Sophomores shine on Senior Night

Brown scores 5 touchdowns, Lindley 2, as Panthers roar past CAC
Heber Springs sophomore Xander Lindley looks downfield as his teammate, Dalton Yancey (18), looks to make a block. CAC’s Jackson Morse (14) is picture in pursuit. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO


Heber Springs didn’t wait long to bounce back in a big way and jumped back into the 2-4A Conference playoff chase.

Sophomore running back Parker Brown rushed 16 times for 223 yards and four touchdowns and caught three passes for 44 yards and one touchdown as the Panthers rolled through Central Arkansas Christian, 47-26, at Panther Stadium on Friday. Quarterback Zander Lindley, also a sophomore, completed 11-of-13 passes for 113 yards and ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns.

Brown became the first Panther in 100 seasons of the program to have a 200-yard game rushing and a 200-yard game receiving during the same season. He caught three passes for 220 yards, all for touchdowns, earlier this year against Dover.

“I could not be any more proud of the players after the last two weeks when it was tough on them,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “At any point in time, they could have said we’re done, we’re finished. They didn’t do that.”

Wood didn’t hesitate in receiving the ball when winning coin toss, instead of playing defense first. The game plan was to find opportunities for Brown in the opening field.

“We wanted to get the ball to Parker in the open field early in the game,” Wood said. “We know if he got the ball in the open field, he could do dynamic things. He did that on the first play, and we never look back. It set the tone.”

Wood also said Lindley’s performance was a contributing factor in the win.

“I asked him (Lindley) to step up his play,” Wood said. “He is maturing and learning more how to play. Zander and Parker make a good running and passing duo. It was good see our other pieces of the offense do well. This is a great sign for the future.”

The Panthers compiled 484 yards of offense (373 rushing and 113 passing) with 23 first downs. Brown and Lindley each averaged 10 yards per run.

Brown and Lindley earned the headlines, but Wood said the improved play of the offensive line led to more success.

“The coaches challenged the linemen, who have been getting beat down for the last two games,” Wood said. “We told them we need to show dominance from the beginning. It was important to win the battle on the line of scrimmage.”

Wood smiled when asked about no turnovers by his offense.

“I was screaming at running backs to keep two hands on the ball during the second half,” he said. “That was a big factor in the win. It shows what can happen when you don’t turn the ball over.”

The Heber Springs defense kept Williams contained for most of the game. Williams rushed for 138 yards on 26 carries and scored three touchdowns. He completed 17-of-23 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown. Williams was responsible for 320 of his team’s 337 yards.

“Our goal was not let him get explosive plays,” Wood said. “He did have a couple of big plays.”

The Panthers recovered an onside kickoff attempt and scored on the game’s first play when Brown broke free on a 59-yard touchdown run. Gideon Tate kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.

“The line blocked well and let us pass and run,” Brown said. “On that play, I got to the corner and ran into the secondary.”

The kicking game put CAC into position for its first touchdown. Williams’ 62-yard punt pushed Heber Springs to its 9-yard line. The Mustangs forced a punt and took possession at the Panther 37-yard line.

Williams capped a 7-play drive with a 24-yard scoring run with 2:43 left in the first quarter. The try for a 2-point conversion failed.

The Panthers increased their lead on a 4-play, 57-yard drive following the kickoff. Brown scored on a 43-yard run and Tate’s kick for the conversion sent Heber Springs into the second quarter leading, 14-6.

Heber Springs threatened to pull away after Kenan Sneed recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. The Panthers went 45 yards on eight plays. Brown scored on a 6-yard carry with 9:51 left in the first half. Tate kicked the conversion for a 21-6 lead.

After holding on downs at the 1-yard line, Heber Springs needed six plays on a 99-yard scoring drive. Lindley passed to Austin Winchester for one first down and then Brown ran 39 yards for a first down at the CAC 30-yard line. Lindley connected with Brown through the air for a touchdown with 1:17 left in the first half. Tate kicked the extra point for the 28-6 lead.

The Mustangs responded with an 8-play, 58-yard drive before halftime. Vance Strange snagged a 1-yard toss from Williams for the touchdown with 15 seconds to go. The try for a 2-point conversion was unsuccessful as the Panthers led, 28-12.

CAC pulled to within one score early in the third quarter. The Mustangs received the second half kickoff as Williams ran 44 yards on the second play. Shawn Rycraw caught a pass from Williams for the 2-point conversion.

The Panthers answered with an 8-play, 65 yard drive, with Lindley scoring on a 1-yard keeper with 7:46 to go in the third quarter. Heber Springs was unsuccessful on a 2-point conversion try

A defensive stop put the Panthers for their next score. Heber Springs drove 71 yards on nine plays, with Brown scoring from the 1-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter. Tate kicked the conversion for a 41-20 lead.

Lindley had the drive’s key play when he retrieved a bad snap on first-and-15 at the CAC 34-yard line. After Lindley picked up the ball near midfield, he picked up a first down on the 16-yard play for a first down at the 18-yard line.

“That was amazing, and I felt good after that play,” he said. “I thought about jumping on the ball, but no one was close to me. I picked it up and ran.”

CAC didn’t go away and reduced the Heber Springs on a 6-play, 63-yard drive. Williams ran for a 21-yard touchdown with 9:31 left in the game. The Mustangs attempted a 2-point conversion unsuccessfully and trailed, 41-26.

Heber Springs added an insurance touchdown on Lindley’s 35-yard run with 8:51 left.

“This game is a confidence builder,” Wood said. “The players showed what they are capable of doing.”

Defensively, Kenan Sneed finished with 21 tackles. He was one of four Panthers to finish in double digits in tackles — Hayden Johnson (13), Jackson West (12), and Tristan Thissen (11) were the others.

October 8, 2021 
Central Arkansas Christian (2-4, 0-3)   6   6   8   6 - 26 
Heber Springs (2-3, 1-2)               14  14   6  13 - 47
HS - Parker Brown 59-yard run (Gideon Tate kick), 11:47
CAC - Tyler Williams 24-yard run (run failed), 2:43
HS - Brown 43-yard run (Tate kick), 1:22
HS - Brown 6-yard run (Tate kick), 9:51
HS - Xander Lindley to Brown 30-yard pass (Tate kick), 1:17
CAC - Williams to Vance Strange 1-yard pass (pass failed), :15.1
CAC - Williams 44-yard run (Williams to Shawn Rycraw pass), 11:29
HS - Lindley 1-yard run (pass failed), 7:46
HS - Brown 1-yard run (Tate kick), 11:57
CAC - Williams 21-yard run (run failed), 9:31
HS - Lindley 35-yard run (pass failed), 8:51
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 34/373, CAC 36/155
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 11-13-0, CAC 17-23-0
RUSHING: HS, Parker Brown 16/223/4, Xander Lindley 13/134/2, Jackson West 2/17, Dalton Yancey 1/6, Team 2/(-7). CAC, Tyler Williams 26/138/3, Shawn Rycraw 3/11, Vance Strange 6/3, Judah Ward 1/3. 
PASSING: HS, Lindley 11/13-113-1/0. CAC, Williams 17/23-182-1/0
RECEVING: HS, Brown 3/44/1, Easton Cusick 3/18, Yancey 2/20, West 1/23, Austin Winchester 1/10, Chris Edwards 1/4. CAC, Strange 9/61/1, Rycraw 3/48, Jackson Morse 2/39, Ward 1/22, Cauy Blevins 1/9, Brady Velek 1/3.
KICKOFF RETURNS: HS, Edwards 1/0. CAC, Strange 3/28, Velek 1/3.
PUNTS: HS, Lindley 1/23. CAC Williams 1/62