Junior Panthers tripped up in home-opener

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Heber Springs’ Josiah Riggs fights for extra yards against Southside Batesville Thursday night at Panther Stadium. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

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Two big plays in a just over four-minute span cost the Heber Springs Junior Panthers a chance of a season-opening victory Thursday night at Panther Stadium.

Southside Batesville broke a 6-all halftime tie with a pair of late third-quarter and early fourth-quarters touchdowns to claim an 18-6 victory.

Heber Springs took the opening kick-off but couldn’t move the chains as Aiden Isom was stopped for a no gain on a fourth-and-4 play from the Panther 37.

The Panther defense appeared to have stiffened forcing a pair of short runs after Rhett Herring threw Southside’s Karsen McSpadden for a four-yard loss on first down. But with the Southerners facing a fourth-and-8 from the Heber Springs 35, Hanlee Cartmill got behind the Panther secondary and McSpadden connected with him for a 35-yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion failed after Southside picked up three penalties on the attempt with 3:28 left in the first quarter.

Five straight fullback runs up the middle by Brody Loethen killed the rest of the first quarter and gave the Panthers a pair of first downs at the Southerner 42. But Heber Springs lost three yards over the next four plays forcing a turnover on downs.

The Southerners then drove to the Panther 17, before a high snap was recovered by Heber Springs’ Landon Brown.

The Panthers managed a first down on a seven-yard run by Landen Peterson, but a fourth-down run by Tanner Graham was stopped two-yards short with 2:03 left before the half.

Heber Springs got another chance before the break on the next play as another snap by Southerner was recovered by Cade Williams at the Southerner 30.

After a loss of a yard on first down, Isom broke free for a 31-yard touchdown run diving for the corner pylon to get the Panthers on the board with 1:07 left in the half. The 2-point conversion leaving the score at 6-all at the break.

The Southerners finished with 13 penalties on the night and on their first possession of the second half four flags frustrated a six-play drive that took 4:43 off the third-quarter clock. That drive only netted two yards and after a 13-yard punt, Heber Springs had the ball at the Southerner 30.

But on the first play of the drive, a Panther fumble was scooped up by Southside’s Cole Vaughn and returned 67 yards for a score with 3:01 left in the stanza. The 2-point conversion was again stopped by the Heber Springs defense.

The Panthers managed a pair of first downs pushing into Southerner territory, but Josiah Riggs was stopped a yard short on fourth down on the first play of the fourth quarter.

On second down, Bryson VanWinkle broke free for a 64-yard touchdown run. The 2-point conversion was again stopped with 6:48 left.

Isom paced Heber Springs with 51 yards on nine carries and his 10-yard carry gave the Panthers their final first down of the night at the Southerner 33. Two plays later an interception ended Heber Springs’ hope of comeback as Southside killed the clock to end the game.

The start time of the game was pushed back due to an excessive heat warning and a seventh-grade game was changed to intra-squad scrimmage. The game was the first one on the new artificial playing surface that was installed this summer replacing the old turf.

Heber Springs will travel to Clinton Thursday night with a scheduled 6:30 p.m. kick-off. The Panther seventh-grade team will open their season at 5:30 p.m. against Clinton.

August 25, 2023

TIME OF POSSESSION: Heber Springs 16:25, Southside 15:35
TOTAL FIRST DOWNS: Heber Springs 7, Southside 7
BY RUSH: Heber Springs 6, Southside 6
BY PASS: Heber Springs 0, Southside 1
BY PENALTY: Heber Springs 1, Southside 0
TEAM RUSHING: Heber Springs 32/101/3.2, Southside 29/115/4.0
TEAM PASSING: Heber Springs 0/2-0-0/1, Southside 1/3-35-1/0
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs 34/101/3.0, Southside 32/150/4.7
3RD CONVERSION: Heber Springs 1/6, Southside 0/4
4TH CONVERSION: Heber Springs 0/4, Southside 1/2
TURNOVERS: Heber Springs 2, Southside 2
FUMBLES/LOST: Heber Springs 1/1, Southside 2/2
PENALTIES: Heber Springs 2/10, Southside 13/81
RETURNS: Heber Springs 2/10, Southside 3/93
PUNTS: Heber Springs 0/0, Southside 1/13
SACKS: Heber Springs 1/14, Southside 0/0
TACKLES FOR LOSS: Heber Springs 9/66, Southside 8/20
RUSHING: Heber Springs, Brody Loethen 11/27, Aiden Isom 9/51/1, Landen Peterson 4/2, Landon Brown 3/9, Josiah Riggs 3/13, Tanner Graham 2/(-1). Southside, Karsen McSpadden 10/49, Bryson VanWinkle 9/91/1, Jake Roberts 5/16, Korbin Foster 3/(-8), Team 2/(-33).
PASSING: Heber Springs, Landen Peterson 0/2-0-0/1. Southside, Karsen McSpadden 1/1-35-1/0, Korbin Foster 0/2-0-0/0
RECEIVING: Southside, Hanlee Cartmill 1/35/1.
KICKOFF RETURNS: Heber Springs, Rhett Herring 2/10. Southside, Juju Brooks 1/6.
FUMBLE RETURNS: Southside, Cole Vaughn 1/67/1.
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Southside, Karsen McSpadden 1/20

CAREER STATS: Heber Springs’ Liam Buffalo


2020    122   199   1787    22    6     198.6     61.3    167.2
2021     82   147   1160    15    1     128.9     55.8    154.4
CAREER  204   346   2947    37    7     163.7     59.0    161.8

2020     21   147    7.0     2    16.3
2021    101   931    9.2    15   103.4 
CAREER  122  1078    8.8    17    59.9

2020    1934/214.9
2021    2091/232.3
CAREER  4025/223.6

OTHER: Four interceptions on defense, 132 points scored, 1095 all-purpose yards

Final Heber Springs Junior High Football Stats

Heber Springs’ Cooper Holmes picks up yards against Clinton in the Panthers final game of the season on Oct. 28. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 113, Opponent 92 
Penalties: Heber Springs 48/364, Opponent 34/256 
Fumbles: Heber Springs 2, Opponent 3
Rush/Yards/Avg/TD: Heber Springs186/1266/6.8/17, Opponent 248/1379/5.6/14
Rushing Yards Per Game: Heber Springs 140.7, Opponent 153.2
Passing (A/C-Yards-TD/Int): Heber Springs 82/147-1160-15/1, Opponent 37/81-514-4/6
Passing Yards Per Game: Heber Springs 128.9, Opponent 57.1
Total Offense: Heber Springs 2426, Opponent 1893
Total Offense Per Game: Heber Springs 269.6, Opponent 210.3 
Punts (Att/Yards/Avg/Blk): Heber Springs 11/381/38.1/1, Opponent 11/341/31.0/0

Rushing: Liam Buffalo 101/931/15, Weston Warden 48/247/2, Lucas Garcia 6/49, Cooper Holmes 11/45, Carter Julian 5/21, Logan Rutledge 7/19, Seth Dudeck 1/13, Team 8/(-58) 
Passing (Comp/Att-Yds-TDs/INT): Liam Buffalo 82/147-1160-15/1
Receiving: Weston Warden 30/655/7, Logan Rutledge 18/195/2, Carter Julian 12/125/3, Seth Dudeck 8/133/1, Cooper Holmes 7/23/1, Ty West 6/65/1
Kickoff Returns: Logan Rutledge 6/81, Cooper Holmes 3/25, Emmitt Dwyer 1/11, Weston Warden 1/2
Punt Returns: Weston Warden 1/19
Interception Returns: Liam Buffalo 2/17, Weston Warden 1/83/1, Logan Rutledge 1/45, Caleb Carr 1/29, Emmitt Dwyer 1/9
Total Offense: Liam Buffalo 2091, Weston Warden 247, Lucas Garcia 49, Cooper Holmes 45, Carter Julian 21, Logan Rutledge 19, Seth Dudeck 13
All-Purpose Yards: Weston Warden 976, Liam Buffalo 948, Logan Rutledge 340, Carter Julian 152, Seth Dudeck 146, Cooper Holmes 93, Ty West 65, Lucas Garcia 49, Caleb Carr 29, Emmitt Dwyer 20
Fumble Recoveries: Liam Buffalo, Jacob McMullin, Logan Rutledge
Punts: Liam Buffalo 10/381/38.1
SCORING (TD/2 PT-TOTAL): Liam Buffalo 15/5-100, Weston Warden 10/5-70, Carter Julian 3/4-26, Logan Rutledge 2/2-16, Ty West 1/1-8, Seth Dudeck 1/1-8, Cooper Holmes 1/0-6

Junior Panthers fall in final minute, finish 6-3

Heber Springs quarterback Liam Buffalo breaks free from a Clinton defender and heads to the end zone Thursday night. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

CLINTON – Liam Buffalo finished with 246 yards of total offense but it was not enough as Clinton claimed a 24-22, 2-4A victory Thursday night.

Heber Springs finished the season with a 6-3 overall record and a 4-2 record in the 2-4A, a third-place finish.

Clinton took the opening kick and drove 57-yards on five plays capped by a Rylan Jones 23-yard run. Zack Hunt-Gonzalez added the 2-point conversion at the 5:51 mark.

Buffalo, who ran 19 times for 144 yards on the night, actually scored three times on the Panthers first possession with his third counting on 25-yard run. The ninth-grader had 50- and 12-yard touchdown runs called back with holding penalties. Buffalo completed the conversion pass to Weston Warden to tie things up at 8-8 with 3:35 left in the first quarter.

The Yellowjackets responded with a time-consuming 12-play, 65-yard drive that took more than six minutes off the first-half clock. Quarterback Brodie Dufrene capped the possession with a 2-yard run. Hunt-Gonzalez’ 2-point run made it 16-8 in favor of Clinton with 5:31 left in the half.

The two teams traded possession as the Panthers failed to convert on a fourth-and-13 play from the Clinton 47 while the Yellowjackets reached the Panther 25 right before the half — a 42-yard field goal attempt was no good.

Buffalo connected with Warden for 15-yard pass completion on the final play of the first half.

Heber Springs took the second-half kickoff as Buffalo ran three times for 33 yards to put the ball on the Clinton 33. Cooper Holmes ran for 6 before Buffalo scored on an 11-yard run. The 2-point pass attempt was no good as Clinton still led 16-14 at the 6:31 mark of the third quarter.

The Yellowjackets reached the Panther 24 on their next drive but the Heber Springs defense forced an incomplete pass on fourth down. From there, the Panthers would take the lead on an 11-play, 76-yard drive as Buffalo made an underhand pass to Holmes for a 1-yard touchdown. The big play on the drive was a 36-yard reception by Warden. Warden also caught the 2-point conversion to make it 22-18 with 7:01 left.

The Panther defense forced its only four-and-out of the night on Clinton’s next possession as pass attempt by Dufrene fell short for the Yellowjackets at the Clinton 47 with 5:40 left.

Heber Springs moved the ball to the Clinton 40 and fourth-and-3, Buffalo picked up five yards on the ground for a first down with just over three minutes to play. But the drive would fizzle following an incomplete pass, a run for no gain, a three-yard reception by Carter Julian and an incomplete pass on fourth down at the Clinton 32.

The Yellowjackets, with three timeouts, took over with 2:36 to play. A 16-yard run by Rope Williams gave Clinton a first down on their own 48. Four more running plays, including another first down, moved the ball to the Panther 32. On third-and-4, Dufrene pitched to Brayson Littell who hit Jones for a 32-yard touchdown pass to tie things up at 22-all with 51 seconds left. Jones would score the go-ahead points on the 2-point conversion make it 24-22.

The Panthers picked up a first down on a 12-yard reception by Warden, but three straight incomplete passes left Heber Springs with one final play. Buffalo hit Logan Rutledge, who only managed nine yards, before being brought down as the clock expired.

Warden finished the night with four receptions for 65 yards as Buffalo completed 10 passes for 102 yards.

OCTOBER 28, 2021 
Clinton                   8   8   0   8 - 24
Heber Springs             8   0   6   8 - 22
C - Rylan Jones 23-yard run (Zack Hunt-Gonzalez run), 5:51
HS - Liam Buffalo 25-yard run (Buffalo to Weston Warden pass), 3:35
C - Brodie Dufrene 2-yard run (Hunt-Gonzalez run), 5:31
HS - Buffalo 11-yard run (pass failed), 6:31
HS - Buffalo to Cooper Holmes 1-yard pass (Buffalo to Warden), 7:01
C - Brayson Littell to Jones (Jones run), :51
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 25/164, C 34/219
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 10-21-0, C 2-9-0
RUSHING: HS, Liam Buffalo 19/144, Cooper Holmes 3/16, Carter Julian 1/4, Weston Warden 2/0. C, Rylan Jones 13/103, Zack Hunt-Gonzalez 11/66, Colton Warren 1/22, Rope Williams 4/18, Brayson Littell 3/9, Brodie Dufrene 2/1.
PASSING: HS, Buffalo 10/21-102-1/0. C, Dufrene 0/7-0-0/0, Littell 2/2-42-0/0
RECEVING: HS, Warden 4/65, Logan Rutledge 2/25, Holmes 2/4, Ty West 1/11, Julian 1/3. C, Jones 2/42.
KICKOFF RETURNS: HS, Rutledge 1/(-1). C, Holmes 1/24, Dufrene 1/16.


(Final Record: 6-3)

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 – Clinton 24, Heber Springs 22 *

(* – Denotes Conference Contest)

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Panther Cubs claim win in final seconds

The Panther seventh-grade team after an 8-6 win over Clinton on Thursday. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

CLINTON – The Heber Springs seventh-grade Panthers ended their season on a high-note in one of the most improbable ways Thursday night in Clinton.

Trailing 6-0 late in the contest, Heber Springs failed to convert on a fourth-down play at the Clinton 15 with less than two minutes to play. With three timeouts left for the Panthers and less than 1:30 to play, Clinton was stopped on first down for no gain. A false-start penalty pushed the Stingers back five yards before good run left Clinton just a few yards short of a game-ending first down. On third down, and with the clock winding down, Heber Springs’ Seth Smith took the ball away from a Clinton back and rumbled 29 yards to the end zone to tie the game up at 6-6 with 25 seconds left in front of the cheering junior high team that was waiting to warm-up before the start of it’s game.

Lachlan Tubbs connected with Samuel Bush for the 2-point conversion and the Panther defense held on to claim the win.

Heber Springs finishes the season with a 3-5 record.

Harold McNabb scored Clinton’s only points with a 4-yard touchdown run with 10:07 to play in the first half.


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(Final Record: 3-5)

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 – Heber Springs 8, Clinton 6

PHOTO: Heber Springs Homecoming Parade

Heber Springs youth football players in the homecoming parade. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

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