The 1940s era of Heber Springs football was one of uncertainty at both home and abroad.
The start of the decade saw the Panthers struggle to keep the program afloat because of financial reasons. A late push to raise the monies needed allowed the team to have a 1940 season, but without a dedicated coach, school superintendent Ben Lincoln stepped into the role of head coach. Fortunately for the Panthers, Lincoln had previously served as the head coach at Blytheville and was a former standout at what is now Ouachita Baptist University. Lincoln’s Panthers set a school record with six wins in 1940 with two wins over Bald Knob and wins over Cotton Plant, Clinton, England and Dardanelle. The Panthers started that season with losses to Cabot, Morrilton and Lonoke before winning six out of their last eight, falling to Conway and Batesville.
Lincoln would take a job in the Pocahontas district following the 1940-1941 school and principal R.A James would guide the team for the next two seasons. With World War II consuming most of the countries resources, high school football was put on the backburner by 1943, though the Panthers did manage to break out the pads for a Senior/Freshman versus the Juniors/Sophomores contest in 1943.
By 1944, the Panthers resumed playing other teams across the state, but still without the services of a coach. First Baptist Church pastor J. Paul Palmer stepped into the role for the 1944 and 45 seasons as the Panthers would go 2-11-2 over that span with victories over Morrilton and Dardanelle and ties with Pocahontas and Clinton.
For the 1946 season, recent HSHS graduate Henry Clay Kelley filled out the role as head coach managing a pair of wins over Cabot before the program was shuttered for the 1947 and 1948 seasons for financial reasons.
By 1949, the Panthers were ready to hit the field again and by now the Arkansas Activities Association had set-up conferences and Heber Springs played a conference schedule for the first time as a member of the 2B conference with Augusta and Cotton Plant under coach Bob Wilkinson. The Panthers would go 2-7-1 in their first season back with wins over Ola and Cotton Plant and a tie with Clinton.
The 1940s HSHS All-Decade Football Team
1945 – Eugene Cain
1942 – Robert Fisher
1940 – Hubert Holland
1944 – Tom Holland
1941 – Virlon James
1940 – Pete Jenkerson
1949 – Bob Jenkins
1943 – Henry Clay Kelley
1946 – Maurice Love
1943 – Leon McAnear
1941 – Ed Olmstead
1942 – Eugene Pate
1942 – Lee Roy Plummer
1941 – Dwain Smith