By PHILIP SEATON
Lonoke struck early, but Heber Springs finished it off late with 21 fourth-quarter points in claiming a 45-13 2-4A victory at Panther Stadium.
The win improved the Panthers to 4-2 on the season, their most wins since 2019, and more importantly 3-0 in the conference. Heber Springs is tied with Harding Academy atop of the conference standings. The Wildcats defeated Ouachita Christian (La.), 31-14, in a nonconference contest played in Monticello on Friday.
“I am proud for our kids,” Heber Springs coach Van Paschal said. “I am proud for this community. It’s fun listening to people talk, ‘Coach you don’t understand, it hadn’t been there and it’s just fun to go through this again’.”
Lonoke fell to 3-4 overall and 2-2 in the conference.
Bryce Seigrist led the way for the Panthers on the ground. The sophomore fullback finished with 205 yards rushing on 22 carries, with one of his two touchdowns coming at time when the game was still in doubt early in the third quarter.
With Heber Springs leading 17-13 at the break, the Panthers fumbled the ball near midfield on their opening possession of the second half, but the defense rose to the occasion. Sophomore Emmett Dwyer tackled Lonoke quarterback Bradon Allen for a short gain on second down and then broke up a pass attempt on third down forcing punt.
On the first play from scrimmage, Seigrist ripped off a 40-yard run to move the ball to the Lonoke 15. Three plays later, Seigrist punched it from the 7. After the Gideon Tate PAT kick, Heber Springs led 24-13 with 7:37 to play in the quarter.
The Jackrabbits threatened on their next possession after Allen connected with Denham Gooden on a 47-yard pass play to move the ball to the Panther 17. But on a fourth-and-2 at the Panther 9, Brodie Basford and Elijah Jones stopped Allen one-yard short.
Seigrist then took over carrying the ball eight times, including runs of 21- and 30-yards, as quarterback Xander Lindley scored on a 1-yard sneak to make it 31-13 with 11:11 left in the game. Seigrist accounted for 75 yards on the drive.
“He hit it hard,” Paschal said of Seigrist. “Boy I was proud of our offensive line, that is the key to our success is the guys up front getting it done, and he (Seigrist) is riding that wave. He is beginning to figure it out, and they all are beginning to figure it out.”
Last season, Allen torched the Heber Springs for more than 300 yards of total offense, including more than 100 yards rushing, and early on it appeared that the Lonoke senior might have a similar type of performance this season.
On the game’s first possession, Allen scrambled for 33 yards on a third-and-15 to move the ball to the Panther 35. Two Heber Springs penalties would move the ball 20 yards closer before Allen would score from the 13. The Tom Boatright extra-point kick would make it 7-0 in favor of the Jackrabbits with 9:07 to play in the first quarter.
“Lonoke traditionally is a pretty good squad,” Paschal said. “The quarterback (Allen) is just as impressive live as he is on film. He can play.”
Heber Springs senior Parker Brown showed he can play too on the ensuing possession by the Panther taking a pitch from his slotback position on the Panther 36. Brown took the pitch, and using both sides of the field, managed to avoid a pair of Lonoke defenders inside the 10 before crossing the goal line facing those same defenders. The 64-yard run and Tate PAT tied it up at 7-all with 8:01 left in the opening quarter.
The score would remain that way until early in the second quarter. After Allen intercepted a Liam Buffalo pass and returned it 31 yards to the Panther 26. From there Allen would connect with Gooden twice on the drive. The first time for 21 yards and the second time for a 14-yard touchdown with 11:21 left before the half. Weston Warden blocked Boatright’s kick attempt to make it 13-6 in favor of the visitors.
Heber Springs would respond with a scoring drive but would lose its quarterback due to an injury.
Taking over at the Panther 41, after an 11-yard kickoff return for Brown, Liam Buffalo would pick up a first down with a 16-yard run. A pair of two-yard carries by Buffalo and Seigrist moved the ball to the Lonoke 39 before Warden picked up nine yards for another first down. Buffalo would carry for 11 more but would be forced to come out after injuring his knee attempting to make a cut.
Though Buffalo attempted to re-enter on the Panthers next possession, Lindley would come in and finish the night at quarterback. The senior picked up seven yards on two carries as Heber Springs reached the Lonoke 12 before the drive stalled. Tate would connect on the 29-yard field goal with 7:10 remaining in the second to cut the Panther deficit in half.
“Let me tell you about Xander, me being the new guy here, and before Liam came out to play football (this summer), he was the guy and he got a lot of reps,” Paschal said. “With Liam coming (Xander said), ‘Coach he’s got to play, let’s give them the opportunity, I can help in other places.’
“Which is what you are looking for, sacrificing self for the team. I am proud of that young man. He came in here and got it done.”
The Panther defense got the ball back for the offense after stopping Allen and Lonoke on fourth down. A pair of Panther sophomores, Nate Eaton and Jones, pressured the Jackrabbit senior signal-caller forcing an incompletion giving Heber Springs the ball on its own 44 with 5:23 remaining before the half.
Behind the running of Seigrist and Brown, who finished the night 121 yards on seven carries and 149 all-purpose yards, the Panthers methodically moved the ball deep into Lonoke territory before Brown would score on a 21-yard run. Tate’s PAT kick with 18 seconds remaining in the quarter made it 17-13, which carried over into the half.
Warden paced the Panther defense with 10 tackles, including seven unassisted, on the night, and early in the fourth quarter would score the game’s final points. The junior would pick off an Allen pass at the Panther 40, weaving through Jackrabbits on the near side of the field near the Heber Springs bench would race 60 yards for the score as Brown and Jones sealed off Allen in the corner preventing him from making the tackle. Chase Dill would come on to kick the extra point and set the final score with 10:05 to play.
Sophomore Caleb Carr had a big night for the Panthers on special teams with four total tackles, including three unassisted.
The win all but wraps up a three seed in the playoffs for Heber Springs, as the Panthers travel to Stuttgart Friday night. A win over the Ricebirds would give the Heber Springs a home playoff for the first time since 2018, but more importantly set up a showdown on Oct. 27 in Searcy with Harding Academy for the conference title.
“You just take them one at a time.” Paschal said. “Hoping right now they smell it, if they are hungry, we have a chance.”
No. 1 seed from 2-4A at home vs. No. 5 from 1-4A (Projected: Lincoln)
No. 2 seed from 2-4A at home vs. No. 4 from 1-4A (Projected: Gentry/Gravette loser)
No. 3 seed from 2-4A on the road at No. 3 from 1-4A (Projected: Gentry/Gravette winner)
GAME 6 LONOKE AT HEBER SPRINGS SENIOR HIGH October 13, 2023 TEAM STATS TIME OF POSSESSION: Heber Springs 24:14, Lonoke 23:46 TOTAL FIRST DOWNS: Heber Springs 17, Lonoke 11 BY RUSH: Heber Springs 17, Lonoke 6 BY PASS: Heber Springs 0, Lonoke 4 BY PENALTY: Heber Springs 0, Lonoke 1 TEAM RUSHING: Heber Springs 46/415/5/9.0, Lonoke 36/89/1/2.5 TEAM PASSING: Heber Springs 2/5-17-0/1, Lonoke 10/19-135-1/1 TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs 51/432/8.5, Lonoke 55/224/4.1 3RD CONVERSION: Heber Springs 3/5, Lonoke 2/11 4TH CONVERSION: Heber Springs 0/1, Lonoke 1/6 RED-ZONE: Heber Springs 4/4, Lonoke 2/3 TURNOVERS: Heber Springs 2, Lonoke 3 POINTS OFF TURNOVERS: Heber Springs 14, Lonoke 6 FUMBLES/LOST: Heber Springs 2/1, Lonoke 3/2 PENALTIES: Heber Springs 7/85, Lonoke 10/55 KICKOFF RETURNS: Heber Springs 1/11, Lonoke 7/25 PUNT RETURNS: Heber Springs 0/0, Lonoke 0/0 PUNTS: Heber Springs 0/0, Lonoke 2/62 PUNTS INSIDE 20: Heber Springs 0, Lonoke 1 SACKS: Heber Springs 1/12, Lonoke 0/0 TACKLES FOR LOSS: Heber Springs 11/57, Lonoke 2/3 INDIVIDUAL STATS RUSHING: Heber Springs, Bryce Seigrist 22/209/2/9.5, Parker Brown 7/121/2, Xander Lindley 6/23/1, Liam Buffalo 3/29, Weston Warden 3/28, Nate Eaton 2/6, Emmett Dwyer 1/1, Elijah Jones 1/0, Team 1/(-2). Lonoke, Bradon Allen 16/50/1 PASSING: Heber Springs, Liam Buffalo 0/1-0-0/1, Xander Lindley 1/4-17-0/0, Lonoke, Bradon Allen 10/19-135-1/1. RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 1/17. Lonoke, Denham Gooden 4/95/1 KICKOFF RETURNS: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 1/11. PUNT RETURNS: Heber Springs, none INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Heber Springs, Weston Warden 1/60/1 ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Bryce Seigrist 209, Parker Brown 149, Weston Warden 88 PUNTING: Heber Springs, none SCORING PAT KICKS: Gideon Tate 5/5, Chase Dill 1/1. FIELD GOALS: Gideon Tate: 28 (made) POINTS: Parker Brown 12, Bryce Seigrist 12, Gideon Tate 8, Xander Lindley 6, Weston Warden 6, Chase Dill 1. DEFENSIVE STATS SACKS: Team Total (1). INDIVIDUAL SACK TOTAL: Carter Julian FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Elijah Jones FORCED FUMBLES: Parker Brown, Jordan Tidwell/Alan Moreno INTERCEPTIONS: Weston Warden PBU: Emmett Dwyer 3 QB HURRIES: Carter Julian 3, Elijah Jones 2.5, Nate Eaton .5 TACKLES (U/A/TFL - TOTAL) Carter Julian 6 3 3 9 Emmett Dwyer 5 2 0 7 Corbin Jones 1 0 1 1 Eli Buffalo 1 3 0 4 Jacob McMullin 0 1 0 1 Brodie Basford 3 2 0 5 Liam Buffalo 2 1 0 3 Weston Warden 7 3 1 10 Luke Elliott 2 1 1 3 Logan Rutledge 1 1 0 2 Elijah Jones 4 1 2 5 Jordan Tidwell 2 1 1 3 Caleb Carr 3 1 0 4 Parker Brown 1 2 0 3 Zachary Parker 1 1 0 2 Alan Moreno 1 0 1 1 Logan Lozeau 0 1 1 1