BALD KNOB – Heber Springs opened its season with a 43-37 nonconference victory at Bald Knob.
Parker Brown and Gavin Vaughn, who was a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line, each scored 9 points to pace the Panthers. J.T. Spears finished with 8 points with all of his scoring coming in the fourth quarter as Heber Springs outscored the Bulldogs, 18-13, over that stretch to claim the win.
The Panthers led 11-3 at the end of the first, and 19-11 at the half, but Bald Knob outscored Heber Springs 13-6 in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs Michael Knight led all scorers with 13 points.
Bald Knob Scoring (37): Garrison Onasch 9, Michael Knight 13, Braden Davis 10, Travis Kersey 5
Heber Springs Scoring (43): Gavin Vaughn 9, Eli Riggs 6, Parker Brown 9, Ladd Choate 6, J.T. Spears 8, Ryan Crocker 5
BALD KNOB — Sometimes the best play is not one in the playbook, and it worked for the Heber Springs Panthers against Bald Knob.
Parker Brown caught a 15-yard pass from backup quarterback Easton Cusick with 5.6 seconds left for a 14-7 win in a 2-4A Conference football game on the rain-soaked grass at Bulldog Stadium on Friday.
The touchdown completed a fourth-quarter rally and the first time Heber Springs won back-to-back games since the 2019 season.
The win moved the Panthers (2-2 in conference, 3-3) into a tie fourth place with Clinton and Little Rock Mills in the conference standings.
Bald Knob led 7-0 at the half and at the end of the third quarter.
The winning drive started at the Bulldog 38 with 2:19 left in the game. Bald Knob forced the Panthers into a fourth-and-2 at the 30-yard line. Cusick rolled to his left and connected on a 15-yard pass to Dalton Yancey for a first down at the 15-yard line.
After Cusick threw incomplete, he hit Brown in stride at the 1-yard line for the game winner.
“We wanted to spread the defense,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We decided not to try and kick a field goal because we were going into the wind. We made two adjustments on the play and asked Parker to run to the middle, and he did that perfectly. Cusick hit him in stride.”
Parker caught the pass at the 1 and scored untouched.
“That was a great play call by coach Wood,” Cusick said. “Parker cut inside and caught the ball. It was a beautiful play and worked out perfectly.”
“We wanted to get it in the end zone,” Brown said. “The coaches said we could do it by getting the ball to the middle of the defense.”
Wood said Kenan Sneed’s 48-yard interception return earlier in the fourth quarter switched the momentum. Sneed’s score came with 10:02
“The game changed after Sneed’s pick six,” Wood said. “It gave energy to our team. We had turned the ball over on downs, but Sneed’s pick turned the tide.”
Bald Knob stopped Heber Springs on downs inside the Bulldog 30-yard line. Quarterback Leason Pierce’s pass bounced off the chest of a Bald Knob receiver into the hands of Sneed.
“The (Bald Knob) offensive line stepped back and I read the play immediately,” Sneed said. “The ball hit the player in the chest and popped into the air. I happened to be in the right place. I thought they would catch me and ran as fast as I could.”
Cusick, who had been a starting wide receiver, completed 9-of-16 passes for 56 yards. He replaced Xander Lindley, who suffered a broken collarbone.
“Hats off to Easton,” Wood said. “He took a few snaps in games and works at quarterback during practice. Easton came up to me on the sidelines and asked, ‘Coach, let me have the ball and let me go.’ I followed his lead, and he did a fantastic job.”
Cusick, who was not sacked during the second half, admitted that he was nervous in the beginning, but felt more comfortable after halftime.
“It’s more nerve wrecking in a game than in practice,” he said. “The second half was more relaxing, and we were moving the ball. We pulled together, and I could not have done this without my teammates.”
Sneed said the availability of a net helped Cusick and the team regroup at halftime.
“Easton kicked into a net during halftime inside the dressing room and also worked on passing. He was ready to play in the second half.”
Bald Knob started in Heber Springs territory on all five first-half possessions — 43-, 18-, 19-, 30- and 29-yard lines. The Panthers, who had only one penalty for 5 yards, held the Bulldogs to 84 of its 191 yards of offense during the first half and forced three turnovers on the night.
Heber Springs was limited to 13 yards during the first half and 139 yards for the game.
Pierce, who rushed for a game-high 121 yards on 29 carries, needed only one play to put Bald Knob on the scoreboard. After a short punt into the wind, he scored on a 19-yard keeper with 9:01 left in the first half. Marcus McGahee kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.
The Bulldogs had an opportunity to increase the lead, but McGahee, with the wind at his back, missed a 45-yard field goal attempt with 52 seconds to go until halftime.
“Our defense kept us in the game during the first half,” Wood said. “They understood the situation and did a fantastic job. We were in a situation when things were going against us and put our backs against the wall. But the players continued to fight.”
Heber Springs will return home and play Southside Batesville, a 59-19 winner against Central Arkansas Christian, on Friday.
“It’s a good feeling with back-to-back wins,” Wood said. “Our guys understand we must take one game a time. Southside is very good team, and we will now focus on them.”
HEBER SPRINGS AT BALD KNOBOctober 15, 2021
Heber Springs (3-3, 2-2) 0 0 0 14 - 14
Bald Knob (0-6, 0-4) 0 7 0 0 - 7
BK - Leason Pierce 20-yard run (Marcus McGahee kick), 9:07
HS - Kenan Sneed 48-yard interception return (Gideon Tate kick), 10:02
HS - Easton Cusick to Parker Brown 15-yard pass (Tate kick), :5.6
TEAM STATISTICSFIRST DOWNS: HS 11, BK 10
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 35/83, BK 44/177
PASSING YARDS: HS 56, BK 14
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 9-17-1, BK 2-7-2
TOTAL OFFENSE: HS 139, BK 191
FUMBLES: HS 1, BK 1
PENALITIES-YARDS: HS 1/5, BK 9/75
PUNTS-AVERAGE: HS 4/23, BK 2/37
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS RUSHING: HS, Parker Brown 19/64, Easton Cusick 9/27, Kenan Sneed 1/4, Jackson West 1/3, Xander Lindley 4/(-5), Team 1/(-10). BK, Leason Pierce 29/121, Dane Lindsey 14/54, Team 1/2.
PASSING: HS, Cusick 9/16-56-1/1, Lindley 0/1-0-0/0. BK, Pierce 2/7-14-0/2
RECEVING: HS, Austin Winchester 3/9, Dalton Yancey 2/24, Jackson West 2/11, Parker Brown 1/15, Chris Edwards 1/(-3). BK, Hunter Deflorian 1/13, Dane Lindsey 1/1.
KICKOFF RETURNS: BK, Marcus McGahee 1/13, Langston Lindsey 1/7
PUNT RETURNS: None
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: HS, Kenan Sneed 1/48, Dalton Yancey 1/3. BK, Langston Lindsey 1/4
FUMBLE RETURNS: None
PUNTS: HS, Cusick 4/92, Chris Gomez 2/74.
Heber Springs will play the second of an important 4-game stretch with the same approach — focus on the next opponent.
The Panthers (1-2 in 2-4A Conference, 2-3) will play the winless Bald Knob Bulldogs (0-3 in 2-4A Conference, 0-6) at Bulldog Stadium in Bald Knob at 7 p.m. Friday.
Hooten’s Magazine made the Bulldogs an 1-point favorite against Heber Springs in its weekly Class 4A predictions.
It also will be homecoming for Bald Knob, which lost to conference leader Stuttgart 42-19 last week. The Panthers are coming off a 47-26 win against Central Arkansas Christian.
“Win or lose, we always only look at the next game,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We have a group of good guys, who aren’t looking past Bald Knob. We played our most complete game of the season against CAC. I liked what I’ve seen during practice this week.”
Running back Parker Brown and quarterback Xander Lindley were responsible for 470 yards for the Panthers against CAC. Brown rushed 16 times for 223 yards and four touchdowns, and he caught three passes for 44 yards and one touchdown.
Lindley completed 11-of-13 passes for 113 yards and one touchdown against the Mustangs. He ran for 134 yards on 13 carries and scored two touchdowns.
“Parker did what he was capable of, and Xander continues to mature at quarterback,” Wood said. “I’m proud of the number of players — receivers Chris Edwards, Austin Winchester, Easton Cusick, Dalton Yancey and Jackson West — touching the ball. When you can spread the ball around to that many receivers, that helps an offense quite a bit.”
Brown didn’t set a school or stadium single-game record with his five total touchdowns. However, he did become the first Panther to have a 200-yard rushing and a 200-yard receiving games during the same season. Markeyvus Mays rushed for seven touchdowns on 11 carries in a win over Cave City on Nov. 4, 2010. Jerry Pilkington holds the school record with eight rushing touchdowns against Ola on Oct. 14, 1949.
Wood also was elated with the Panthers not having a turnover. Heber Springs had eight turnovers in the first four games.
“We spent more time this year stressing the importance of protecting the ball,” he said. “We didn’t do that much last year because of limited practice time because of Covid-19.”
Brown is the leading rusher for the Panthers with 537 yards on 63 carries and seven touchdowns. He has caught eight passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns.
Lindley has completed 35-of-61 passes for 516 yards and five touchdowns. He is the team’s second-leading rusher with 185 yards on 54 attempts and two touchdowns.
Wood said credit for the offense’s success against CAC came from the performance of the offensive line — Lucas Langster (left guard), Payton Owens (left tackle), Zach Thomas (center), Tristan Thissen (right guard) and Thad Bray (right tackle).
“I really enjoyed watching them on film after the game,” he said. “It was good seeing them come off the ball strong, and they executed well. They are showing improvement, and we need it to continue.”
Wood recalled the six turnovers — four interceptions and two fumbles — against Bald Knob in last year’s 35-15 loss.
Quarterback Leason Pierce, who completed 13-of-23 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns in 2020, returns for the Bulldogs. Pierce connected on 11-of-17 passes for 132 yards during the second half. Bald Knob converted 5-of-7 third-down plays, and 2-of-8 plays on fourth down.
Wood is confident that his defense with a year of experience, plus playing three of the conference’s best quarterbacks this season, will play well.
“I told the players and defensive coaches we faced a talented mobile quarterback for the past three weeks,” he said. “They had speed and were able to go outside the pocket and make plays. We are looking at a quarterback (Pierce) who doesn’t have that kind of speed, but he has the ability to make things happens. We must contain him in the pocket.”
Linebackers Kenan Sneed, Hayden Johnson and West continue to lead the Heber Springs defense. Sneed had 21 tackles against CAC, while Johnson recorded 13 tackles and West was credited with 12 tackles.
“I’m pleased with our defense,” Wood said. “They did a good job of containing (CAC quarterback) Tyler Williams. He got a couple of big plays, but we kept him contained most of the game. Sneed puts up the numbers, and Johnson is playing well and making big plays.”
Wood said the play of the defensive line is improving.
“We changed our tactics and our strength is beginning to show,” he said. “Owens has been a surprise. Langster has the speed, and Bray has the size. The line can cause trouble for other teams.”
Wood said the formula is simple for a win.
“On offense, we must control and protect ball and execute well,” he said. “On defense, we must pressure the quarterback.”
Kickoff: 7 p.m. at Bald Knob
Radio/Streaming: Billy Morgan with handle the play-by-play with Lance Hamilton providing color on KSUG 101.9 The Lake. Panther Pregame begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by the game. Streaming is available on The Lake’s YouTube page.
THE SERIES: Bald Knob leads 38-23-2
SERIES HISTORY: This will be the 64th time these two schools have meet on the football field. Heber Springs and Bald Knob first played during the 1929 season, a 26-2, Panther victory. It would be 11 more seasons before the two teams played again, a 1940 12-0 victory by Heber Springs. Heber Springs would win the first three games in the series before Bald Knob would win 18 out of 20 games played (a 1950 34-13 win by the Panthers broke a five-game losing streak in the series while a 1964 12-7 win broke a 10-game losing streak). The series would be fairly even before Heber Springs won eight straight from 1976 through 1983 before the Bulldogs closed out the 1980s winning six-in-a-row. In the 1990s, the teams would meet seven times with the Panthers getting wins during the 1990 and 1999 seasons. Since the 2005 season, Heber Springs and Bald Knob have played 10 times with the Panthers winning seven of those contests, but the Bulldogs did spoil the Heber Springs’ homecoming last season with a 35-15 victory.
2A-4 CONFERENCE STANDINGSW L CP W L PS PA
Stuttgart 3 0 29 5 1 208 112
Little Rock Mills 2 1 26 5 1 276 151
Lonoke 2 1 26 5 1 197 105
Southside Batesville 2 1 15 4 2 197 118
Clinton 2 1 23 3 3 168 179
Heber Springs 1 2 13 2 3 112 146
Bald Knob 0 3 0 0 6 74 195
Central Arkansas Christian 0 3 0 2 4 159 278
Friday, October 9
Heber Springs 47, Central Arkansas Christian 26
Stuttgart 42, Bald Knob 19
Southside Batesville 38, Lonoke 36 (OT)
Clinton 38, Little Rock Mills 28
Friday, October 16
Heber Springs at Bald Knob
Southside Batesville at Central Arkansas Christian
Lonoke at Little Rock Mills
Clinton at Stuttgart
HEBER SPRINGS – Neither rain nor penalties nor the Bald Knob Bulldogs could stop the Heber Springs junior Panthers from earning their fifth win of the season with a 26-8 victory Thursday night at Panther Stadium.
Liam Buffalo rushed for a touchdown, passed for two more, and helped lead the defensive effort with two interceptions as Heber Springs improved to 5-2 on the season.
Buffalo’s two picks were part of defensive effort that held Bald Knob to 72 yards of total offense, with 54 yard of that coming on the final drive of the game against the Panther second-team defense. Freshman Jacob McMullin recorded one sack and spent most of the night in the Bulldog backfield as Heber Springs held Bald Knob to 13 yards rushing on 20 attempts.
Lightning had canceled the seventh-grade contest in the second half and helped lead to a delay of the kickoff by 15 minutes as the two teams played in a steady rain in the first half.
The elements couldn’t stop the Panthers on their first drive. After forcing a three-and-out on defense, Buffalo scampered 57 yards on second down to put the ball on the Bulldog 3. A pair of carries forced the Heber Springs back a yard, before Buffalo would score from the 4 on third down.
Buffalo would finish the night with 104 yard rushing on six attempts, his fourth 100-yard rushing performance of the season. The ninth-grader would connect with Carter Julian for the 2-point conversion to make it 8-0 with 3:02 left in the opening quarter.
Heber Springs would add to it’s advantage on its next possession after a Buffalo picked-off a fourth-down pass attempt by Bald Knob’s Dakota Shoebottom at the Panther 39. Seven plays later, Buffalo would hit Ty West for an 11-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-0 with 5:32 left in the half.
Heber Springs was penalized nine times for 83 yards on the night including for 18 yards on a holding penalty on the 2-point conversion attempt.
The Bulldogs had their best drive of the first half on their next possession moving from their own 40 to the Panther 12, aided by a 13-yard run by Shoebottom and a 15-yard penalty against Heber Springs. But Buffalo intercepted another Shoebottom attempt at the Panther 7 and returned it 17 yards.
West had an 11-yard reception on the ensuing drive but the Panthers couldn’t mount a scoring threat as the half ended with Heber Springs up 14-0.
The Panthers took the second-half kickoff and handed the ball off to Weston Warden to reach the Bulldog 10 as the freshman carried five times for 42 yards. Then the penalty flag came out as Heber Springs had four attempts at first-and-goal as two Panther penalties and one Bald Knob penalty forced the unique situation. Warden would score from the 4 make it 20-0 with 3:52 left in the third quarter.
The Heber Springs defensive unit forced Bulldogs to a three-and-out and a loss of 18 yards thanks in part to the McMullin sack.
The Panthers would take over at the Bald Knob 30 and six plays later would make it 26-0 after Buffalo hit Logan Rutledge in the end zone for the score.
The Bulldogs would use a seven-play, 54-yard drive against the second-team defense to get on the scoreboard late in the contest to set the final score at 26-8.
BALD KNOB AT HEBER SPRINGSOCTOBER 14, 2021
Bald Knob 0 0 0 8 - 8
Heber Springs 8 6 6 6 - 26
HS - Liam Buffalo 4-yard run (Buffalo to Carter Julian pass), 3:02
HS - Buffalo to Ty West 4-yard pass (pass failed), 5:32
HS - Weston Warden 4-yard run (pass failed), 3:52
HS - Buffalo to Logan Rutledge 3-yard pass (pass failed), 6:30
BK - Jerry Tidwell 4-yard run (Dakota Shoebottom run), 2:14
TEAM STATISTICSFIRST DOWNS: HS 12, BK 6
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 25/191, BK 20/13
PASSING YARDS: HS 65, BK 59
TOTAL OFFENSE: HS 256, BK 72
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 6-12-0, BK 4-6-2
FUMBLES: HS 0, BK 0
PENALITIES-YARDS: HS 9/83, BK 3/17
PUNTS-AVERAGE: HS 0, BK 1/18
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS RUSHING: HS, Liam Buffalo 6/104, Weston Warden 11/56, Cooper Holmes 3/21, Seth Dudeck 1/13, Logan Rutledge 2/5, Carter Julian 1/(-3), Team 1/(-5). Hunter Burleson 8/6, Garrett Swindle 2/4, Jerry Tidwell 4/4, Dakota Shoebottom 6/(-1).
PASSING: HS, Buffalo 6/12-65-2/0. BK, Shoebottom 4/6-59-0/2
RECEVING: HS, West 3/32, Rutledge 2/18, Warden 1/15. BK, Garrett Swindle 3/48, Mika Comer 1/11.
KICKOFF RETURNS: BK, Jaeden Kuhn 1/0.
PUNT RETURNS: None
INT RETURNS: Buffalo 2/17
FUMBLE RETURNS: None
PUNTS: BK, Swindle 1/18
HEBER SPRINGS JUNIOR HIGH SCHEDULE
(All Games Start at 7 p.m.)
Aug. 26 – Heber Springs 32, Clinton 28
Sep. 09 – Harding Academy 36, Heber Springs 16
Sep. 16 – Heber Springs 26, Dover 12
Sep. 23 – Heber Springs 34, Lonoke 12 *
Sep. 28 – Heber Springs 42, Stuttgart 32 *
Oct. 07 – Central Arkansas Christian 30, Heber Springs 14 *
HEBER SPRINGS – The Heber Springs seventh-grade Panthers earned their second win of the season with a rain-shortened 14-0 victory over Bald Knob Thursday night at Panther Stadium.
Heber Springs struck first when Samuel Bush scored on a 63-yard run. The 2-point conversion failed.
The Panthers added another first-half touchdown when Lachlan Tubbs scored on a 1-yard run. Tubbs connected with Bush for the 2-point conversion. A 40-yard pass from Tubbs to Landon Brown set-up the touchdown run.
With just over 11 minutes left in the contest, lightning delayed the game 30 minutes before it was canceled giving the Panther Cubs earn the win.
HEBER SPRINGS 7TH-GRADE SCHEDULE
(All Game Times are 5:30 p.m.)
Aug. 26 – Clinton 16, Heber Springs 14
Sep. 09 – at Harding Academy (Canceled)
Sep. 16 – Heber Springs 16, Dover 6
Sep. 23 – Lonoke 20, Heber Springs 6
Sep. 28 – Stuttgart 6, Heber Springs 0
Oct. 07 – Central Arkansas Christian 8, Heber Springs 0
The 2010s era of Heber Springs football was the most successful decade in school history with one perfect regular season, an outright conference title and two more that were shared. The decade also saw the Panthers reach the playoffs nine out of 10 seasons.
The 2010 season saw Steve Janski’s Panthers open with wins over Mountain View and Harding Academy before falling to Bald Knob and, in the conference opener, to Lonoke. A win over Stuttgart would follow with a setback at Marianna-Lee, before the Panthers would win four straight to close the regular season. A loss at Joe T. Robinson ended Heber Springs’ season with a 7-5 mark.
History would be made in 2011 as the Panthers opened the season by dominating defending 4A state champion Shiloh Christian, 36-17, in the opener at Reynolds’ Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. Heber Springs would put 49 on Harding Academy, 55 on Bald Knob and 63 on Lonoke, before winning at Stuttgart 28-21. No team in the regular season would get to less than two touchdowns the rest of the way as the Panthers completed a perfect regular season and the school’s first outright conference title sine 1979. The second-ranked Panthers would defeat Shiloh Christian again in a first-round playoff match-up at Panther Stadium before falling to Farmington to finish at 11-1 on the year. The 11 wins are the most in school history.
The 2012 team, opened with a loss to Pottsville and had a week 2 game at Harding Academy canceled after weather delays in the first half. A win over Gentry would make the Panthers 1-1 heading into conference play. Heber Springs would not repeat as conference champions finishing 2-4A play at 4-3, closing the regular season with a loss to new conference member Pine Bluff Dollarway. The Panthers would rebound in the playoffs downing Star City and Pea Ridge to reach the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Highland ended the Panthers season leaving Heber Springs with a 7-5 mark.
Janski’s last season at Heber Springs, 2013, would see the Panthers claim wins over Marianna-Lee and Southside Batesville but finish with a 2-8 mark.
Assistant coach David Farr was promoted to head coach for the 2014 campaign. The Panthers would down Clinton and Harding Academy in nonconference play before finishing 5-2 in conference play. The Panthers would drop Crossett in first-round playoff contest before seeing their season at Warren the following week to finish 8-4.
The offseason would see Farr take a job at Maumelle and long-time assistant coach Darren Gowen promoted to head coach. Heber Springs would open the 2015 season with a win over Clinton before falling to Greenbrier and Harding Academy in nonconference play. The Panthers would finish conference play at 4-3 to earn a playoff spot, but Star City would end Heber Springs’ season at 5-6.
The 2016 season saw Heber Springs start 0-3 in nonconference play before bouncing back to finish 6-1 in the 2-4A and earning a share of the conference title and the number 1 seed. After a first-round playoff bye, Shiloh Christian would end the Panthers season at 6-5.
In 2017, Heber Springs would open at 1-2 before earning another share of the 2-4A crown with a 6-1 conference mark. The three-way tie left the Panthers as the No. 3 seed where they would win a thrilling playoff contest at Gravette before falling at Gosnell to finish at 8-4. With the Panthers earning a share of the conference title, it was the first time since the 1979-1980 seasons that the Panthers had won at least a share of the conference title in back-to-back seasons. Those two teams joined the 1975-1976 teams as the only ones to accomplish that feat in school history.
The 2018 team attempted to be the first to win at least of share of a conference title in three consecutive seasons. After starting the season 0-3, Heber Springs would finish conference play at 6-1 but Stuttgart would win the crown with a 7-0 conference mark. The Panthers dominated former conference foe Pocahontas in first-round playoff match-up before losing at Rivercrest to finish 7-5.
Gowen would step down as head coach in the spring of 2019 to take a position in northwest Arkansas and Will Cox was promoted for the upcoming season. Heber Springs would fall to Clinton and Harding Academy in the final seconds in nonconference play, as well to Greenbrier, to start 0-3. The Panthers would finish conference play at 4-3 and get the No. 5 seed in the playoffs, after a four-way tie at the top. Shiloh Christian would end the Panthers season in the playoffs.
(Editor’s Note: The teams were selected based upon a vote by former players and coaches. They were asked to fill a ballot based upon positions. Players were allowed to a put a player in multiple positions (i.e. WR/DB). Votes were recorded based upon on the number of ballots a particular player was listed on. If a player was listed a multiple positions, they were still counted as being on one ballot. As with past decades, positions were kept fluid in order to ensure those that were on the most ballots would make the team. In several cases, there were players that received more votes for one position than the person selected for the all-decade team, but were on fewer ballots, and therefore did not make the team. In the previous decades, I was able to create a limit amount of all-purpose positions to cover those that may have been squeezed out of one position but were on more ballots than those who did make it (though not all-purpose positions do not mean those players were on fewer ballots, in many cases it was because a player exceled at so many positions that their votes were scattered). When it came time to do the 2010s, there were more votes cast by former players than any other decade. The votes were more varied than other decade. It created a situation were I was going to have to create a larger number of “all-purpose” positions to get everyone on the team that was going to get squeezed out because of the position that they played. So for this decade only, I created a second team. There are several players on the second team that were on more ballots than those on the first team, but I could not put them at position that did not play (an example would be if someone played WR/DB, I could not put them on the offensive line even though they were on more ballots than someone on first-team offensive line). That is just an example. Also, there is no punter on the second team, because all of those who received votes were already on the team so an extra “all-purpose” position was created in its place. And with ALL of the all-decade teams, there are some very, very good football players that didn’t make it and this decade was no exception. The hardest part of doing this was leaving out those who have contributed so much to the Panther program over the years. Coming in October, all those on any all-decade will be eligible to be voted on the all-time team that will be selected by a vote by the public).
The 2000s era of Heber Springs football started with a whimper and ended with a bang.
Long-time assistant Todd Thompson would take over for Bill Buckner for the 2000 campaign as the 2AAA conference would see some changes with Hoxie joining the conference. Heber Springs would struggle through the 2000 and 2001 seasons, before breaking into the win column with an 2002 season-opening win over Little Rock Lutheran. After a loss to Clinton, the Panthers would down Lamar before entering conference play. Corning had replaced Bald Knob starting with the 2002 season.
Former Panther standout Dale Cresswell would take over as head coach for the 2003 and 2004 seasons, claiming a win against Lamar in 2004.
Former East Carolina University assistant coach Steve Janski would take over the program starting with the 2005 season and guide the team the rest of the decade.
Opening with a win over Bald Knob, the Panthers would also claim a nonconference win at Lamar. Heber Springs would break at conference losing streak on Oct. 21, 2005, with a win at Mountain View. They would follow that with a win over Yellville-Summit to finish 4-6.
The 2006 campaign saw Heber Springs shifted to the 2-4A conference joining Lonoke, Stuttgart, Marianna-Lee, Bald Knob, Southside Batesville, Mountain View and Newport. The Panthers would start the season 4-0 with wins over Clinton, DeWitt, Yellville-Summit and Lonoke, before falling to Stuttgart and Marianna-Lee in back-to-back weeks. Blowout wins over Bald Knob and Southside Batesville would follow, before Heber Springs would claim its first win over Newport. Mountain View forfeited the reminder of its season on Oct. 23 due to low player numbers giving the Panthers a 13-0 conference win. The Yellowjackets did field a “B” team that traveled to Heber Springs in week 10 so the Panthers could have a “senior night,” heading into the playoffs. The Panthers would claim their first playoff win in 27 years with a 21-12 win over Greenland. Heber Springs would finish out a 10-3 with a loss at Nashville.
The 2007 Panthers would finish the season with a 5-6 record earning the school’s first back-to-back appearance in the playoffs. In week 8, Heber Springs would set a school record with 76 points in win over Southside Batesville.
The 2008 Heber Springs would start the season 1-4 and the postseason definitely seemed in doubt as the Panthers trailed at Marianna-Lee 30-0 with 8:10 left in the first half, but Heber Springs would score 32 unanswered to claim a 32-30 win. That victory seem to propel the Panthers as they would win six straight, including playoff wins over Prairie Grove and West Fork reaching the 4A quarterfinals for the third time in school history and the first time since 1979. Heber Springs would end with an 8-5 mark.
Heber Springs’ 2009 season saw a 4-0 start, before falling at Stuttgart, 15-12, in week 4. After a win against Marianna-Lee and a loss at Bald Knob, the Panthers would five-in-a-row to advance to the 4A quarterfinals in back-to-back for the first time in school history. The Panthers would finish with a 10-3 mark.