By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY
Heber Springs players and coaches didn’t dwell on the negatives, but focused on the positives during their season-opener in preparation for the Dover Pirates.
The Panthers plan to bounce back from the loss to Harding Academy in Friday’s nonconference game against the Pirates at Jack Berry Field in Dover. Kickoff is scheduled at 7 p.m.
“We showed more positives compared to last year at this time,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “It was little things, like our blocking techniques and the linemen had better blocking angles. Our defensive linemen did a better job of using their hands. The receiver ran better routes.”
Dover will hold an advantage in game experience over the Panthers by playing three games. The Pirates (0-3) dropped their season opener to Hector (28-6) and lost to Atkins (48-28) and Salem (52-8).
Heber Springs will face a challenge against a different style of offense. Dover operates its version of the Wing-T with the quarterback in shotgun formation.
Quarterback Jon Greathouse, efficient not only as a runner but a passer, leads the Pirates. Brantley Craig and Kenny Ketcherside are the other threats in the backfield.
“It will be a change of direction from Harding, which threw the ball all over the place, to Dover will line up and run more than pass,” Wood said. “Dover, which is a running team likes to keep the clock moving. The quarterback is a good runner and passer with two good runners in the backfield.”
Wood plans little change in starters among the defense, except at the two safety positions. Chris Roberts, who was sidelined by illness in the season opener, and Zach Parker will be the new starters.
One of the keys to the game will be to keep the Pirate in long-yardage situations.
“We must win first down and put them into long-yardage situations on second and third down,” Wood said. “We must play strong on the defensive line.”
Heber Springs will stay with the same starting lineup on offense from the first game. Senior Jackson West will see action at running back and receiver
Sophomore running back Parker Brown will be one of the Panthers to watch. Brown rushed 13 times for 108 yards and had a 56-yard touchdown run against Harding Academy.
Heber Springs will face a different Dover defense, which has switched to a four-man front. The Pirates played a three-man front last season.
“Dover is playing more aggressive on defense than last year,” Wood said. “We don’t plan many changes. Xander was thrown into the fire against Harding and learned from that game. We need to provide better protection for him (Lindley).”
Friday’s game will wrap up the nonconference schedule. The Panthers will host Lonoke in the 2-4A Conference opener on Sept. 24.
“Anytime you end the nonconference with a win will give a team confidence going into conference play,” Wood said.
RADIO/VIDEO STREAMING: 101.9 The Lake. Billy Morgan will handle play-by-play with Lance Hamilton providing the color commentary. Streaming is available on "The Lake's" Youtube page (link). Heber Springs (0-1) vs. Dover (0-3) The Series Dover leads 6-4 LAST MEETING: 2020 in Heber Springs, Heber Springs 42, Dover 6 LAST WEEK: Heber Springs lost to Harding Academy, 42-7; Dover lost to Salem, 52-8 TONIGHT: This will be the 11th time these two teams have played each other. The first meeting was in 1987, a 20-14 nonconference victory for Heber Springs. The teams would split four nonconference games from 1987-90, with Dover winning in 1988 (13-7) and 1989 (14-6) and the Panthers winning in 1990, 40-0. OLD CONFERENCE FOES: The next time Dover and Heber Springs would meet on the gridiron would come in the 1993 season when the Panthers and Pirates meet as members of the 4AA-East conference for three seasons, with Dover winning all three. The two teams would remained paired in the new 5AA-North conference for two seasons (1996-1997) with the teams splitting those two games. COVID WOES: Former Heber Springs coach Will Cox' first season at the helm at Dover was an 0-6 campaign with four games canceled last season because of Covid protocols. LOSING STREAK: Dover has lost 22 consecutive games. The Pirates last win came on Nov. 1, 2018, with a 46-42 victory over Waldron. -- Notes by Philip Seaton