By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY
LONOKE — Heber Springs lost to Lonoke in the 2-4A Conference football opener 47-31 Friday, but the Panthers earned the respect of head coach Todd Wood for their reaction to adversity in the second half.
Heber Springs (0-1 conference, 1-3 overall) led 6-0, 12-7 and 19-14 before the Lonoke (1-0 conference, 3-1 overall) finished the second quarter by scoring three consecutive touchdowns for a 35-19 halftime lead. The Jackrabbits maintained a two-score advantage throughout the second half.
“We are never going to give up,” Wood said. “I told the players after the game they made me proud of how they played late in the game. We had a few letdowns, but we picked it up at times and played aggressively. We played with a lot of fire in the fourth quarter. We need to play that way for the entire game.”
Heber Springs reached the 300-yard passing mark for the second straight game. Matthew Cook completed 23-of-42 passes for 293 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions. Hunter Kent connected on 2-of-3 passes for 66 yards and one touchdown.
Nathan McKee led the receivers with eight receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
“We have been working on the new plays for three weeks,” Wood said. “We got an opportunity to show what we could do with the new plays. But the fun part is we didn’t show everything.”
Lonoke freshman Bradon Allen started at quarterback in place of Spence Pepper. Allen rushed 23 times for 74 yards and scored three touchdowns. He completed 6-of-19 passes for 210 yards and one touchdown.
Ja’coree Womack led the Jackrabbits’ running game with 20 carries for 115 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Wood said the defense had some good moments.
“We received a boost with the return of Preston Roberson at defensive end,” he said. “(Kenan) Sneed made good plays. Jackson West did a fantastic job of getting into Lonoke’s backfield and made things happen.”
Heber Springs received the opening kickoff and scored on the game’s second play from scrimmage. Cook lateraled to Kent, who suddenly stopped and connected on a 56-yard touchdown pass to Isaac King for a 6-0 lead with 11:17 left in the first quarter.
Lonoke earned its first lead after Deon Campbell’s interception set up a first down at the Heber Springs 43. The Panthers forced the Jackrabbits later into a fourth-and-one at the 18. Womack broke free and scored with 6:31 left in the first quarter. Tom Boatright kicked the extra point, giving a 7-6 lead to Lonoke.
Heber Springs regained the advantage on Kent’s 2-yard touchdown carry, which capped an 8-play, 60-yard drive, for the 12-7 with 3:27 to go in the quarter.
Lonoke converted a fumble recovery at the Panther 38 yard-line into its next score, Allen’s 22-yard run. Boatright’s successful kick returned the lead to Lonoke, 14-12, with 11:44 left in the first half.
Heber Springs struck back quickly, taking the lead three plays later. McKee caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Cook. Gus Hannah kicked the extra point for a 19-14 lead with 10:02 remaining in the first half.
“The game went back and forth early,” Wood said. “We got the lead, then lost the lead, and we got the lead back.”
Lonoke seized momentum by scoring three touchdowns before halftime, two after fourth-down stops and a pick six before halftime.
Womack scored on a 22-yard run with 7:21 left, and Anthony Parks ran for the 2-point conversion. Parks returned an interception 100 yards for a score, and Boatwright kicked the extra point. Allen’s 5-yard run finished the scoring flurry as Lonoke held a 35-19 halftime lead.
“Two of the touchdowns was because of our tackling,” Wood said. “We had a letdown during the final three minutes because of frustration and fatigue. I challenged them at halftime that we would come back and overcome those things.”
Lonoke took a 41-19 lead midway through the third quarter on Allen’s 35-yard pass to Chaston Dockery. The Panthers scored before the end of the quarter on Cook’s 32-yard pass to Diego Rubio.
Heber Springs trailed 41-25 going into the fourth quarter.
Each team scored a touchdown during the final quarter. Allen had a 2-yard scoring carry with 11:51 left for Lonoke. McKee caught a 52-yard touchdown pass from Cook for the Panthers.
HIGH SCORING GAMES
Friday night's game between Lonoke and Heber Springs produced the third most combined points in the series between the two schools. 2011 - 109 (Heber Springs 63, Lonoke 46) 2013 - 97 (Lonoke 63, Heber Springs 34) 2020 - 78 (Lonoke 47, Heber Springs 31) 1992 - 77 (Lonoke 49, Heber Springs 28) 2016 - 69 (Heber Springs 48, Lonoke 21) 2008 - 68 (Lonoke 47, Heber Springs 21) 2014 - 64 (Heber Springs 40, Lonoke 24) 2017 - 63 (Heber Springs 41, Lonoke 22) 1942 - 56 (Lonoke 53, Heber Springs 3) 2007 - 53 (Lonoke 35, Heber Springs 18)
SCORING Heber Springs (1-3, 0-1) 12 7 6 6 - 31 Lonoke (3-1, 1-0) 7 28 6 6 - 47 FIRST QUARTER Heber Springs, Hunter Kent to Isaac King 56-yard pass (run failed), 11:17 Lonoke, Ja'coree Womack 18-yard run (Tom Boatright kick), 6:31 Heber Springs, Matthew Cook to Kent 1-yard pass (run failed), 3:27 SECOND QUARTER Lonoke, Bradon Allen 22-yard run (Boatright kick), 11:44 Heber Springs, Cook to Nathan McKee 44-yard pass (Gus Hannah kick), 10:02 Lonoke, Womack 23-yard run (Anthony Parks run), 7:21 Lonoke, Parks 100-yard interception return (Boatright kick), 4:33 Lonoke, Allen 3-yard run (run failed), :32 THIRD QUARTER Lonoke, Allen to Chaston Dockery 35-yard pass (run failed), 7:58 Heber Springs, Cook to Diego Rubio 32-yard pass (pass failed), 1:58 FOURTH QUARTER Lonoke, Allen 2-yard run (kick failed), 11:51 Heber Springs, Cook to McKee 52-yard pass (pass failed), 6:07 TEAM STATS First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 5, Lonoke 9 First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 10, Lonoke 5 First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 0, Lonoke 2 Total First Downs: Heber Springs 15, Lonoke 16 Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 1/12, Lonoke 3/13 Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 3/6, Lonoke 3/7 Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 1/2, Lonoke 3/3 Time of Possession: Heber Springs 22:06, Lonoke 25:54 Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 4/3, Lonoke 4/2 Turnovers: Heber Springs 6, Lonoke 2 Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 6, Lonoke 21 Penalties: Heber Springs 5/42, Lonoke 6/42 Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 66/377/5.7, Lonoke 69/340/4.9 Rushing: Heber Springs 24/18/.8, Lonoke 50/211/4.2 Passing: Heber Springs 23/42-359-5/3, Lonoke 6/19-129-1/0 Sacked/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 3/24, Lonoke 1/11 Punts: Heber Springs 2/63/31.5, Lonoke 3/82/27.3 Inside 20: Heber Springs 0, Lonoke 0 INDIVIDUAL STATS OFFENSE RUSHING: Heber Springs, Hunter Kent 3/27, Nathan McKee 1/23, Diego Rubio 3/10, Isaac King 1/8, Matthew Cook 15/(-14), Team 1/(-36). Lonoke, Ja'coree Womack 20/115, Bradon Allen 23/74, Anthony Parks 3/27, Latrell Burnett 1/2, Landon Jones 3/(-2), Team 1/(-5). PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 21/39-293-4/3, Hunter Kent 2/3-66-1/0. Lonoke, Bradon Allen 6/19-129-1/0 RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 8/162, Hunter Kent 5/67, Isaac King 4/73, Diego Rubio 3/39, Matthew Cook 1/10, Gus Hannah 1/8, Kenan Sneed 1/(-1). Lonoke, Landon Jones 3/63, Chaston Dockery 1/35, Anthony Parks 1/23, Ja'coree Womack 1/8. TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 279, Hunter Kent 93, Nathan McKee 23, Diego Rubio 10, Isaac King 8. Lonoke, Bradon Allen 203, Ja'coree Womack 115, Anthony Parks 27, Latrell Burnett 2, Landon Jones (-2). PUNT RETURNS: Heber Springs, Hunter Kent 1/17 KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 3/30, Nathan McKee 2/22, Hunter Kent 1/34, Kenan Sneed 1/9. Lonoke, Romel Rankin 2/22, Latrell Burnett 1/7, Deon Campbell 1/0, Cody Amato 1/0. FUMBLE RETURNS: None INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Lonoke, Anthony Parks 1/100, Deon Campbell 1/34 ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 207, Hunter Kent 145, Isaac King 81, Diego Rubio 79, Gus Hannah 8, Kenan Sneed 8, Matthew Cook (-4). Lonoke, Anthony Parks 150, Ja'coree Womack 123, Bradon Allen 74, Landon Jones 61, Chaston Dockery 35, Deon Campbell 34, Romel Rankin 22, Latrell Burnett 9 SCORING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 12, Diego Rubio 6, Isaac King 6, Hunter Kent 6, Gus Hannah 1 (1/1 XPA). Lonoke, Bradon Allen 18, Ja'coree Womack 12, Anthony Parks 8, Chaston Dockery 6, Tom Boatright 3 (3/4 XPA) DEFENSE PUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 2/63/31.5. Lonoke, Ayden Rowton 3/82/27.3 SACKS/YARDS LOST: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook .5/11, Hunter Kent .5/11. Lonoke, Latrell Burnett 1/9, Dalynn Waits 1/8, Seth Sherman 1/7. Fumble Recoveries: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook, Chris Smith. Lonoke, Tayler Coffey, team 2. Interceptions: Lonoke, Anthony Parks, Deon Campbell, Chaston Dockery.