By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY
NORTH LITTLE ROCK – Sometimes statistics don’t tell the entire story of a football game.
It happened when the Heber Springs Panthers lost to 2-4A Conference co-leader Central Arkansas Christian 35-14 at Mustang Mountain Friday.
CAC (3-0 conference, 6-0 overall) held a 13-yard advantage in total offense, but the Panthers (0-3 conference, 1-5 overall) averaged more per play, 5.7 to 5.6 yards. The Mustangs ran 60 plays from scrimmage to 57 for Heber Springs.
Diego Rubio became the first Panther to rush for 100 yards in a single game this season with 10 carries for 143 yards and scored one touchdown.
The passing game was effective as Heber Springs quarterback Matthew Cook completed 19-of-29 passes for 149 yards. Nathan McKee caught eight passes for 65 yards, while Jackson West had 46 yards on four receptions. CAC sacked Cook five times for a minus 24 yards.
“We had some success on offense, and the guys. executed well, but the problem was we didn’t do it for the entire game,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We have to count on everyone to execute every play. Sometimes we were not focused on what to do mentally. That is a failure on the coaches’ part, and we need to do a better job of getting the players prepared for games.”
CAC running back Tyler Williams was a one-player show, rushing for 148 yards and scoring three touchdowns, and catching five passes for 63 yards.
Mustang quarterback Palmer Gilbrech completed 15-of-22 passes for 194 yards and one touchdown. Jackson Richmond caught four passes for 61 yards.
Wood said momentum shifted to the Mustangs late in the first half. The game was tied 7-7 before CAC scored two touchdowns for the 21-7 halftime lead.
“They were rolling down the field with No. 5 (Williams) running,” Wood said. “We had a chance to make tackles and hit him high. When you try and tackle him high, you are not going to come out well. If we could have kept it at 14-7 going into halftime, it might have been different in the second half.”
CAC took the lead after recovering a McKee fumble, who caught an 8-yard pass from Cook, fumble at the Mustang 35-yard line after it appeared the ball went out of bounds. Williams rushed on 8-of-9 plays during the drive, scoring on a 2-yard carry with 31 seconds left in the first quarter. Isaac Rine kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.
Heber Springs answered with a 10-play, 50-yard drive following the kickoff. McKee’s 17-yard reception and Rubio rushed for 11 yards to start the drive. Cook finished the series by scoring on a 10-yard run on fourth-and-goal. Chandler Webber kicked the extra point to tie the game at 7-7 with 9:23 left in the first half.
CAC regained the lead by driving 53 yards after the ensuing kickoff. Williams scored on a 2-yard carry and capped the 10-play drive with 5:10 remaining in the first half. Rine kicked the extra point for the 14-7 lead.
Heber Springs threatened to tie the score when it had a first down at the CAC 30-yard line. Four plays later, the Mustangs held on downs at the 22-yard line.
CAC needed eight plays on the 78-yard drive, with Williams scoring on a 25-yard run with 23 seconds left. Rine kicked the extra point for the 21-7 halftime lead.
“If we had been down 14-7 going into the half, it might have been different in the second half,” Wood said. “We had the ball at the beginning of the third quarter, but we didn’t execute well.”
Heber Springs drove to the CAC 17 in the third quarter. A holding penalty moved the Panthers back as the Mustangs held on downs at the 10-yard line.
After two defensive stops, Heber Springs pulled to within a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Cook connected on a 17-yard pass to McKee before Rubio broke into the clear, ran around a defender and scored on a 58-yard run. Webber kicked the extra point, reducing CAC’s lead to 21-14 with 8:14 left in the game.
“Diego is a warrior for the team,” Wood said. “He keeps going and going and makes things happen. Diego is only 5-feet-4, but he plays with a big heart.”
CAC regained a two-touchdown lead on an 8-play, 57-yard drive, all runs by Williams. The Mustangs had a first-and-goal at the 10-yard line, but the Heber Springs defense stiffened on the next three plays and forced fourth-and-goal at the 1.
Williams plunged into the end zone with 4:38 remaining in the game. Rine kicked the extra point, increasing CAC’s lead to 28-14.
“We needed a stop on defense,” Wood said. “We knew No. 5 would get the ball. I told the guys on fourth-and-goal they needed to get into the backfield and tackle him. He just wanted it more than we did.”
CAC’s Jake Sheehy’s 82-yard interception return wrapped up the scoring.
Heber Springs will host Bald Knob for homecoming on Friday.
SCORING Heber Springs (1-5, 0-3) 0 7 0 7 - 14 Central Arkansas Christian (6-0, 3-0) 7 14 0 14 - 35 FIRST QUARTER CAC, Tyler Williams 2-yard run (Isaac Rine kick), :31 SECOND QUARTER Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 10-yard run (Chandler Webber kick), 9:28 CAC, Williams 1-yard run (Rine Kick), 5:18 CAC, Palmer Gilbrech to Williams 25-yard pass (Rine kick), :23 FOURTH QUARTER Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 58-yard run (Webber kick), 8:14 CAC, Williams 1-yard run (Rine kick), 4:38 CAC, Payton Talbert 82-yard interception return (Rine kick), 1:41 TEAM STATS First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 11, CAC 8 First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 4, CAC 8 First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 2, CAC 2 Total First Downs: Heber Springs 17, CAC 18 Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 4/10, CAC 2/11 Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 2/5, CAC 4/5 Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 1/2, CAC 3/4 Time of Possession: Heber Springs 23:32, CAC 24:28 Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 3/1, CAC 1/0 Turnovers: Heber Springs 3, CAC 0 Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, CAC 14 Penalties: Heber Springs 10/87, CAC 9/73 Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 57/325/5.7, CAC 60/338/5.6 Rushing: Heber Springs 28/176/6.3, CAC 38/144/3.8 Passing: Heber Springs 19/29-149-0/2, CAC 15/22-194-1/0 Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 1/4, CAC 5/24 Punts: Heber Springs 1/36/36, CAC 3/117/39 Inside 20: Heber Springs 0, CAC 0 INDIVIDUAL STATS OFFENSE RUSHING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 10/143/1, Matthew Cook 16/25/1, Nathan McKee 2/8. CAC, Tyler Williams 27/148/3, Ethan Demarco 1/4, Palmer Gilbrech 7/4, Team 3/(-12). PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 19/29-149-0/2. CAC, Palmer Gilbrech 15/22-194-1/0. RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 8/65, Jackson West 4/46, Easton Cusick 3/7, Isaac King 2/5, Austin Winchester 1/13, Diego Rubio 1/3. CAC, Tyler Williams 5/63/1, Jackson Richmond 4/61, Jackson Morse 2/42, Carlito London 2/8, Cauy Blevins 1/12, Jake Sheehy 1/8. TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 174, Diego Rubio 143, Nathan McKee 8. CAC, Palmer Gilbrech 198, Tyler Williams 148, Ethan Demarco 4, Team (-12). PUNT RETURNS: None KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Jackson West 3/41, Isaac King 1/0. CAC, Carlito London 1/31, Tyler Williams 1/26. FUMBLE RETURNS: Heber Springs, Thad Bray 1/5. CAC, Carlito London 1/(-3). INTERCEPTION RETURNS: CAC, Jake Sheehy 1/81/1, Palmer Gilbrech 1/38 ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 146, Jackson West 87, Nathan McKee 73, Matthew Cook 25, Austin Winchester 13, Easton Cusick 7, Isaac King 5, Thad Bray 5. CAC, Tyler Williams 237, Jake Sheehy 89, Jackson Richmond 61, Jackson Morse 42, Palmer Gilbrech 42, Carlito London 36, Cauy Blevins 12, Ethan Demarco 4, SCORING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 6, Diego Rubio 6, Chandler Webber (2/2 XPA). Lonoke, Tyler Williams 24, Jake Sheehy 6, Isaac Rine 5 (5/5 XPA). DEFENSE PUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 1/36/36/0. CAC, Palmer Gilbrech 3/117/39/0. SACKS/YARDS LOST: Heber Springs, Preston Roberson/Thad Bray 1/4. CAC, Jake Sheehy 2/8, Cole Shoemaker 1/6, Henry Handley 1/5, Jeremiah Wingfield 1/5 FUMBLE RECOVERIES: CAC, Ty Bahnks INTERCEPTIONS: CAC, Jake Sheehy, Palmer Gilbrech