Panthers crush the Comets, head to playoffs

November 2, 2018

By PHILIP SEATON

HEBER SPRINGS – The Heber Springs Panthers accomplished what they needed too in a 47-6 4A-2 victory over Little Rock Mills, and even left with a couple of records.

Coming into Friday night’s contest at Panther Stadium against winless Little Rock Mills, Heber Springs coach Darren Gowen had said he was more concerned about his team, how they played and more importantly, that his team just had fun.

It would be easy to say that happened on a night that seniors were honored before the game.

Senior running back Blaze Nelson rushed eight times for 198 yards and four touchdowns while the defense held Mills to 80 yards of total offense in the first half as the Panthers built up a 40-0 lead at the break and emptied the bench in the second half.

“We got everybody in there, even the foreign exchange students,” Gowen said. “It was great to take care of business like we needed to, get everybody on the field, stay healthy and get ready for the playoffs.”

Heber Springs (6-4, 6-1 in 4A-2) almost got a gift from the Central Arkansas Christian Mustangs on Friday night, but a last second field goal that would have sent that game into overtime fell short as Stuttgart claimed a 30-27 victory and the overall conference crown — a Ricebird loss would have given the Panthers a share of the 4A-2 title. 

Heber Springs will head into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed and host Pocahontas (4-6) Friday night at 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium.

Against the Comets, it didn’t take long for the Panthers to strike. After a 15-yard run by senior Dalton Hall on the games first play from scrimmage, Nelson raced past the Mills defenders for a 65-yard score. The Julian Cameron PAT kick made it 7-0 with 11:27 to play in the first quarter.

Mills followed with a nine-play drive that netted only seven yards but ate more than three minutes off the clock before Heber Springs would take over on Comet 44. After a pair of Nelson runs, Adam Martin connected with senior Rocky Finney for a 19-yard completion that put the ball on the 2. From there, Nelson would run up the middle to make 14-0 with 5:52 left in the first quarter.

Mills (0-10, 0-7) then put together a 14-play, 61-yard drive that netted nearly all of its first-half offense and pushed the ball to the Panther 18. But the Heber Springs first-team defense, which has allowed only four touchdowns during the Panther’s five-game winning streak to close the regular season, stopped the Comets a yard short on fourth-and-2.

Nelson took over from the carrying twice before finally breaking free on his third carry of the drive for a 76-yard touchdown run to make it 21-0 with 10:07 left to play in the first half.

Sophomore Matthew Cook got the ball right back for Heber Springs when he stepped in front of Braelon Adams pass attempt on the Comets first play from scrimmage on the drive and returned it 27 yards. 

The Panthers didn’t waste any time as Martin hit Finney in the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-0 with 9:28 left in the second quarter.

After a three-and-out, Hall tackled the Mills punter in the end zone for a safety to make it 30-0 at the 7:38 mark.

On the ensuing possession after the Comet free kick, Nelson raced 23 yards to score his 26th rushing touchdown of the season to make it 37-0 Heber Springs with 5:17 left in the half. The 26 rushing touchdowns by Nelson ties a school record set by Braylon Mitchell in 2009.

Heber Springs would add one more score in the first half when Cameron connected on a 35-yard field goal attempt with 11 seconds left on the clock.

With the Arkansas Activities Association Mercy Rule in effect in the second half, Heber Springs added one more score when sophomore Diego Rubio scored on a 17-yard run. Seth Dickeson hit the PAT kick to make 47-0 with 8:38 left in the third.

Mills’ Demetrius Abernathy set the final score with a six-yard run with 43 seconds to play in the third quarter.

TEAM STATS

First Downs: Heber Springs 10, Mills 10

Third-Downs: Heber Springs 2-5, Mills 2-8

Fourth-Downs: Heber Springs 0-0, Mills 2-4

Rushing Att.-Yards-Avg: Heber Springs 25-296-11.8, Mills 32-143-4.5

Passing Comp.-Att-Yards-Int: Heber Springs 4-5 67 0, Mills 5-11 54 2

Total Offense: Heber Springs 363, Mills 197

Sacks-Yards: Heber Springs 1-0, Mills 0-0

Penalties-Yards: Heber Springs 7-55, Mills 2-15

Fumbles-Lost: Heber Springs 0-0, Mills 4-1

Punts-Avg.: Heber Springs 1-53, Mills 2-26.5

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Rushing: Heber Springs, Blaze Nelson 8-198-4, Jackson West 5-17, Diego Rubio 4-31-1, Levy Phillips 4-31, Adam Martin 3-4, Dalton Hall 1-15. Mills, Braelon Adams 14-84, Terryn Withers 9-20, Malik Bean 4-33, Demetrius Abernathy 2-14, Favionne Bell 1-4, Logan Archer 1-(-2), Landen Epps 1-(-10).

Passing: Heber Springs, Adam Martin 4-5 67 1-0. Mills, Braleon Adams 5-11 54 0-2.

Receiving: Heber Springs, Rocky Finney 2-51-1, Seth Dickeson 1-9, Landon Johnson 1-7. Mills, Jaden Withers 4-42, Malik Bean 1-12.

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