Stuttgart runs past Heber Springs in 2-4A contest

Heber Springs quarterback Xander Lindley attempts to allude several Stuttgart defenders in action from Panther Stadium. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO


Stuttgart’s running game overwhelmed the Heber Spring Panther defense during Friday’s 2-4A Conference football game at Panther Stadium.

The Ricebirds (3-1 in 2-4A Conference, 6-2 overall) rushed for 424 yards and four touchdowns, including two 70-yard plus scoring plays, and coasted past the Panthers 38-6 and stayed one-half game behind second-place Lonoke in the conference standings.

Heber Springs (1-3 in 2-4A Conference, 2-5 overall), remained in a fourth-place tie with Bald Knob and Cave City, one-half game ahead of Riverview.

Cedric Hawkins carried 13 times for 214 yards and scored three touchdowns. Deontae Clark rushed for 115 yards on 17 attempts and completed 4-of-7 passes for 50 yards and one touchdown to Kentavian Daniels.

Hawkins, who had 258 all-purpose yards, and Clark combined for 379 of Stuttgart’s 474 yards of total offense.

“We played a very physical team for the second week in a row,” said Heber Springs coach Todd Wood, referring to the previous week’s loss at Lonoke. “We had opportunities on offense and showed flashes from Jonesboro Westside and Cave City games. That was encouraging.”

The Panthers, who didn’t have a turnover in a single game for the first time this season last week at Lonoke, lost three fumbles, one setting up a touchdown, and an interception. Heber Springs had 16 turnovers during the first five games.

The Panthers compiled 273 yards of total offense – 143 rushing and 130 passing.

Running back Parker Brown ran 12 times for 75 yards and caught four passes for 54 yards. Quarterback Xander Lindley gained 34 yards on 11 carries. Gideon Tate rushed five times for 24 yards.

Lindley, who finished with 164 yards of total offense, completed 16-of-22 passes for 130 yards and one touchdown. Easton Cusick caught seven passes for 64 yards and scored one touchdown. Dalton Yancey had five catches for 12 yards.

Brown compiled 129 all-purpose yards, including six kickoff returns for 68 yards. Cusick gained 113 all-purpose yards, which included five kickoff returns for 49 yards.

“We had guys in the right places and executed on offense at times,” Wood said. “When we got into the red zone, we have to put points on the board.”
Wood said he talked with the team before the game about preventing big plays by the Stuttgart offense.

“Defensively, we needed to eliminate explosive plays. We must contain and tackle better. We have a way to go in learning how to get the right tackling angles and how to execute better on defense. Our goals remain to improve every game and get into the playoffs.”

Stuttgart, which overcame two offsides and a holding penalties, received the opening kickoff and drove 52 yards on nine plays. Hawkins scored on a 2-yard carry with 8:17 left in the first quarter. Jack Hosman kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.

The Ricebirds increased their lead when Stuttgart linebacker Cade Coats returned a Parker Brown fumble 14 yards to the Heber Springs 33-yard line and set up the game’s second touchdown. Clark connected on a 21-yard scoring pass to Daniels and Hosman’s successful kick gave the Ricebirds a 14-0 lead with 26 seconds to go in the first quarter.

Heber Springs’ only first-half scoring opportunity at the end of a 42-yard drive to the Stuttgart 14-yard line. Tate’s 31-yard field-goal try went wide.
Stuttgart needed only two plays to reach the end zone again. Hawkins’ 79-yard run and Hosman’s successful kick gave the Ricebirds a 21-0 halftime lead.

Stuttgart extended its lead during the third quarter on Hosman’s 24-yard field goal and Hawkins’ 87-yard touchdown run. The Ricebirds took a 31-0 lead into the fourth quarter.

Heber Springs avoided a shutout by driving 80 yards on 11 plays during the fourth quarter. The Panthers moved into scoring position thanks to Lindley’s three pass completions to Brown. Cusick caught a 21-yard scoring pass from Lindley with 8:38 to play. Tate’s kick for the extra point was blocked.

Stuttgart’s final touchdown came on a 5-play, 69-yard drive when A.J. Higgins scored on a 2-yard run with 6:38 to play. Hosman kicked the extra point.

Heber Springs will finish a three-week stretch against conference contenders when the Panthers host first place Harding Academy on Friday.

“We knew this was going to be a tough stretch,” Wood said. “It will not get any easier against Harding, perhaps the best team in the conference. We still will be working on executing better.”

Even with another loss, the Panthers can punch a postseason ticket by winning at Riverview on Nov. 4.

“We don’t want to be in the position that the playoffs may be determined in our final game,” Wood said. “Our plan is to come out and stop Harding, and continue growth on offense and defense. Our playoff fate is still in our hands.”

Senior linebacker Chris Edwards was held out of the Stuttgart game following an injury at Lonoke.

“He could have played against Stuttgart, but we decided to hold him out,” Wood said. “He may play in the Harding game.”

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Rough night with Ricebirds

Heber Springs senior Thad Bray battles with Stuttgart’s Caleb Barnard Thursday night at Stuttgart. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO


STUTTGART – A rough start in the 2-4A Conference football chase didn’t damper the spirit of the Heber Springs Panthers.

The Panthers (0-2 in conference, 1-3 overall) returned with a new determination for Friday’s practice following Thursday’s 42-0 loss to Stuttgart (2-0 in conference, 4-1), which advanced to last year’s state semifinals and the favorite to win the conference championship, at Ned Moseley.

Stuttgart stopped Heber Springs’ school-record streak of avoiding a shutout at 87 games. The last time the Panthers’ were shutout came on Oct. 18, 2013, at Newport (35-0).

After playing the two teams projected to finish one-two in preseason rankings, Heber Springs will play three of the next four games at Panther Stadium, starting with Central Arkansas Christian on Friday. After a road game against Bald Knob, Heber Springs will face Southside Batesville for homecoming and Clinton. The Panthers will finish the regular season at Little Rock Mills.

“I told the players we were in a similar situation last year,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We need to focus on it is not the end of the road, but we have an opportunity at getting into the playoffs in the remaining games. CAC will be our first opportunity. Our goal is to make the playoffs.”

Stuttgart rushed 25 times for 219 yards, an average of 8.8 yards per attempt.

The Ricebirds completed 4-of-8 passes for 86 yards and finished with 300 yards of offense.

Heber Springs had 66 yards on 31 carries, an average of 2.1 yards per carry. The Panthers connected on 3-of-9 passes for 15 yards and compiled 81 yards of total offense.

Sophomore Parker Brown rushed 11 times for 41 yards, plus 53 yards on kickoff returns. Junior Easton Cusick had 51 yards on kickoff returns. Sophomore Dalton Yancey caught two passes.

“We made mistakes on offense and defense,” Wood said. “We couldn’t control the ball, which put more pressure on our defense. We never clicked on offense, and the defense could not get going.”

Wood knew before Thursday’s game that the Panthers faced a major challenge.

“You can’t give a good team like Stuttgart that many opportunities and momentum, especially early in the game,” Wood said. “It’s hard to get out that deep of the hole during the first quarter (28-0). We couldn’t recover from the slow start.”

Stuttgart received an onside kickoff and drove 54 yards on five plays to start the game. Cedric Hawkins ran 38 yards for the touchdown with 9:32 left in the first quarter. Jack Hosman kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.

After forcing a Heber Springs punt, the Ricebirds needed nine plays on a 59-yard drive for their second touchdown. Kameron Harper’s 34-yard catch of a Tymir Coppins pass started the series. Coppins finished the drive by throwing a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jack Ledbetter. The try for the conversion kick was unsuccessful.

Stuttgart’s defense was able to put points on the board too. Bryer West scooped up a Heber Springs fumble and returned 25 yards for a score with 3:26 left. Coppins passed to Ledbetter for a 2-point conversion, increasing the lead to 21-0.

The Ricebirds reached the end zone again before the end of the first quarter. Coppins passed 40 yards to Hawkins for a score with 41 seconds left. Hosman kicked the extra point for the 28-0 lead.

Stuttgart added two touchdowns during the second quarter. Daniel Poole had a 66-yard scoring run with 8:01 to go, and Higgins scored on a 1-yard plunge to cap a 56-yard drive with 2:37 remaining in the first half. Hosman kicked the extra points.

Kickoff for Friday’s game against CAC is 7 p.m. Senior players, along with senior cheerleaders and the band, will be recognized in a pregame ceremony.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2021 
Heber Springs (1-3, 0-2)   0   0   0   0 -  0
Stuttgart (4-1, 2-0)      21  21   0   0 - 42 
S - Cedric Hawkins 39-yard run (Jack Hosman kick), 9:32
S - Tymir Coppins to Joel Ledbetter 7-yard pass (kick failed), 4:31
S - Bryer West 25-yard fumble return (Coppins to Ledbetter pass), 3:26
S - Coppins to Hawkins 40-yard pass (Hosman kick), :41
S - Daniel Poole 61-yard run (Hosman kick), 8:01
S - A.J. Higgins 1-yard run (Hosman kick), 2:27
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 31/66, S 25/219
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 3/-0, S 4/8-0
PUNTS-AVERAGE: HS 4/28.3, S 1/49
RUSHING: HS, Parker Brown 11/41, Gideon Tate 6/12, Jackson West 5/10, Easton Cusick 1/6, Xander Lindley 8/(-3). S, Daniel Poole 3/72, Cedric Hawkins 5/62, Landon Melynchuk 3/31, A.J. Higgins 6/29, Prince O'Neal 2/12, Tymir Coppins 1/12, Kemarion Pickett 3/3, Team 1/2, Matthew Luster 1/0, Jaxson Robinson 1/(-4).
PASSING: HS, Lindley 2/6-4-0/0, Cusick 1/3-11-0/0. Lonoke, Coppins 3/6-52-2/0, Melynchuk 1/2-34-0/0
RECEVING: HS, Dalton Yancey 2/4, Austin Winchester 1/11. S, Hawkins 1/40, Kameron Harper 1/34, Jack Ledbetter 1/7, O'Neal 1/5.
KICKOFF RETURNS: HS, Brown 3/53, Cusick 3/51, West 1/9. 
PUNT RETURNS: S, Coppins 1/2, Chance Rabeneck 1/1.
FUMBLE RETURNS: Bryer West 1/25
PUNTS: Heber Springs, Lindley 4/113, S, Jack Hosman 1/49