were going against us and put our backs against the wall. But the players continued to fight.”

Heber Springs will return home and play Southside Batesville, a 59-19 winner against Central Arkansas Christian, on Friday.

“It’s a good feeling with back-to-back wins,” Wood said. “Our guys understand we must take one game a time. Southside is very good team, and we will now focus on them.”

HEBER SPRINGS AT BALD KNOB
October 15, 2021 
Heber Springs (3-3, 2-2)   0   0   0  14 - 14
Bald Knob (0-6, 0-4)       0   7   0   0 -  7 
SECOND QUARTER 
BK - Leason Pierce 20-yard run (Marcus McGahee kick), 9:07
FOURTH QUARTER 
HS - Kenan Sneed 48-yard interception return (Gideon Tate kick), 10:02
HS - Easton Cusick to Parker Brown 15-yard pass (Tate kick), :5.6
TEAM STATISTICS 
FIRST DOWNS: HS 11, BK 10
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 35/83, BK 44/177
PASSING YARDS: HS 56, BK 14
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 9-17-1, BK 2-7-2
TOTAL OFFENSE: HS 139, BK 191
FUMBLES: HS 1, BK 1
PENALITIES-YARDS: HS 1/5, BK 9/75
PUNTS-AVERAGE: HS 4/23, BK 2/37
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS 
RUSHING: HS, Parker Brown 19/64, Easton Cusick 9/27, Kenan Sneed 1/4, Jackson West 1/3, Xander Lindley 4/(-5), Team 1/(-10). BK, Leason Pierce 29/121, Dane Lindsey 14/54, Team 1/2. 
PASSING: HS, Cusick 9/16-56-1/1, Lindley 0/1-0-0/0. BK, Pierce 2/7-14-0/2
RECEVING: HS, Austin Winchester 3/9, Dalton Yancey 2/24, Jackson West 2/11, Parker Brown 1/15, Chris Edwards 1/(-3). BK, Hunter Deflorian 1/13, Dane Lindsey 1/1. 
KICKOFF RETURNS: BK, Marcus McGahee 1/13, Langston Lindsey 1/7
PUNT RETURNS: None
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: HS, Kenan Sneed 1/48, Dalton Yancey 1/3. BK, Langston Lindsey 1/4
FUMBLE RETURNS: None
PUNTS: HS, Cusick 4/92, Chris Gomez 2/74.

Photo: Panthers down Bald Knob, 14-7

Heber Springs quarterback Easton Cusick hugs Parker Brown after Brown caught a 15-yard pass for the game-winning score with 5.6 seconds left Friday night at Bald Knob. The Panthers won the 2-4A contest 14-7. Complete game story coming later today. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Panther GameDay: Bald Knob, Heber Springs look to stay in playoff hunt

The Heber Springs defense, from left, Lucas Langster (50), Payton Owens (68), Thad Bray (55) and Jackson West (23), hits the road tonight at Bald Knob. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs will play the second of an important 4-game stretch with the same approach — focus on the next opponent.

The Panthers (1-2 in 2-4A Conference, 2-3) will play the winless Bald Knob Bulldogs (0-3 in 2-4A Conference, 0-6) at Bulldog Stadium in Bald Knob at 7 p.m. Friday.

Hooten’s Magazine made the Bulldogs an 1-point favorite against Heber Springs in its weekly Class 4A predictions.

It also will be homecoming for Bald Knob, which lost to conference leader Stuttgart 42-19 last week. The Panthers are coming off a 47-26 win against Central Arkansas Christian.

“Win or lose, we always only look at the next game,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We have a group of good guys, who aren’t looking past Bald Knob. We played our most complete game of the season against CAC. I liked what I’ve seen during practice this week.”

Running back Parker Brown and quarterback Xander Lindley were responsible for 470 yards for the Panthers against CAC. Brown rushed 16 times for 223 yards and four touchdowns, and he caught three passes for 44 yards and one touchdown.

Lindley completed 11-of-13 passes for 113 yards and one touchdown against the Mustangs. He ran for 134 yards on 13 carries and scored two touchdowns.

“Parker did what he was capable of, and Xander continues to mature at quarterback,” Wood said. “I’m proud of the number of players — receivers Chris Edwards, Austin Winchester, Easton Cusick, Dalton Yancey and Jackson West — touching the ball. When you can spread the ball around to that many receivers, that helps an offense quite a bit.”  

Brown didn’t set a school or stadium single-game record with his five total touchdowns. However, he did become the first Panther to have a 200-yard rushing and a 200-yard receiving games during the same season. Markeyvus Mays rushed for seven touchdowns on 11 carries in a win over Cave City on Nov. 4, 2010. Jerry Pilkington holds the school record with eight rushing touchdowns against Ola on Oct. 14, 1949.

Wood also was elated with the Panthers not having a turnover. Heber Springs had eight turnovers in the first four games.

“We spent more time this year stressing the importance of protecting the ball,” he said. “We didn’t do that much last year because of limited practice time because of Covid-19.”

Brown is the leading rusher for the Panthers with 537 yards on 63 carries and seven touchdowns. He has caught eight passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns.

Lindley has completed 35-of-61 passes for 516 yards and five touchdowns. He is the team’s second-leading rusher with 185 yards on 54 attempts and two touchdowns.

Wood said credit for the offense’s success against CAC came from the performance of the offensive line — Lucas Langster (left guard), Payton Owens (left tackle), Zach Thomas (center), Tristan Thissen (right guard) and Thad Bray (right tackle).

“I really enjoyed watching them on film after the game,” he said. “It was good seeing them come off the ball strong, and they executed well. They are showing improvement, and we need it to continue.”

Wood recalled the six turnovers — four interceptions and two fumbles — against Bald Knob in last year’s 35-15 loss.

Quarterback Leason Pierce, who completed 13-of-23 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns in 2020, returns for the Bulldogs. Pierce connected on 11-of-17 passes for 132 yards during the second half. Bald Knob converted 5-of-7 third-down plays, and 2-of-8 plays on fourth down.

Wood is confident that his defense with a year of experience, plus playing three of the conference’s best quarterbacks this season, will play well.

“I told the players and defensive coaches we faced a talented mobile quarterback for the past three weeks,” he said. “They had speed and were able to go outside the pocket and make plays. We are looking at a quarterback (Pierce) who doesn’t have that kind of speed, but he has the ability to make things happens. We must contain him in the pocket.”

Linebackers Kenan Sneed, Hayden Johnson and West continue to lead the Heber Springs defense. Sneed had 21 tackles against CAC, while Johnson recorded 13 tackles and West was credited with 12 tackles.

“I’m pleased with our defense,” Wood said. “They did a good job of containing (CAC quarterback) Tyler Williams. He got a couple of big plays, but we kept him contained most of the game. Sneed puts up the numbers, and Johnson is playing well and making big plays.”

Wood said the play of the defensive line is improving.

“We changed our tactics and our strength is beginning to show,” he said. “Owens has been a surprise. Langster has the speed, and Bray has the size. The line can cause trouble for other teams.”

Wood said the formula is simple for a win.

“On offense, we must control and protect ball and execute well,” he said. “On defense, we must pressure the quarterback.”

  • Kickoff: 7 p.m. at Bald Knob
  • 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: Bald Knob leads 38-23-2

SERIES HISTORY: This will be the 64th 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 10 times with the Panthers winning seven of those contests, but the Bulldogs did spoil the Heber Springs’ homecoming last season with a 35-15 victory.

2A-4 CONFERENCE STANDINGS
                            W L CP  W L PS  PA 
Stuttgart                   3 0 29  5 1 208 112 
Little Rock Mills           2 1 26  5 1 276 151 
Lonoke                      2 1 26  5 1 197 105
Southside Batesville        2 1 15  4 2 197 118                      
Clinton                     2 1 23  3 3 168 179  
Heber Springs               1 2 13  2 3 112 146  
Bald Knob                   0 3  0  0 6  74 195
Central Arkansas Christian  0 3  0  2 4 159 278    

Friday, October 9
Heber Springs 47, Central Arkansas Christian 26
Stuttgart 42, Bald Knob 19
Southside Batesville 38, Lonoke 36 (OT)
Clinton 38, Little Rock Mills 28
Friday, October 16
Heber Springs at Bald Knob
Southside Batesville at Central Arkansas Christian
Lonoke at Little Rock Mills
Clinton at Stuttgart

Senior Spotlight: Lucas Langster

Lucas Langster

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Lucas Langster knew one day he will become a Heber Springs Panther, but he never realized his senior season would become a part of the program’s history.

Langster is a Panther, like his late father, Rodger Dean Langster. His father was a receiver, but the younger Langster is a starter on the offensive and defensive lines during the 100th year of the program.

The HSHS roots run deep in his family with his grandparents being almuni of the school, along with his two twin aunts — Rhonda Langster Lynch and Rachelle Langster Evans.

His grandfather, Rodger Langster, is a former Cleburne County Clerk and later elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives. Rachelle Evans is currently the county clerk.

“Playing for the Panthers means a lot to me,” Lucas Langster said. “It’s an honor to be a part of the 100th year, especially as a senior.”

Langster was one of the offensive linemen, who helped to open the way for the Heber Springs’ running game against Central Arkansas Christian last week. He hopes the momentum will continue.

“Everything has been going well right now,” he said. “We started this week well and want to end with a win at Bald Knob on Friday. My teammates and I are looking to do the best we can for the remainder of the season.”  

Langster admitted defense was his favorite, but he enjoys contributing on the offensive line, too.

“Defense is more fun because of the hitting,” he said. “I don’t mind playing both ways. All I want is to do whatever I can to help the team.”

Langster said he and his teammates know it is one game at a time, and that’s the focus going into Friday’s game.

“CAC was a big win,” he said. “If we can win the next few games, we can get to the playoffs and do well there too.”